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Friday, 27 July 1906

Senator STEWART (Queensland) . - I intend! to press my amendment because I am actuated by what I conceive to be its justice.

Senator Fraser - It is impossible.

Senator STEWART - I can see nothing impossible about it. Of course, Senator Fraser does not want the betterment principle to be adopted. I do.

Senator Fraser - I do not in the* least object to betterment.

Senator STEWART - I want to have a betterment provision that will not single out special individuals* for taxation, and permit a large number of others to escape scot free. .Take Senator Pearce's example. Say that there is a block of land an acre in extent in a township. Say that it is owned by four different individuals, each holding a quarter of an acre. The Commonwealth comes along and tells one of these holders that he must give up half of his land for public purposes? Let us say that the quarter-acre is worth. .£20, that the .Commonwealth resumes ^10 worth of it, and that the remaining portion of the allotment is, by the building of the post-office or other buildings, increased in value by 50 per cent. The half of the allotment resumed is, as I say, worth ,£10, and the half that is left over is increased in value to .£15; and, thereupon, the Commonwealth says, " We have increased the value of your land by .£5, and, therefore, we shall pay you only ,£5."' The owner of the land finds that, instead of possessing, a quarter of an acre worth .£20, he has an eighth of an acre worth ,£15 and £10 in his pocket.

Senator Playford - That is ,£5 more than the man would have got, or ought to have got, if the whole of his land had been taken.

Senator STEWART - What is the position of the other owners of , quarter-acre blocks in the neighbouhood ?

Senator Playford - We cannot deal with them under this clause.

Senator STEWART - I do not say that we can deal with them, but surely we will not single out an individual simply because he is unfortunate enough to be the owner of the allotment which the Commonwealth desires? Why should he be penalized? All I ask is that he should be placed on exactly the same level as the other owners. What I now desire is to show the position of those other owners. Each of the holdings has, by the erection of a public building, been increased in value by 50 per cent., so that each owner finds himself in the possession of land worth ^30, while the man on whose land the building has been erected has only an eighth of an acre, worth £15, and £10 in his pocket. If I had to choose whether a post-office should be built on my land or the Land of the other fellow, I should say that bv all means it should be on the other fellow's land. What I claim is that each person whose land is increased in value should pay in proportion to that increase. There ought to be no differentiation between the man whose land is taken and the man whose land is not taken. The Government ought to pay the market value for the land, and tax the owner on the increased value; that is the only just and moral way.

Senator Findley - How does the honorable senator propose to tax the owner?

Senator STEWART - The honorable senator should not ask.

Senator Findley - But I am asking because taxation must be uniform in its incidence.

Senator STEWART - I thought the. honorable senator knew all about the matter. In mv opinion, we should impose a land tax which would scoop up all the community-created increment.

Senator Findley - For all over the Commonwealth, yes ; but we are not dealing with a measure of that kind.

Senator STEWART - Why penalize one man ?

Senator de Largie - He is not penalized.

Senator STEWART - The honorable senator has not listened to the argument, or, if he has listened, he has not understood. I am governed in this matter only by my sense of justice. I do not desire to penalize any man in the way proposed by the Bill ; and so long as I occupy a seat in this Chamber I shall never be a consenting party to legislation of the kind. We hear the capitalistic party accusing the Labour Party of confiscation. The proposal now before us means direct confiscation, which cannot be defended by any law, human or divine, that I know of, except the law of highway robbery.

Senator Pearce - The honorable senator is in good company with Senator Fraser.

Senator STEWART - I think that Senator Fraser sees further through this business than do some other honorable sena tors. Senator Fraser desires to pounce on one individual, so that he may be offered up as a sacrifice for the others.

Senator Fraser - Get at the others if we can j but we cannot.

Senator STEWART - I do not wish any one to escape. If land is increased in value by public expenditure, all who are benefited ought to pay, but one man ought not to be called upon to pay double. Let me go further with my argument. Suppose the Stale Government imposed a betterment tax, the man whose land had been taken, and who had already been penalized by the Commonwealth Government, would be called upon to pay to the State as well as. to the Commonwealth, while the other owners would pay only to the State. The poor wretch who had had the misfortune to own the particular corner desired' by the Commonwealth Government would pay double.

Senator Givens - It is not always a misfortune to be the owner of land which is required bv the Government.

Senator STEWART - Under the laws as we have known them, that has never been a misfortune 5 but it would be a serious1 misfortune under a law of this kind. If honorable senators' desire to act' fairly and squarely as between man and man, thev will not consent to an arrangement of the character proposed. I am sure that Senator de Largie has no other idea than to do the " square thing." If land is increased in value by public expenditure, a betterment tax could easily be applied with equal justice all round. I ask the Committee to support my amendment.

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