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Wednesday, 21 July 1915

Senator GRANT (New South Wales) .- I support the Bill. I think I understand exactly what is behind it. The Government appear to desire to ascertain the population of the Commonwealth capable of taking up arms in its defence, but it is not their intention to insist on any or all of those people being forced to do so. They believe the present method of voluntary service will be amply sufficient. It is evident, from the results of the recruiting campaign just closing in Victoria, during which over 1,000 men have enlisted every day - and we have no reason to believe that similar good results will not follow in the other States - that the resources in men will soon be depleted. to the point at which conscription would be of very small value. It, therefore, does not appear that, under the Bill, the Government contemplate anything of the kind. They wish to know definitely, not from a four-year-old return Supplied by the Census Department, but from up-to-date information, the actual resources of the Commonwealth.

That is a most reasonable request for the Senate to agree to. The other important part of the measure is the second schedule. The census does not show the land values of the community. All my efforts have failed so far to elicit that information. The Government Statistician or Land Tax Commissioner informed Parliament, through the Minister, a few days ago, that it was not available. Mr. Lloyd George recently tried to extract similar information from the British propertyowners, who raised a howl of indignation when asked, not to pay a tax, but merely to inform the Government of the amount of their wealth. I do not know that they have supplied the figures even up to the present moment. The schedule, as drawn up by the Government, is extremely faulty, and in one respect I intend to move its amendment. I wish to see the return furnished in such a way as to disclose the value of the land alienated in the Commonwealth, apart from buildings and improvements. I have been trying to get that information here for some time, but so far have failed. Now that this opportunity has presented itself, I shall exhaust all the forms of the Senate to see that the information is furnished. There is no reason why the Government should not at this juncture amend the schedule so that the return may disclose the value of the land held by the person making it. A second question could show the value of the houses and improvements on the land.

Senator Bakhap - Does not the second schedule provide all the information you want?

Senator GRANT - No. The answer is required in a lump sum. It is. of no satisfaction to me to know that a man possesses property worth £50,000. I want to know how much of that is land, and how much improvements, because, if the Government later on propose to tax industry in any form, I shall be up against them, and shall seek to see the taxation imposed on the land values.

Senator Gardiner - I am afraid we shall have to tempt your wrath.

Senator GRANT - I object to the idea of the Federal Government seeking to impose an income tax or any other tax on industry. Some States are imposing an income tax of up to 15 per cent. The present is the fitting opportunity to impose a straight-out land tax.

The PRESIDENT - Order ! The honorable senator' must' not anticipate the discussion on the motion, which he himself has put on the notice-paper, relating to the land tax.

Senator GRANT - I want to see the schedule so amended that if the Government later propose any form of taxation we shall have information disclosing the total value of the land alienated. I understand from unofficial sources that the total value of the alienated land of the Commonwealth amounts to £700,000,000. If that is so, it should be able to stand some . part of the expense of the war. One would infer from Senator de Largie's remarks that very heavy land value taxation was imposed in Scotland. The crofters were. called on to pay such exorbitant rents that a Committee of the House of Lords - realizing that their fellow landlords in Scotland were so greedy that they were killing the geese that laid the golden eggs - reduced the rentals in many cases by half, wiped out all the arrears, and left the crofters ju3t about sufficient to live upon.

Senator de Largie - What is the differnce between taking it as rent and taking it as taxation?

Senator GRANT - The difference is that the landlords get it as rent, while the State gets it in the form of taxation. If the Scottish people had Home Rule they would make short work, by taxation, of the landlords of Scotland, notwithstanding the opposition of men like Senator de Largie. The war may last another two or three years, as the Germans are about as stubborn as the British; but I have no doubt the Commonwealth will do its duty in men, money, and material, to bring to an end the long-drawn-out struggle. I believe our war expenditure for the current year will approximate £50,000,000, and as the war proceeds our share must increase. It is wrong for the Commonwealth to shirk any part of its expenditure, or expect it to be defrayed by Great Britain. We are part of the Empire, and ought not to dodge our responsibilities. I congratulate the Government on bringing the measure forward, because I believe the intention is to find out, exactly how we stand as to men and taxation resources, and that the Government will take the necessary steps to get the men, and also the money to defray the cost of the campaign.

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