9th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Senator J. D. MILLEN presented a petition stated to bear the signatures of 22,201 parliamentary electors of the Commonwealth, referring to the alleged unsatisfactory state of affairs in the New Hebrides under the Condominium, and praying the Senate to take steps to bring the matter before the Imperial Government with a view to bringing about an amicable and honorable arrangement with France by which the New Hebrides Island would pass under sole British control.
– I ask the Minister for Home and Territories whether the regulations with respect to the leasing of building sites at Canberra are yet prepared, and, if not, when will they be ready?
– I am glad to say that I have this day received from the Attorney-General’s Department a draft of the amended regulations. Instructions are being issued to have the necessary Order in Council prepared at once. “ SENATOR McDOUGALL “ IN ENGLAND.
– Has the attention of the Leader of the Government in this Chamber been called to a statement in the Melbourne Evening Sun of 13th May ? Side by side with a picture of a rather handsome young man is an article headed “ Fine Work. Australia House Praised. Dinner Diplomats “, and it states that “ Senator McDougall,” at a luncheon which he gave at Australia House before his departure on 13th May, paid a high tribute to the staff, who, he said, were doing very valuable work. Can the Minister inform me who is this gentleman and whether he is some one masquerading as “ The “ McDougall ?
– There is certainly only one McDougall. If there is some one in England masquerading as Senator McDougall of Australia, we shall have the attention of the High Commissioner called to the matter, with the object of exposing the impostor.
The following papers were presented : -
Statements with regardto-
Ordered to be printed.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. -
No.9 of 1924- Australian Postal Linemen’s Union.
No. 10 of 1924 - Australian Postal Electricians’ Union.
No.11 of 1924 - Australian Postal Electricians’ Union.
No. 12 of 1924 - Australian PostalElectricians’ Union.
No. 13 of 1924 - Australian Letter Carriers’ Association.
Nos. 14 and 15 of 1924 - Australian Letter Carriers’ . Association and Federated Public Service Assistants’ Association.
No. 16 of 1924 - Australian Letter Carriers’ Association and Federated Public Service Assistants’ Association.
No. 17 of 1924 - Australian Postal Assistants’ Union; Australian Letter Carriers’ Association; and Federated Public Service Assistants’ Association.
Audit Act - Transfers of amounts approved by the Governor-General in CouncilFinancial Year 1923-24- Dated 7th May, 1924.
Public ServiceAct - Appointment of W. S. Cook, Department of Works and Railways.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers are - 1 and 2. The following are the redemptions which have had the effect of reducing the public debt: -
Returned Soldiers :Permanent Appointments : Salaries Paid.
asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The following answers have been furnished by the Commonwealth Public Service Board : -
Bill read a third time.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted after clause 2 : - 2a. Section 6 of the principal Act is amended by omitting all words from and including the word “ where “ to and including, the word “ accordingly,” and inserting in their stead the words “ Any instrument or assurance executed by the Government of a State for granting, conveying or leasing to the Commonwealth any Crown land of the State.”
The amendment will have the same effect as the present wording, but it putsthe section in a simpler form.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause 3 (Persons under disability who may sell land to the Commonwealth);
– Several amendments are included in this clause. The first is merely a drafting amendment. The original form of sub-sectionb of section 8 of the principal Act is amended to include provisions underwills, and power is given to persons who are under a disability to lease, sell, or convey land to the Common wealth. The other amendments contain nothing new in principle.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 (Application of rent, purchase money or compensation where parties not entitled to sell).
– As amended by this clause, section 10 of the principal Act will provide for the application of rent, purchase money, or compensation, where any person has not been entitled, owing to a disability, to lease, sell, or convey. The various definitions are framed to cover the many classes of persons, ownerships, or interests that may be met with during the administration of the Act.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6 (Power of Court to make orders as to purchase money).
– There is a doubt at present as to the power of the Court to make orders in regard to purchase money. Under this amendment of section 10 of the principal Act, rent and interest on compensation will be included.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 7 (Person claiming under 40 years’ title to be deemed owner).
– This is one of the more important clauses in the Bill, and I wish to direct the attention of the Committee to its effect. It is desired to bring the principal Act into conformity with the legislation of a number of States, particularly the Conveyancing Act, No. 6, of 1919, New. South Wales, the Conveyancing Act, section 4, of 1915, Victoria, and similar Acts in the other States which have been introduced in connexion withconveyancing. Probably most, if not all, of those have been introduced since our. original Land Acquisition Act was passed. They provide that a purchaser is not allowed to require proof for more than 40 years. In many cases, however, land is acquired under what is known as the Old Law, the Common Law, or the General Lawsystem, and are held under conveyances. At the present time, it is necessary for the Commonwealth, in order to prove a title, to have searches made right back to the original Crown grant, as since the Crown grant was issued many conveyances and changes of title may have taken place, covering transactions over many years, and the property might have passed from individuals to companies or bodies. The subsequent change of ownership has frequently been found to be incomplete and uncertain, due to the same land having apparently been at some time or other conveyed to two different people; or, as is frequently found to be the case, the legal position of the person in possession is indefinite, there being a break in the continuity of the transactions. This proposed amendment of the Act will, we hope, remove any doubt on that point, and bring our law into conformity with those that the States have seen fit to pass respecting these conveyances.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 8 -
Section 14 of theprincipal Act is amended -
Section proposed to be amended - 14. (1 ) The Governor-General may approve of the acquisition by the Commonwealth of any land by agreementwith the owner … . .
