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Friday, 8 June 1906

Mr DEAKIN - Oh. That question so far has Deen a State one. You. can see my views on it m the discussion which took place in the Victorian Legislative Assembly.

A nice reply to this citizen of Ballarat. He was told to go and hunt up the archives of Parliament. That was the honorable gentleman's answer. But the elector continued -

Give them to us now.

Mr DEAKIN - I hold strong views on the question, but, as a Commonwealth member, I abstain from intruding my views upon State matters.

There was a clear-cut declaration of the Prime Minister that land taxation was a. State, and not a Federal matter.

Mr Fisher - Does the right honorable member agree with that ?

Mr REID - I am going to give my views on the subject presently ; but I do not wish to be led off the trail. The leader of the Labour Party became a little more insistent. He was very much in earnest about the matter, and, in, fact, a resolution in favour of a progressive land tax is on the record's of the last Inter-State Conference.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The leader of the Labour Party opposed it then.

Mr Watson - No, I have been in favour of it always.

Mr REID - In Adelaide, the Prime Minister, speaking of land taxation., is reported to have said -

It may perhaps come in the future, as part of a complete scheme, but not as a means only of raising revenue.

Let us pause here. I wish to answer my honorable friend's question. I say what both parties- the Government party and my own - have said since Federation began, that the Commonwealth should use the Customs House for the purposes of Commonwealth revenue, except in case of national emergency, such as the danger of invasion, when it might be necessary to use all its powers of taxation.

Mr Hutchison - That is right ! Squeeze the small man all the time !

Mr REID - The honorable member, as a protectionist, squeezes the small man pretty hard. A difference of 15 or 20 per cent, does not count with him when there is a proposal to tax something which the poor man requires. I have tried to protect the small man from the protectionist. The honorable member and his party think of only one class of working men, whereas I think of them all.

Mr Fisher - Does the right honorable gentleman consider an old-age pension system a national necessity ?

Mr REID - I hoped that my meaning would be sufficiently clear when I said that a Commonwealth land tax should not be resorted to except in cases of grave national emergency - not for the ordinary purposes of revenue or legislation, but to meet some grave national Sanger. Talking of oldage pensions, I might remark that, in one of the speeches that were made, we were promised a Bill dealing with the subject ; but I do not see more than a harmless reference in the Governor-General's speech to a report.

Mr McDonald - Every GovernorGeneral's speech has contained a reference to the subject.

Mr Page - The speech delivered by the Governor-General, when the right honorable member for East Sydney was Prime Minister, did not contain such a reference.

Mr REID - That is so. , It was very short; only one subject was mentioned. In my, opinion, the taxation, of land is inseparably connected with the problems of land settlement, and each State which controls its own land should be allowed to work them out on its own lines.

Mr Hutchison - We must get rid of the legislative Councils of the States first.

Mr REID - That is another matter. The people can get rid of anything if they wish to do so. That, I think, has been the line adopted by both parties from the beginning. The 'proceeds of a Common wealth land tax would go wholly to the revenue of the Commonwealth, whereas the States receive back three-fourths of the revenue derived from the duties of Customs and Excise. Not only would a Commonwealth land tax be an iniquitous interference with the powers of the States to deal with their lands, but it would also take from the States every penny of the revenue derived, whereas they receive back three-fourths of the amor-nt raised through the Customs House. It must be remembered that the land policies of the States differ, while a Commonwealth land tax must be uniform, and might allow a crowded State like Victoria to dominate the destinies of Western, Australia, where the conditions are absolutely different from those of this State. Such a project is not only opposed to the Constitution, and absolutely an interference with Stale rights; but wrong from every point of view. A week after the speech in which the Prime Minister said that he would not intrude his views' on State affairs by dealing with the land tax, he was reported to have said in Adelaide -

It may perhaps come in the future as part of a complete scheme, but not as a means of rais- ' ing revenue.

What did he say in Sydney a few weeks later ? -

The land tax would not only be within the reach, but within the obligation, of the Federal Parliament.

Two months before it would have been art impertinence for the Prime Minister to interfere with the land tax, as it was a State matter, but at the end of that time it had become a> matter within the obligation of the Federal Parliament -

It would be highly desirable to have one Federal land tax.

Mr Hutchison - Hear, hear. Mr. REID.- The Prime Minister evidently had the right cue.

