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Friday, 16 July 1915

Senator STEWART (QUEENSLAND) - I do not mean a high revenue Tariff, and if the honorable senator knew anything about this subject he would know that I do not mean that. Apparently he does not know the ABC of Protection. I would be extremely glad if he would turn the searchlight of his intellect as strongly upon the question of Protection as apparently he has turned it upon the question of land values taxation. He is all right on land values taxation, simply because he has mastered the subject. But evidently he has not begun to consider the question of Protection.

Senator O'Keefe - He is at the same stage now as the honorable senator had reached when he entered this Parliament.

Senator STEWART - I thank the honorable senator for reminding me of my ignorance in those days. Fortunately my association with him, and with others, has had the effect of inducing me to change my views very considerably. What we want is, not a high revenue Tariff, but a Protective Tariff.

Senator Grant - At present we have a high revenue Tariff.

Senator STEWART - I agree with the honorable senator. But such a Tariff will not create industries. We ought to be honest with ourselves, and with the country. Do we wish to raise revenue, or to create industries ? That is the question which we have to determine. Apparently those responsible for the framing of the Tariff have come to the conclusion that what we want is revenue. I do not believe that the people of Australia agree with them. My opinion ia that the electors desire a Protective Tariff. But they have not got it, and I fear that they are not likely to get it, unless very great pressure is brought to bear upon this Government, and upon the Parliament, from outside.

Senator Pearce - Does the honorable senator believe in raising revenue from beer and spirits?

Senator STEWART - The Minister of Defence has asked me whether I believe in raising revenue from beer, whisky, and stimulants. I certainly do. A very 'considerable portion of our revenue is derived from that source. So far as revenue is concerned, stimulants occupy a group by themselves. I do not believe in the taxation of stimulants merely for revenue purposes. What I believe is that, if they were sold at their normal price, the result would, in all probability, be disastrous to the country. Aa some little means of mitigating that result I am quite prepared - although very much against my principles - to see the taxation on stimulants continued. But I would put tobacco in quite another category. I would impose a protective duty upon that article. I do not see any reason why Senator Buzacott, who smokes, should be obliged to contribute more to the revenue of this country than I do. I do not believe that our pleasures ought to be taxed. The pleasures of life are so few and far between that they ought not to be taxed . The shadow - of the hard-visaged tax gatherer should never be allowed to come between us and our pleasures.

Senator Blakey - They are only like poppies.

Senator STEWART - They are only like poppies. " You seize the flower, its bloom is shed." I do not see why there should be other than a protective duty on tobacco. My Australian . experience has convinced me that tobacco is one of the choicest pleasures of the- working men of this country. It does not matter where we go, we shall find that this is so. If we penetrate the bush to places hundreds of miles from civilization - to the mining and shearing camps - we shall find the men who are doing their best to develop the resources of this country, and without whom those resources cannot be developed, sitting over their pipes in the evening enjoying, perhaps, the only luxury they have. I would be pleased if, to-morrow, the revenue tax on' tobacco were abolished.

Senator Buzacott - We can grow tobacco in Australia.

Senator STEWART - Certainly . But there ought to be a protective duty imposed upon that commodity in order to encourage its production here. When I see the working man, who is giving up a great deal to develop the resources of this country, taxed through the medium of the only luxury that he enjoys, whilst the land monopolist, who is holding up the resources of Australia against the people, is allowed to go comparatively free, I can only conclude that there is something radically wrong in the arrangements underlying our taxation. We are getting a very large revenue out of .the Tariff. Last year we collected something like £14,000,000. But we collected far too much. The amount of revenue derived from the Tariff proves conclusively that it is not operating in the direction of creating industries, but that it is a mere instrument for extorting revenue.

Senator Pearce - The whole of the increased revenue is due to the duties on narcotics and spirits. The other items show a decrease.

Senator STEWART - There are large sums derived from other duties. I desire to see that revenue largely decreased. I come back now to my original proposition, namely, that we require a larger population. To get that population we must free the land, and do as much as we possibly can towards supplying our own needs, and the needs of other people at the far ends of the earth. In the absense of a Protective Tariff it is impossible to build up industries in Australia. Only a few minutes ago we were talking of Germany. After the war is over I have not the slightest doubt that the people of that country will tackle work with all the energy, capacity, and scientific knowledge which they can command, and that they will be very strong competitors in the industrial race. Unless we take measures to protect ourselves against an invasion of their goods, those goods will enter Australia at a much cheaper price than they can be manufactured locally. Consequently, unless something is done industries will not be established here. Things will go on in the old way; and some day we shall find ourselves caught in a cyclone, and probably we shall come to grief. But there is a remedy at hand. The Australian people have given this Parliament a mandate to adopt a Protectionist policy. The Opposition are agreed upon that. Senator Millen said here some time ago that, while he believes in a revenue Tariff, seeing that Australia has declared for Protection, he is not going to put himself in opposition to that policy. He has never had the chance to do so, because no Federal Government has yet introduced a Protectionist policy. The present Tariff is very far from being a Protectionist Tariff. It still produces revenue in very large sums. What we want to do is to try to bring the revenueproducing capacity of the Tariff down to something like 30s. per head of the population, instead of £3 10s. as it is at present.

Senator Lynch - Why stop at 30s. per head ?

