Title: Australian Single Tax and Henry George Organizations, 1925-1992
Predominant Dates: 1931-1987
Arrangement: Arranged in seven series by organization founding date: 1) Prosper Australia and the Land Values Research Group; 2) The Association for Good Government; 3) The Single Tax League of South Australia; 4) The Henry George Foundation; 5) The Georgist Education Association; 6) The Australian Georgist Council; and, 7) Miscellaneous material related to taxation in Australia.
Single Tax and Henry George Leagues began to appear in Australia in the two decades after the publication of Henry George’s 1879 classic work, Progress and Poverty. One of the earliest groups to advocate for a single tax on the value of land was the Land Nationalisation Society of New South Wales.
Established in 1883 by Ignatius Bell and William Dickinson, the Land Nationalisation Society began as a discussion group which supported the single tax among other methods for making the land the common property of all, instead of the private property of a few. The Society grew rapidly during its first few years and spread to other cities. In 1887, it expelled the non-single tax members and in 1890, became the Single Tax League of Victoria.
While on a speaking tour in England in 1889, George met Charles L. Garland of the New South Wales Parliament and President of the Single Tax Club of NSW. Garland convinced George to visit Australia, which he did with his wife Annie in March of 1890. Over the course of three months, the Georges’ visited 34 cities and towns where Henry George lectured on the single tax, free trade, and the duty of the Christian churches to help eradicate poverty through social and political reform. George’s speeches were well attended and received largely positive reviews in the local and national press. Following his visit, dozens of single tax and Henry George leagues formed, many of which are still active today.
Prosper Australia (formerly, The Single Tax Club of Victoria)
Prosper Australia, the largest Georgist body in Australia today, was founded in 1890 as the Single Tax Club of Victoria. Prosper later became known as the Henry George League of Victoria, and for a short-while, Tax Reform Australia. In 2000 it adopted its current name.
Throughout its various iterations, Prosper Australia has functioned as an educational association committed to spreading the gospel of Henry George. Today, the organization’s aims include “the removal of taxes on work, enterprise and consumption” and the financing of government from “the economic rents that fall to land and monopoly.” According to Prosper’s website, this reform “will liberate our animal spirits as individual effort and ingenuity are rewarded directly and make an economic Golden Age possible.” For more than 125 years, Prosper Australia has held an annual dinner to celebrate the teachings of Henry George.
Progress, Prosper’s monthly organ, was started in 1904 by F.T. Hodgkiss, who edited the magazine until the 1930s. Other editors have included A.R. Hutchinson (1943-1986); G.A. Forster (1980s-1990s) and the present editor, Karl Williams. It its early years, the circulation of Progress reached 20,000.
Prosper Australia encompasses other Georgist organizations including the Land Values Research Group (est. 1943), Earthsharing Australia (est. 1996), and the Melbourne School of Economics, which is currently inactive.
Land Values Research Group
A.R. Hutchinson started the Land Values Research Group in 1943 following the visit of the Canadian land economist H. Bronson Cowan. Under Hutchinson’s leadership, the Group published more than 35 empirical studies demonstrating how land value taxation promotes economic growth. Brian Kavanagh, a property assessor, currently serves as Director of the Land Values Research Group.
For many years, the Land Values Research Group received financial support from Clyde Cameron AO, who served in the Gough Whitlam Labor government and Sir Allen Fairhall, a long-serving minister in the governments of Robert Menzies and Harold Hold.
Association for Good Government (formerly, the Sydney Single Tax League)
The Sydney Single Tax League was established in the aftermath of Henry George’s Australian tour in 1901. In 1913, the League changed its name to the Free Trade and Land Values League and then adopted its current name, the Association for Good Government, in 1965.
At the time of its founding in 1901, the Sydney Single Tax League consolidated all of the Sydney-based Georgist organizations into one body to advocate for:
- Abolition of all Taxes now imposed upon Labour and Labor Products
- The Appropriation of Land Values or Ground Rent for Public Revenue
- Proportional Representation for all Elections
When it adopted the title the Association for Good Government, it outlined the following key principles associated with its name:
- An enlightened electorate
- A democratic system of representation
- Recognition that its primary function is the maintenance of peace and justice
- Non-interference in trade or commerce, either national or international, or in the private transactions of its electors save only as these threatened peace and justice, and
- A democratically controlled and just revenue.