Rather than six different land taxes in six different States, there should be an arrangement by which a Federal land tax should be levied instead of the others.

That would impose over the land problems of the six States a uniformity which would be an. absolute interference with the rights of the people of the States, and might allow the people of New South Wales and Victoria to dominate the land .policies of Queensland1, South Australia, or Western Australia, by the mere force of population. If we interfere with their land problems, we may as well interfere with their control of the public schools, because the control of the public schools of Australia has not more firmly been left with the States than has the settlement of the land problems of the Commonwealth.

Mr Frazer - Is it not the duty of the Senate to have regard to State rights?

Mr REID - I am not at present dealing with that view of the matter. In my opinion, the proposed Commonwealth land tax would be an absolute invasion of the rights of the States.

Mr Hutchison - Then why was the levying of such a tax provided for in the Constitution ?

Mr REID - For purposes of revenue. But the object of this progressive land tax is not to obtain revenue, because the leader of the Labour Party has absolutely stated that it is not to be levied for any such purpose. He says that he does not expect that it will yield revenue.

Mr Watson - I said that it was not put forward primarily for the purposes of revenue. Of course, it must yield some revenue.

Mr REID - I think that I do not misrepresent mv honorable friend when I say that he did not lay any stress at all on the revenue aspect of the; case.

Mr Watson - Quite so: but I did not say that it would not yield' any revenue.

Mv. REID.- That may be so. My honorable friend suggested that the tax would not do any great injustice, because persons could easily avoid it by getting rid of their land. He has been perfectly clear on this matter. His object is to settle the land problems of the States by the Federal authority, and I say that to do so would be an absolute outrage on the principles of the 'Constitution. I may be wrong, but that is my view.

Mr Webster - The right honorable member is wrong.

Mr REID - I feel absolutely crushed by the honorable member's statement. I come now to a remark of the honorable member for Moira, who, turning to the Labour Corner, spoke of Socialism as a dream, and something upon which no sensible man would waste his time. I do not take that view of any policy submitted by the Labour Party.

Mr Kennedy - I said that I did not agree with them when they followed dreams and visions.

Mr REID - I think that the honorable member used the word " dream."

Mr Kennedy - Yes; but not in the sense suggested by the right honorable member.

Mr REID - I think that my honorable friend put Socialism aside as a matter which we need not seriously consider. I differ from him. I say that anything which the Labour Party puts over its front door as the objective of the . labour movement is deserving of the serious consideration of every public man, and that the Labour Party has behind it a power which only an ignorant man would affect to despise. I do not underrate the power of the Labour Party and of the labour leagues of Australia. My honorable friend knows very well the meaning of the word " objective." The meaning is similar to that which attached to the plan of campaign Lord Roberts adopted for the capture of Pretoria. He might march and countermarch hundreds of miles away, but his objective was the point upon which all these movements centred, and the supreme point to the attainment of which all hisenergies were devoted. The Labour Party have not kept their objective buried in the cellar. They brought it out -of the cellar last year in New. South Wales, and adopted it at the Inter - State conference by thirty-five votes to one, and it now stands forward, as the leader of the party has said, as the beacon light to which they are all steering. We know that when a man leaves one port for another, he may tack this way, and that way, but always has one object in view, that -is to make the port of his destination - to make the objective for which he started. And just as the mariner who leaves Sydney for San Francisco may describe a number of evolutions on the way, he has always one end in view, and that is to get to San Francisco. So it is with the Labour Party of Australia. They have a distinct objective. I do not know that all the members of the caucus believe in it, because they are cooling down considerably upon it, although the Political Labour Leagues have not done so, because they adopted it at the Inter-State conference, which was attended by representatives of the six States, by a majority of thirty five votes to one. Therefore, I do not regard this as an idle matter. T look upon it as serious, and the fact that the leader of the Labour Party very properly says, "We are only going to take one step at a. time," does not reassure me. I do not know of any one who could take more than one step at a time, however hurried he might be. I know that I could not. What is meant by that expression, however, is, "We will go slowly while we are not sure of our strength, but when we have strength enough we will reach our objective by the shortest possible route available. When our army is strong enough we will push for ward, because we believe our objective to be a good thing for the people of Australia." That is a proper point upon which to fight any battle, and the question then becomes, " Is it a good thing " ? If it is a good thing the Labour Party ought to succeed. But I do not think it is a good thing, and I am going to fight the battle against it. It is one of the silliest things in the world to ask for a definition of anti-Socialism, because anti-Socialism is merely opposition to Socialism. If you are putting out a fire, you do not need to point out what anti-fire means. When there is a fire blazing, you are ar.ti-fire. because you are trying to put it out. When you are so engaged, who asks questions as to your attitude? You see a fire raging, and you wish to put it out, and if any one asks you to define your position you merely say, " Do not bother me. This is a fire - I thank it is dangerous, and I propose to put it out."