Senator STEWART - I have no objection to bringing it lower than that, but I think that a drop from £3 10s. to 30s. per head would be very good to begin with. Is Senator Lynch prepared to bring down the revenue-producing capacity of the Tariff to 30s. per head? We should require a much more highly Protective Tariff than we have now to bring it down to that amount. I find that there are a very few honorable members of the Senate who are willing to go that far. They do not seem to be very anxious that we should have a Protective Tariff. No doubt they talk a great deal about it on public platforms, but after they are elected on the strength of their promises and professions, when they come here, they shed both promise and profession, and give the people the same old thing over again. It is high time that we took stock of ourselves. We should break down land monopoly and establish high Protection. If we did so,' we should do that which would bring some benefit to the people of Australia. It would add largely to our population, and, as a necessary consequence, increase our strength and independence. I do not wish to say very much more on this subject.

Senator Millen - The honorable senator means to-day? .

Senator STEWART - Yes, to-day. I fear that it will be necessary for me to say more on some other occasion, but Senator Millen may rest assured that when there is no further necessity for talking in this way, I shall cease to speak, unless I find some new subject to engage my attention. Every one will agree that what Australia most requires is more people. It does not matter how we get them ; I say let them all come. We want 20,000,000" of people here. We need to place ourselves in such a position that we shall not be dependent on Great Britain or any other country for our existence or defence. We should be able to rely on our own strong right arm. There is no other way that I can see to bring about that result but by breaking up land monopoly on the one hand, and [183] going in for a high Protective Tariff on the other. We want more revenue, and there is great talk about fresh taxation. Undoubtedly fresh taxation will be necessary to meet our requirements. The taxation of the past will be as a bagatelle to what will be necessary in the future. Not only is that true, but a readjustment of our whole system of taxation is necessary. If we had a Protectionist Tariff, a large proportion of the £14,000,000 of revenue which we now receive through the Customs must disappear. Say we get £7,000,000 or £8,000,000 from the taxation of stimulants, and a considerable proportion of the remaining amount is lost by the adoption of a reformed Tariff, there is one way, and, in my opinion, only one honest and just way, open to us to make up the consequent deficiency in revenue. It can be done by imposing additional land value taxation. Not only shall we derive revenue from the adoption of that course, but our land will be cheapened and freed for settlement.

Senator Millen - Just now the honorable senator said that the effect would be to appreciate the value of the land.

Senator STEWART - The honorable senator wants to tie me in a knot.

Senator Millen - No; I wish the honorable senator to be consistent. What he proposes will either cheapen land or make it dearer.

Senator STEWART - Senator Millen knows as much about this question as I do, and perhaps a great deal more.

Senator MILLEN -That >s why I do not like to see the honorable senator going wrong.

Senator STEWART - I am not going wrong. I can give the honorable senator an example of what happened recently in Queensland. A large estate, consisting of some 120,000 acres, was broken up in that State. At the time it was valued at about £3 per acre. As many as 400 settlers took up that country, and if' Senator Millen wanted a piece of it today he would have to pay, not £3, but £6 per acre. Every one who knows anything about land value taxation knows that, as population increases, land values increase, and as population dwindles, land values disappear.

Senator TURLEY - The honorable senator is referring to the Jimbour Estate. Are not all the people on that estate today appealing for relief ?

Senator Millen - That estate was bought from the Government.

Senator STEWART - That is so, and the price paid was too high. If there had been a land value tax in operation the people who settled upon that land, instead of having to pay £3 per acre for it, would probably have been able to get it for £1 per acre. The result of an .effective land value tax is undoubtedly to -depreciate land values. That is the object of such taxation. It is intended to cheapen land and make it more plentiful. But when the land is taken up and settled in small holdings there is an appreciation of its value.

Senator Millen - It then becomes increasingly difficult for new settlers to get it.

Senator STEWART - It is, of course, a fact- that in every country, as it becomes more thickly populated, it is inevitably more difficult for people to get .land. Fortunately, in Australia we are far removed from that stage at present. We can contemplate that possibility very calmly, as it will not affect us or our immediate descendants very much. I ask honorable senators to turn their minds seriously to the questions of land monopoly and the revision of the Tariff. If we are to progress as we ought, and if our position is to be strengthened, we must have more people in Australia. Unless land monopoly is broken up, and our lands made available to the people at a cheap rate, we cannot have settlement upon the soil to the extent we ought to have; and, unless we have a Protectionist Tariff, we cannot expect to develop new industries in Australia. I again ask honorable senators to turn their attention to these questions, and see whether something substantial cannot be done towards the realization of a policy which I believe is the only one that can do Australia any good.

Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) J 3. 27] - I am very pleased to have the opportunity, in the discussion of the Estimates, to mention a few matters that could not with advantage be referred to on other occasions. Before doing so, I should like to refer to the foolish part of the argument set up by Senator Stewart. He has spoken of the necessity for taxing out of existence what we have heard of so long as the economic rent of land, or the extra value given to it as the result of the application to it of the labour of the' owner.

Senator Stewart - No.

Senator LYNCH - If I have not heard that from Senator Stewart, I have heard it from Senator Grant.

Senator Grant - No, the honorable senator never did.

Senator LYNCH - I want to say, as a member of the Labour party-

Senator Stewart - The honorable senator never did hear it from me. I see what his game is now.

Senator Grant - I rise to a point of order. Senator Lynch has made a statement to the effect that I have said that I would be in favour of taxing the value which a man gives to his land by his labour. That statement is not in accordance with fact, and I claim that it should be withdrawn.

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