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Wednesday, 2 November 1910

Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) . - The Vice-President of the Executive Council was very insistent in his affirmation that no one was so competent to judge the value of land as the owner himself. But the Minister seems to overlook the fact that the pitfall which this Bill places in the way of the owner is in making a division between the total value of his estate and the value of the improvements upon it. A land-owner may say, " I value my property at £5 an acre, and am willing to sell at that price." But he is not allowed to remain there. He may put in the total value of his estate at £5 per acre, and that may be the honest value. But then he has to divide the £5 between the value of the land itself and the value of the improvements ; and that is where the trouble is going to occur. The owner may say, " I value the land itself at £3 per acre, and the improvements at £2." But when the matter goes before the Commissioner, he may say, " I divide that value into £4. for the land, and £1 for the improvements " ; and that being a difference of more than 25 per cent, the Commissioner may proceed to put clause 46 into operation. It is idle to say that the landowner, because he is the best judge of the value of his property, ought to be penalized if some other valuator differs from him in the extent to which the total value of the estate should be divided as between the land and the improvements. What would the Government lose by adopting this amendment ?

Senator Rae - They would lose whatever value there is in the clauses which the Opposition fought against last week.

Senator MILLEN - This amendment does not destroy the value of those clauses. It simply offers an alternative to a landowner who is unable to determine the value of the improvements on his own estate. A land-owner who hesitated to take the risk of determining under which portion of the definition part of the Bill he would separate the value of the improvements and the value of the land on his estate would, under the amendment, be able to say to the Commissioner, " Call in a valuator of your own, and I will pay him rather than take the risk of deciding how much of my estate is represented by land, and how much by improvements." If the purpose of this Bill be merely to collect a tax, and to break up big estates, there is no reason on earth why the amendment should not be accepted. I can only adduce one reason why it should be objected to, and that is because it offers a fair and honest means of enabling a land-owner to demonstrate the value of his estate. Senator Walker has told us frankly that he is going to return his land at higher than he believes to be the true value in order to escape the pitfalls of the Bill.

Senator Rae - It is a good method of getting at some arrears that ought to have been paid up twenty years ago.

Senator MILLEN - Then we are to understand that the reason why the supporters of the Government object to this amendment is not because they regard it as inimical to the tax, but because the Bill as it stands enables them, in a vindictive spirit of retaliation, to strike at a class which they think has in the past escaped a just measure of taxation. That this is nothing but retaliation must be realized by honorable senators opposite with the aid of that little remnant of conscience which they still have left.

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