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Tuesday, 13 December 1927

Senator FINDLEY (Victoria) . - Until something definite is before the committee it is difficult to know how to deal with the suggestion of Senator. Greene. The present federal land tax exempts from taxation property of an unimproved value of less than £5,000. It is, therefore, evident that a person to be taxable under that act must be in possession of land and improvements to the value of at least £8,000. In that case no comparatively poor man in Australia is called upon to pay the tax. Senator Kingsmill said that by encouraging a system of share farming, in the way proposed by Senator Greene, better results would be obtained than is now the case. Those of us who were primarily responsible for the federal land tax claim that it has done much to bring about the subdivision of big estates.

Senator Duncan - Will the honorable senator name two or three estates which have been subdivided as a result of the tax?

Senator FINDLEY - I do not intend to particularize; but throughout Australia large numbers of estates have been subdivided since the imposition of the tax. It is significant that land of an unimproved value of £117,000,000 which was taxable when the tax was first imposed, now yields no land tax. No owner of a large estate would be anxious to let his land to others on the share-farming system unless he believed that the result would be more profitable to himself.

Senator Kingsmill - If it were more profitable, he would have to pay more income tax.

Senator FINDLEY - The share farmer would earn the additional income for him. In years gone by there was as much sweating of agricultural labourers as there was of workmen engaged in any other industry. The result was that the demand for land throughout Australia became so keen that those who were landless were prepared to farm it on shares in order to get it. Throughout Australia there is still a great land hunger. For every good block of land made available, even if only on the share farming basis, there are large numbers of applicants. I have known of instances in which all the members of the share-farmer's family had worked hard throughout the year only to find at its close that their combined efforts had not produced an income as great., as that which the head of the family alone would have earned in other spheres. How could we define " share farming " in this bill. Senator Greene said that at least one third of the returns from a farm should go to the share farmer. I take it that he favours the balance being paid to the owner of the land who has done nothing with it. The honorable senator said that the owner of the land would assist the share farmer. That is possible, but he would do so only because he would find it more profitable than to employ labour on the conditions set out in Arbitration court awards. According to Senator Greene, one-third of the returns should be paid to the man who does all the work and two-thirds should go to the man who does little or nothing to earn it.

Mr GREENE (NEW SOUTH WALES) - It would depend entirely on circumstances.

Senator FINDLEY - I am not enthusiastic about the share-farming system, I want every primary producer to own his own land and to reap the full reward of his labour. In the event of a loss, the share-farmer and not the owner of the land would have to bear it.

Senator Herbert Hays - If the sharefarmer, instead of working the land on shares, owned it, would he not make a loss in a bad season?

Senator FINDLEY - In a bad season, with two-thirds of the return belonging to the owner of the land, there would not be much left for theshare-farmer, whereas if he owned the land he would get the whole ofthe return, even though it was small. It has been said that some landowners, rather than work the land themselves, let it to share-farmers and merely visit it occasionally. .

Senator Ogden -What does it matter so long as both parties are doing well out of the arrangement?

Senator FINDLEY - Share-farming gives a greater return to the owner of the land than to the man who does the work. Something of a more concrete nature should be before the committee. Up to the present Senator Greene has not submitted a definite proposal. He believes that the system of share-farming will achieve better results from the point of view of' land settlement than the resumption of land, and better even than the operation of the land tax. I favour a system of land taxation with the exemption I have named. The governments of the different States have various schemes for land settlement which have, been exhaustively examined by expert officials; but, unfortunately, owing to the present financial stringency, they have not been able to proceed with them. Under an agreement betweenthe Commonwealth and the British Government, the sum of £34,000,000 will be ear-marked for various developmental schemes in Australia.

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Plain).Order ! The honorable senator must confine his remarks to the clause before the committee..

Senator FINDLEY - I am endeavouring to state my case in answer to the suggestion of Senator Greene that sharefarming would do more than anything else to attract migrants to Australia, and, therefore lead to an increase in population.

Mr GREENE (NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is not what I said. ,

Senator FINDLEY -Well, that was the impression which I gained from the honorable senator's remarks. I hope that the Government will not seriously entertain a proposal that is more or less in the air. No doubt it finds favour with a certain section of land-owners, who, perhaps, desire now to retire to one or other of the capital cities of the Commonwealth, and hope still to enjoy revenue from their respective holdings by making them available to share-farmers. The adoption of this system in any case is due to the land hunger that is prevalent throughout the Commonwealth. Those who work under this system only do so because they are unable to get land for themselves.

Senator Chapman - They may not have the necessary capital to take up land for themselves.

Senator FINDLEY - A man without capital is handicapped in any line of business. Some of those who have recently taken up the necessary land have lacked both experience and capital, and some of the failures that have been recorded have been due to the fact that unsuitable land has been made available. In addition to this we must remember that the market price of certain commodities fluctuates to such an extent that frequently a farmer finds himself in difficulties and unable to meet his obligations. I am not at all enthusiastic about the system of share-farming, because under it, sweating of the worst possible kind in some cases is practised upon men, women, and children who are obliged to work inordinately long hours for an inadequate return.

Senator Herbert Hays - Farming on the share system has worked to the. advantage of many people.

Senator FINDLEY - And it has worked to the disadvantage of a great number.

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