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Wednesday, 2 November 1910

Senator VARDON (South Australia) . - The Vice-President of the Executive Council spoke just now as if clause 46 of the Bill provided for the protection of the revenue against the undervaluation of the improved as well as the unimproved value of land. But that provision does no such thing. It reads-

For the protection of the revenue against the undervaluation of land, if the Commissioner is of opinion that the owner of any land has, in a return furnished under this Act, understated the unimproved value of the land - lt makes no reference to improvements.

Senator McGregor - It does later on.

Senator Millen - The whole question is: "What proportion of the total value ought to be allotted to the land, and what proportion to improvements?"

Senator VARDON - The clause deals with the unimproved value of land, and all sorts of opinions may be held in that connexion. Only last week I quoted a case in which a man valued his land at £1 per foot, whilst his neighbour, who possessed exactly similar land, valued it at £4. per foot. Probably the former valued it at the price which he had paid for it, whilst the latter valued it at the price at which he was willing to sell. If the Commissioner formed the opinion that that land was worth ,£4 per foot, he would," under this Bill, be able to subject the taxpayer who valued it at only £1 per foot to all the inconveniences and disabilities which are imposed by clause 46. My amendment merely provides that the taxpayer may request the Commissioner to supply him with a valuation of his land. It does not contemplate that he shall escape any penalty whatever. If the Government are not prepared to accept such an eminently reasonable proposition, it is evident that they are not ready to do a fair thing by the taxpayers.

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel Sir ALBERTGOULD (New South Wales) [4.36].- I fail to realize why the Government object to the amendment. They avow that their only object is to arrive at the fair unimproved value of land for taxation purposes.

Senator McGregor - And who knows that better than does the owner?

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - But the Vice-President of the Executive Council will not accept the owner's valuation. He says that the owner must first make a valuation which the Commissioner will afterwards consider. The Commissioner has to satisfy himself that the valuation of the land-owner is a fair and proper one. The Bill provides that, in the event of the taxpayer's valuation being 25 per cent, less than .that of the Commissioner, his land may be forfeited.

Senator Rae - If I were in doubt about the valuation, 1 should invoke the assistance of the Commissioner.

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) l- Sir ALBERTGOULD. - That is all that the amendment contemplates. It seems to me that no adequate reason has been assigned for refusing to accept it. It would merely afford the taxpayer an opportunity to pay upon a proper valuation of his land after a full investigation has been made by the Commissioner. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has said that any man can value his own land. He can, but he cannot be certain that his valuation is correct, especially if he has held the land for any considerable time. Only the other day I cited the case of a property in Sydney which was valued by two first-class valuators who were not antagonistic to each other, and whose valuations, which were made in the interests of the owners at Home, were, respectively, ^10,000 and ^6,000. The margin between these amounts represented an honest difference of opinion, and when their attention was called to it, both valuators declined to alter their valuations. The adoption of the amendment of Senator Vardon would not cause any money to be withheld from the Treasury for a single day.

Senator McGregor - It would do away with the principle of individual valuations.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - Not at all. Clause 46 provides that the land-owner must satisfy the Court that he has not made an undervaluation for the purpose of defrauding the revenue. In other words, he has thrown upon him the obligation of proving a negative. He has to establish his innocence. Such a course of procedure is in direct antagonism to the cardinal principle of British jurisprudence. The least that the Government can do is to accept the amendment, instead of brushing it aside as if it were unworthy of consideration.

Senator Walker - I beg to call attention to the state of the Committee. [Quorum formed.']

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