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Wednesday, 26 November 1941

Senator McBRIDE (South Australia) . - I regret that the Government has seen fit to increase the rate of land rax. I admit that I was a member of the previous Government which, last year, increased the rate of this tax. That action in itself indicates that the party to which I belong is not entirely opposed to the principle of land tax. However, (here is a limit beyond which it will be dangerous to go in imposing a tax of this kind. I was interested to hear the Minister suggest that the bulk of this impost will fall upon the large city landholders. It seems to me that the Government has very grave doubts about the wisdom of this impost, and, consequently, has done its best to create the impression among the people who will actually be obliged to bear it that it will be borne by the wealthy landholders. It will, in fact, be borne by a number of landholders who are anything but wealthy. In normal times, when all kinds of taxes generally were less severe than they are to-day, the country landholder found it almost impossible to build up reserves in order to tide him over a bad period. In view of all of the additional imposts which have now been placed upon him, directly and indirectly, it will be impossible for him to try to build up such a reserve and, at the same time, meet this tax. Consequently, this impost will in effect be a levy upon his capital. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber are opposed to capital levies in any form whatever. At the same time, certain honorable senators opposite have implied that they are in favour of that form of taxation. It must be admitted that the majority of city landholders who will be called upon to pay this tax will, as Senator Gibson has pointed out, be able to pass it on. They have passed it on in the past, and naturally they will find ways and means of passing on this increase. Consequently, it will not fall nearly so heavily upon them as upon the primary producer. I warn the Minister that the guile ho displayed this evening in endeavouring to camouflage the effect of this tax insofar as country landholders are concerned will not prove effective. Those people know that they will have to foot the bill. I repeat that they are not in a position to bear this extra impost. Indeed, this form of tax, more than any other, will tend to dry up the pool from which this, and future governments, will be obliged to derive revenue in the years to come. As this is part of the general financial proposals of the Government, we, on thus side, will not oppose the measure. Certainly, we have criticized it just as we have criticized other measures; and I am glad to know that in several instances the Government has recognized the wisdom of our criticism, and has agreed to our suggestions. I sincerely hope, therefore, that it will not only refrain from further increasing this tax, but will also accept the earliest opportunity to reduce it.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.

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