Mr Hutchison - But the right honorable gentleman does not propose to put it out.

Mr REID - I hope that my honorable friend will not say that. I think that I am proposing to put it out, and, what is more, I think I shall succeed. I should like to put my view of this matter to many persons who, with a fair show of reason, say when I draw a complete picture of a socialized Commonwealth, " Well, Mr. Reid, it is absurd, for you to deal with the question from that point of view. All

Ave propose to do is to take one step at a time. We propose to nationalize this industry, and that, and) some other, but we shall only do it gradually." I think that I am perfectly fair when I say that, before the people of Australia adopt one part of this policy, I am entitled as a public man to show what its ultimate consequences will be - to show that the nationalization of the tobacco monopoly, for instance, is merely one step on the march to a destination. I am entitled to review the whole of the 'march to that destination. Those who dispute my claim to take this course are taking up an unreasonable attitude. Suppose that you were offered the corner lot in a. subdivision, and that by taking up that* corner lot you would commit yourself to the purchase of successive lots until you acquired 'the whole of the subdivision. Would it not be silly to ask you not to consider the merits' of the whole subdivision, but to confine your attention to the corner lot? If a man warned me off the subdivision, and told me that I need concern myself only with the merits of the particular lot under immediate offer, I should say that he was distinctly wrong. Similarly, when I am told that I must pay regard merely to the merits of a proposal for the nationalization of the tobacco industry, I say that I am entitled to consider the objective towards the attainment of which that proposal marks merely one step. I am glad that my honorable friends of the Labour Party have not raised any difficulty with regard to their objective. I propose now to set forth the Labour Party's objective in a manner which I think will be fair, because I intend to quote from one of the leading labour organs in Australia, namely, the Brisbane Worker. I am not taking my own view, but am giving that of one of the leading' labour journals of Australia.

Mr Wilks - It is one of the most outspoken and able of the labour journals.

Mr REID - I will not deny that. Everything I have read the Brisbane Worker has been as straight as anything could be.

Mr Page - The right honorable gentleman would not have such a " set " upon it if he read it more diligently.

Mr REID - That may be, but one has not time to read many newspapers. Now, after the objective of the La tour Party was framed at the Inter- State Conference, the Brisbane Worker dealt with it in this way -

The Queensland objective-

I think I am right in saying that that is the nationalization of the means of production, distribution, and exchange.

Mr Watson - That was the objective of the New South Wales Labour Party when the right honorable gentleman accepted its support.

Mr REID - When my honorable friend says that, all I can tell him is that it must have been buried down in the cellar - it was not on the fighting platform at all.

Honorable Members. - Yes, it was.

Mr Watson - It was not on the fighting platform, but it was the objective all the same. .

Mr REID - All I can say is that the nationalization of land was on the platform too, but when my honorable friend assisted me in. passing a Bill to deal with the taxation of land, nothing was said about that then.

Mr Watson - Yes, there was, because we inserted a nationalizing clause, and the honorable member supported it.

Mr REID - No. As I said before, if honorable members do a good' thing in the way of supporting me, I shall never quarrel with them. They will never have me telling them that they are "nibbling away the sausage of Australian independence ' ' bit by bit. If they support me they are all right for once, at any rate. The Brisbane Worker says: -

Thi; Queensland objective is more comprehensive, and more exact in expression. It is also, we hold, more honest in intent.

The New South Wales objective goes really as far, but it does not seem to do so, and for that reason may be said to carry the stigma of guile. It reads as follows : - " Securing of the full results of their industry to all producers by collective ownership of monopolies, and the extension of the industrial and economic functions of the State and municipality."

In what can be secured " the full results of their industry to all producers " except by the collective ownership of all the means of production ?

Mr Fisher - That is' comment.

