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Wednesday, 26 October 1910

Senator RAE (New South Wales) . - It appears to me that, under Senator Millen's amendment, the Commonwealth Government would lose a considerable amount of revenue. Suppose, for instance, that it cost 5s. an acre to ring-bark certain country. Senator Millen would say that that added considerably to the value of the land in consequence of the greater quantity of fodder that would grow when the ring-barking had time to take effect; and he would claim that the owner should be exempted from an amount of taxation equal to the added value given to the land, which might be ,£1. an acre.

Senator Millen - The next definition provides for that very thing.

Senator RAE - Suppose that I ringbark a piece of country, and that the effect is, in a year or two, when the land commences to grow more grass, to give an added value of £1 per acre to it. I, however, have not effected a pound's worth of improvement. I have effected 5s. worth, and time has done the rest.

Senator Millen - Time and intelligence.

Senator RAE - It does not require much intelligence for a man to know, in this country, that the grazing capacity of land is increased by ring-barking the timber upon it. Such knowledge is a merely elementary in connexion with Australian land settlement. I will show why the cost of such improvements should be allowed under the one definition and not under the other. I will give an example. On the holding where I was at one time farming in Riverina there was a certain area of land which had been ring-barked some years before. The Land Board charged me with the value of those improvements. But, as a matter of fact, there was no real improvement at all ; because, subsequent to the ring-barking, the suckers that had grown up had exhausted any value that the process had once given to the land ; and, as a matter of fact, had rendered it worse than it was before.

Senator Millen - It was not in accordance with New South Wales practice to charge the honorable senator with those improvements.

Senator RAE - I have seen hundreds of thousands of acres of land that have been ring-barked, but on which the suckers had been allowed to grow up, with the effect that, not only was the value of the ring-barking entirely negatived, but the land was brought into a worse condition than it was previously, because there were six or seven big suckers, each as big as the parent stump, growing where there was one tree before.

Senator Millen - The law of New South Wales says that improvements shall be valued at their value to the incoming tenant; and the Land Board had no right to charge the honorable senator as they did.

Senator RAE - Nevertheless, they did so. There was another improvement on this holding. The previous pastoral lessee had constructed a tank, for which excavations had had to be made. I had to pay him for it. He said to me, " 1 think it is fair for you to allow me so much, because the tank was made, not by the modern methods of scooping, but by taking out the stuff with a cart and horse." I said, " I do not care if you took it out with a teaspoon; all I am going to pay you for that tank is its present value to me." Whether the price of labour was i os. a week or 15s. a clay was not pertinent to the issue, so far as I was concerned. I said that I would pay what I could get an excavation of the same size done for at that time.

Senator Millen - That was in accordance with the law of New South Wales.

Senator RAE - What I was willing to pay was a fair thing as between the individuals concerned and the Crown. If an improvement had been effected in the matter of ring-barking, which, on the one hand, might have caused that land to be worth 15s. or £1 an acre more, although the actual work only cost 5s. an acre, it would not be fair to allow a concession in accordance with the value given to the land by the improvement. He expended only the labour necessary to ring-bark the country, and Nature did the rest. I see no reason why we should exempt from taxation an improvement due to the operation of natural causes.

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