Keeping with its commitment to Georgist principles, the Association for Good Government also demanded “A democratically controlled and just revenue by the collection of all site rents by governments as their sole and proper revenue and the abolition of all taxes, tariffs and unjust privileges of every description” (Good Government, December 1967)
The Standard, the group’s monthly periodical, was started by A.G. Huie in 1904. Huie also served as Secretary of the Sydney Single Tax League from 1901 until 1955. The name of the Standard was changed to Good Government in 1965. In addition to Huie, other editors of Good Government have included E.P. Middleton (1965-1971), E.B. Donahue (1971-1973), A.S. Furniss (1973-1978), Jack Brandon (1978-1981), and R. Giles (1981-1986).
The Single Tax League of South Australia
The Single Tax League of South Australia (also known as the Henry George League of South Australia) was a political party founded shortly after WWI. Its most active years were the decades of the 1930s and 1940s when League Secretary, E.P. Craigie, served in the House of Assembly for the electoral district of Flinders. Craigie also edited the League’s organ, the People’s Advocate.
Henry George Foundation of Australia
The Henry George Foundation of Australia began in 1928 with a 1,000 pound donation from Dr. Edgar Culley with the stated purpose of “promulgating and spreading the knowledge of the teachings and economic principles of Henry George as elaborated by him in ‘Progress and Poverty’ and of his works.”
William Henry Renwick of Victoria served as President of the Foundation with Vice-Presidents from every major Australian region with a Georgist organization including: Frederick William Hagelthorn (Victoria), John Robert Firth (New South Wales), Alfred Chappel (South Australia), William Henry Bell (West Australia), Herbert Freemonth Hardacre (Queensland), and William Ernest Lloyd (Tasmania).
In the 1980s, Foundation President Kenneth Grigg participated in two conferences on the influence of Henry George in China and particularly on Sun Yat-sen. Documents related to those conferences are found in series four of this collection. Today, the Foundation supports other Georgist and land value taxation groups including the Association for Good Government, the Site Revenue Society of Queensland, Prosper Australia, and the Georgist Education Association.
Georgist Education Association (formerly Henry George League)
The Georgist Education Association is a non-profit, non-political organization whose mission is “to spread and extend Georgist principles.” It was previously known as the Henry George League of Western Australia.
The GEA’s goals include:
- To untax production, labor and capital
- To abolish involuntary unemployment and poverty
- To restore equity in society
- To eliminate unfair speculation and monopolies
Current GEA officers include Mark Lofts (President) and Stuart Dunstan (Secretary). Former officers include Richard Hart (President), W.E. Standring (Secretary) and Graham S. Hart (Secretary).
Australian Georgist Council
The Australian Georgist Council was founded in 1985 to serve as the umbrella organization of the Georgist organizations in Australia’s capital cities. Kenneth N. Grigg of the Henry George League (Victoria) was elected President.
Member organizations included:
- Prosper Australia/Henry George League (Victoria)
- Site Revenue Society (Queensland)
- Henry George League (South Australia)
- Association for Good Government (New South Wales)
- Henry George League (Tasmania)
- ACT/Land Tax Association
Henry George, Jr. The Life of Henry George (New York: Doubleday, 1900).
John Pullen. Henry George in Australia. (2005)
Airlie Worral, “Land Locked! Why Australia Turned to Land Value Taxation” Reprinted from Land and Liberty (July-August 1981).
Jane McNab and Jacqueline Tuck, “How the reputation of Georgists turned minds against the idea of a land rent tax” (2013)
Karl Williams, “Georgism in Australia: The First Thirty Years” (2006)
Series One: Prosper Australia
Series Two: Association For Good Government
Series Three: The Single Tax League of South Australia
Series Four: The Henry George Foundation of Australia
Series Five: Georgist Education Association
Series Six: Australian Georgist Council
Series Seven: Miscellaneous Material related Land Value Taxation in Australia