Mr REID - Yes, that is not in the objective, but a portion of the article, and I echo that criticism. The Labour Leagues have been straight enough with regard to their objective. I have often complimented them upon putting their views in plain black and white. What I am quoting is plain black a>nd white, but some honorable members appear to want to get away from it.

Mr Johnson - They have lit the fire, and are running away from the smoke.

Mr REID - I do not think the Labour Leagues will do anything of the kind. At any rate, I am making my preparations on the supposition that they are going to fight til! the last, and I do not think that I shall be far out. The article proceeds : -

The mention of "monopolies" is utterly irrelevant, and that it has been merely dragged in, and is not of a piece with the rest of the sentence, is made evident by the improved reading which we get when that passage is omitted, thus : - " Securing the full results of their industry to all producers by the extension of the industrial and economical functions of the State and municipality." It will be seen at once that no limit is placed to " the extension of the industrial and economical functions of the State and municipality." In that respect the two objectives are in agreement. The New South Wales objective therefore is every bit as far ahead as that of the State. It aims to secure to all producers the full fruits of their industry by State and municipal ownership. No objective short of communism could go further.

There is a straightforward explanation of the objective which I accept, and act upon. Why, then, do I look at the complete scheme? Because it is proposed to bring all producers under the principle.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - There is no dissent from that from the Labour corner.

Mr REID - I did not think there would be.

Mr Fisher - Why should we dissent?

Mr Fowler - The right honorable gentleman is helping us to publish our principles.

Mr REID - I wish to read a few extracts from speeches made by the Labour leader, Mr. Watson, in various places, in order to show that this is really the view which that honorable gentleman takes of the objective, or at any rate did take of it then. The Brisbane Courier of 1 st June, 1905, reports the honorable gentleman as saying -

The Labour Party has for years been engaged in a socialistic agitation, which has for its object the curtailing of the liberty of the subject.

Of course that is obvious.

Mr Watson - I have had a lot of assistance from the right honorable gentleman in that direction also.

Mr REID - As I have already said, I am prepared to go as far as honorable members please in the way of smoothing out opportunities for private enterprise. I shall give honorable members my assistance always for that purpose; but I draw the line and part company with them when they ask me to suppress private enterprise and replace it bv Government-run factories.

Mr KING O'MALLEY (DARWIN, TASMANIA) - We db not ask that.

Mr REID - I know that my honorable friend does not, but he comes from Tasmania. In the next month in Queensland the leader of the Labour Party said -

The collective principle is the beacon light guiding the Labour movement.

In the same month he said -

I for one believe that Socialism is inevitable, and that the trend of modern industrialism could admit of no other solution. There is no escape from the tyranny of capital. Without the slightest difficulty money could be found to buy out every enterprise in the land.

That is plain enough. The honorable gentleman gives his own personal guarantee that he can raise the ^1,000,000,000 without the slightest trouble.

Mr Webster - How much ?

Mr REID - The amount is ^1,000,000,000. I do not say that honorable members would give that much to the present owners of these enterprises, but that is Mr. Coghlan's valuation of them. In July of the same year, in the Protestant Hall in Sydney, Mr. Watson said -

The Socialism of the Labour Party was this : they looked forward to the ideal when collectivism took the place of competition in the world - when production would be for use and not profit.

I think that was the aboriginal state of the dismal tribes of antiquity. Everything with them was for use, and not profit. They never lived beyond the day.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is continental enough for anything.

Mr REID - I quote these passages to show that the leader of the Labour Tarty has publicly declared himself in the spirit of the objective. That objective points to complete Socialism. I have accepted the challenge, and if my honorable friends are right. I shall be defeated, and properly defeated.

Mr Watson - But the right 'honorable gentleman should not call himself an antiSocialist.

Mr REID - I think it is the greatest absurdity in the world which describes a man as a Socialist, because he uses the power of the State to promote the opportunities of private enterprise. . The radical difference between a Socialist and an anti-Socialist should be obvious enough. The Socialist says that capital, private industry, and the relations between employer and man are all wrong, and all rotten, and that the result of them is that the man is defrauded, that capital defrauds him of that which belongs to him. If that be so, Socialism is justified. I shall not take up the time of the House in arguing the matter here. I am only anxious to put the question clearly. T wish' to say that one of my strongest objections to Socialism is that it begins bv destroying the liberty of the individual, and that the object of it is to destroy individualism.

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