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Friday, 1 December 1911

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) . - I listened carefully to Senator Stewart's declaration of what is contained in the Labour platform, and I also paid great attention to the amendment which has been submitted by Senator Walker. Now, if the latter has been careful to do one thing more than another, it is to frame his proposal in such a way that if Senator Stewart remains true to his professed principles he cannot vote for it. Senator Stewart has declared that the land values created by the Commonwealth ought to belong to the Commonwealth. But, under Senator Walker's amendment, the land at the terminal points of .the proposed line, which will naturally possess the greatest value, will be retained by the States.

Senator Millen - That difficulty may be overcome by another amendment.

Senator GARDINER - But what is the use of endeavouring to embody in every proposal which is submitted to Parliament some well-known principle of the Labour party ? I believe that the values created by the community should belong to the community. But I would point out that the Commonwealth has already the power of securing , to itself that unearned, increment, not from alternate patches of land 10 miles square, but from one end of Australia to the other.

Senator Millen - Now !

Senator GARDINER - Not only has it that power, but it has already exercised it.

Senator Millen - Not in respect of Crown lands.

Senator GARDINER - Whether the Commonwealth or the State gathers in this unearned increment does not affect the principle. The Commonwealth, the States, and the municipalities are merely different forms of government in this country. If we are to affirm the absurd idea put forward by Senator Walker in regard to alternate blocks along the route of the proposed railway, when the Commonwealth constructs a wharf or a jetty, in the future, we shall be told that it must secure to itself the unearned increment. To carry the honorable senator's argument further, why should not the Commonwealth ascertain the exact amount of benefit which is being conferred upon Melbourne by reason of the Parliament meeting in this city? I repeat that we already have the power to secure for the Commonwealth the land values which it creates by the expenditure of its own money, if we choose to exercise it. We do not exercise it because there is no occasion for us to do so. The Government are embarrassed with riches.

Senator Stewart - Is not that a very good reason why we should adopt a proposal of this kind?

Senator GARDINER - If Senator Walker would join with others in endeavouring to reduce the amount derived from CUE toms taxation, instead of increasing it, we might achieve something tangible. I cannot understand the blowing hot and cold in which Senator Sayers has indulged. Only a little while ago he argued that the land which the proposed railway will traverse has no value whatever. Yet we now find him supporting an amendment under which that land at the very low estimate of is. 3d. per acre would realize more than £4,000,000.

Senator Sayers - The States are merely being asked to give the Commonwealth a certain area of land on either side of the railway in return for the construction of that railway.

Senator GARDINER - I hope that the honorable senator will be in the same frame of mind when the Government propose to build a line of railway from Yass-Canberra to Jervis Bay.

Senator Millen - New South Wales has not asked the Commonwealth to construct that line.

Senator GARDINER - The same remark will apply to South Australia. That State has not asked the Commonwealth to build the proposed transcontinental line. The whole of the people of Australia have demanded its construction in the interests of Australia, and they can well afford to build it.

Senator St Ledger - How have they demanded it in the interests of Australia?

Senator GARDINER - I think that the defence of Australia is of interest to every portion of it. I merely rose to point out the absurd position in which Senator Stewart will be placed, if, while subscribing to the sound principle that increased land values created by Commonwealth expenditure should belong to the Commonwealth, he supports an amendment under which that increased value will be conceded to the Commonwealth on alternate blocks along the route of the proposed railway, and will be denied to it at the termini of the line, where the community-created values will naturally be greatest.

Senator MILLEN(New South Wales) fu. 25]. - There was one expression used oy Senator Gardiner which, I think, was singularly unfortunate. He made some reference to Senator Sayers. " blowing hot and cold " in regard to a principle. Then, in order to demonstrate that it is possible to blow hot and cold in regard to a principle, he proceeded to outline the position which he himself occupies. He said, in effect, "I am an unflinching advocate of the principle that the community-created values of land should belong to the community. Upon that rock I take my stand." But,, having taken is stand upon that rock, he immediately exclaimed, " But for Heaven's sake do not support the principle."

Senator Gardiner - Do not support it in such a way as to make it ridiculous.

Senator MILLEN - A great many hot advocates of principle are prone to regard as ridiculous any attempt to enforce principle. Senator Gardiner went on to say that if we adopt this principle in respect of the proposed transcontinental railway we shall have to adopt if in respect to every minor public work. Simply because it is impossible for the Commonwealth to collect the trivial amounts of added value which may be given by Commonwealth expenditure to small works costing, perhaps, £100, he argued that we should refuse to collect that added value when we have a clean sheet upon which to start and everything in our favour. Nobody can dispute the proposition that the community which creates added values in land is entitled to those added values. But Senator Gardiner has affirmed that even if the Commonwealth does not collect this increment, the States or the municipalities will do so. Surely he must recognise that "the whole is not the same thing as a part, and that a part is not the same thing as the whole. It is the whole community and not" a portion of it which is entitled to these communitycreated values. I regret that I am not able to support the amendment. I regard it as an extremely objectionable and absolutely impracticable proposition. In the first place, Senator Walker is confusing land with land values. I object altogether to the Commonwealth loading itself up with peacocked areas all over Australia.

Senator Walker - What about the land upon which public offices are built ?

Senator MILLEN - There, again, we have small areas which do not count. If the system advocated by the honorable senator be adopted in regard to this railway, I presume that it will be adopted in regard to other railways which will be built. Let my honorable friend consider the difficulty which surrounds his proposal that alternate blocks of 10 miles square shall be reserved to the Commonwealth. Each of them would contain 64,000 acres, and on Mr. Deane' s estimate of the carrying capacity of the land, each would be capable of grazing 3,000 sheep. I say that it is absolutely impossible to get that country occupied in areas which will carry only 3,000 sheep. The cost of improving a block 10 miles square which will carry only 3,000 sheep would simply render the proposition an absolutely prohibitive one. Thus Senator Walker would not only secure to the Commonwealth alternate blocks which would be perfectly useless, but his proposition would also render useless the adjacent blocks which will be held by the States. I think it is highly undesirable that the Commonwealth should take over land which will require settling later on, at any rate until it has dealt with the big proposition of land settlement which is contained in the Northern Territory. All that Senator Walker wanted to do was to suggest means by which the Commonwealth could be recouped for Commonwealth expenditure.

Yesterday, I offered him a means of doing that.

Senator Walker - I could not support your amendment.

Senator MILLEN - Yesterday, I offered my honorable friend a means of getting, not the land, but the land value, but so anxious was he to recoup the Commonwealth that he could not see his way to adopt it. There is a broad difference to be kept in mind - the difference between land which ought to be left to the State and the claim which was put in yesterday and turned down by the Senate that the value added to the land, is a fair fund on which the Commonwealth might have levied. For the reasons I have stated, I am bound to vote against the amendment.

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