Sir Robert scanned Australia vast

So sparsely populated

“O something must be done”, said he

To get folk immigrated.

I’ll tax the toilers more and more

To get my plan in motion

And I will trot across the globe

To coax men o’er the ocean


Sir Robert raised the income tax

The school books got their levy

He burdened most consumer goods

With duties huge and heavy

The big landholders grinned with mirth

And said the scheme was clever

They knew land values would increase

Without their own endeavour.


As migrants by the million came

They needed land for tillage

The owners asked them such a price

‘Twas nothing else but pillage

Among the men who owned the land

Great fortunes cumulated

The landless peoples’ lot grew worse

Their needs were aggravated


“I’ll help the newly weds,” said Bob

To show I’m philanthropic

I’ll grant them all three hundred pounds

This proved him most myopic.

The fellows who owned all the land

Half split their sides with laughter

They could demand three hundred more

For blocks of land hereafter


Sir Robert said I’ll build new roads

And smear the land with phosphorus

Improve the railways and the ports

And make Australia prosp’rous

The workers had to foot the bills

He took their cash in slices

The speculators were enriched

As land advanced in prices.


The land went into fewer hands

The estate business flourished

The workers’ bankbooks and their kids

Went sadly undernourished.

As agricultural land grew scarce

The farmers’ sons went townwards

This caused a labour surplus there

Which forced all wages downwards.


The workers in a drastic plight

For higher wages pleaded

Sir Robert and his government

Relented and conceded

Then wages soared up very high

But prices spiraled higher

Wage earners were not better off

They stayed stuck in the mire.


Sir Robert by his very act

The big landholders pampered

By placing fortunes in their hands

While industry was hampered.

For when the market price of land

Exceeds its valuation

It locks out capital and works

Thus fostering stagnation.


With all the aids of implements

Discoveries in science

All labourers should be opulent

Content in self reliance

Instead we have the phenomena

Of booms that end in busting

When toilers cannot get a job

Machines lie idly rusting


So much for Robert Menzies’ role,

And Calwell’s is no better

Their views keep capital hamstrung

And labour in a fetter

We must shake off the parasites

Shake off taxation’s burden

Collect land rent for revenue

So toil can reap its guerdon.


– JS Rankin

The Bard of the Baw Baws


Sir Robert Gordon Menzies is held by some to have been Australia’s greatest Prime Minister.

John Simon Rankin, “The Bard of the Baw Baws” (2 Dec 1912 – 1 Jul 1994), clearly had a good grip on matters economic, and obviously did not agree. Nor did he hold Menzies’ Labor Party opponent, Arthur Calwell, in particularly high regard.

It was actually Sir Robert Menzies who abolished the Australian federal land tax in 1952. It had been legislated in 1910 and served Australians extremely well since 1911.  Menzies provided the wealthy’s usual justifications for getting rid of it.

Related matter of interest:

It was left to another Liberal Party Prime Minister, John Grey Gorton, to finally dismantle Canberra’s system of land rent – although it does nominally remain a leasehold system .  (Canberra, Australia’s capital, celebrates its centenary next year.  See “Canberra: those other Americans” by David Headon.)

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