– I move -
That the following new sub-section be added: - (2a) The power conferred by sub-section 1 of this section includes the power to approve of the Commonwealth -
Taking a lease for a period certain, not exceeding ten years, of the whole or part of any public park vested in or under the control of a municipal or local authority and dedicated to or reserved for the recreation of the people, or of the whole or part of such other lands dedicated to or reserved for the use and enjoyment of the people as have been specified by proclamation; or
accepting a licence to enter thereon for any period certain.
I invite the special attention of honorable senators to this new sub-clause, because I do not wish it to be said later that it was “ sneaked in.” There is a deep-rooted and proper objection on the part of all Parliaments and of local governing bodies to the granting of any authority which will lead to the frittering away of our public parks. In the original Lands Acquisition Bill first introduced, there was a clause that gave to the Common wealth compulsory power of acquisition of public parks. That was decisively and, I think, very properly defeated. At present, we have no power to compulsorily acquire any public park or recreation ground. We are not now seeking that power. By examining the proposed new subsectionhonorable senators will see that it provides only for a lease or licence, which is expressly stated not to exceed ten years. When the power to compulsorily acquire park lands, recreation grounds, or reserves set aside for that purpose was previously refused, it practically prevented the Commonwealth from accepting a lease or licence to go on those lands for any public purpose. That has been found to be as bad in the other extreme, because many of these lands that have been reserved and set aside, are not being used at present for the purpose for which they were dedicated. In the interests of the advance of aviation, it has become necessary that the Commonwealth, with the consent and agreement of the local governing bodies concerned, shall be able by licence to go upon such land, or to obtain a lease for use of such land for a definite period. I am not wedded to the proposed period of ten years provided for in the sub-section. If any honorable senator thinks that there is a danger in it, and so that the people may have an opportunity to review any decision to grant a lease, I do not object to a lease or licence for a shorter term. Thefact that it is alease or licence, and is for a definite period, gives to the people, through their municipal or other representatives, the right later to decide whether the lease shall be continued.
– Why not make the period “ not more than ten years “ ?
– The sub-clause reads “not exceeding ten years.” To show that this innovation is not due to mere caprice or fancy, allow me to give some instances where land was required. Early last year the Air Force desired to acquire by lease portion of a public park at Albury. The municipality of Albury agreed to grant a licence to the Commonwealth to use this land., portion of Alexandra Park, as a landing ground for aeroplanes. Search disclosed that the land in question was a public park dedicated for the purpose of public recreation, and placed under the control of the municipal council of Albury, as trustees. Section8 of the Public Parks Act 1912 of New South Wales is as follows: -
Trustees shall for all purposes of this Act, and of any by-law thereunder, be deemed to hold an estate in fee-simple in the land for which they were appointed, but shall not be capable of alienating, charging, or inany way disposing of such land or any part thereof.
Provided that trustees may, with the consent of the Minister, lease or grant grazing or other temporary licences to occupy or use any portion of such land for such purposes, on such terms and subject to such conditions as the Minister approves.
Some difficulty arose because of the definition of “land” in the Lands Acquisition Act 1906-16, which reads as follows : -
Land includes any estate or interest in land (legal or equitable), and any easement, right, power, or privilege over, in, or in connexion with land, and also includes Crown land, but does not include public parks rested in or under the control of municipal or local authorities and dedicated to or reserved for the recreation of the people, or such other lands dedicated to or reserved for the use and enjoyment of the people as have been specified by proclamation.
The power of the Commonwealth to acquire land depends upon the Lands Acquisition Act. It was clear that the right sought to be acquired being a “right, power, or privilege over in or in connexion with land “ was in relation to a public park within the meaning of the definition above quoted, and therefore the Commonwealth had no legal power to acquire it. The following are the landing sites required on the CharlevilleCootamundra aerial route: -
This area is under the control of the Western Land Board.
About141/4 acres are within the reserve from sale and lease for race-course, and about 51 acres are within the temporary common. Both these areas are under the control of trustees, and the balance of the 94 acres is within certain streets and unoccupied public reserves, &c.
A somewhat similar case was the acquisition of a site for a public health laboratory at Port Pirie.
There have been quite a number of these cases, and, of course, as civil aviation progresses, there will be more. We can surely depend on the local authorities not to grant a lease where it will interfere with the rights of the people for recreation purposes. If a lease of land is granted at a township, and the town grows, and the population increases to such an extent as to warrant the withdrawal of the lease, then the local Board will step in to safeguard the rights of the people. This is not a compulsory power. Under this clause we can obtain only a lease or agreement, and therefore it is not in the same category as the clause to which objection was formerly taken. I thought it only right to point this out to honorable senators, and to invite them to offer any objections they might have to the sub-clause in its proposed form. I am as strong as any one in the desire that full protection shall be given to public parks established in the neighbourhood of large towns.
– At the first glance this proposed addition to clause 8 seems to contain a most dangerous principle, and it is only on the explicit assurance of the Minister (Senator Pearce) that there is absolutely no compulsion attached to it that I can agree to it.
– Section 15 of the Act gives the power to compulsorily acquire.
– I am positive that this proposal will not give power to compulsorily acquire any park lands. As a matter of fact, the compulsory provisions of the Act do not apply. The amendment relates merely to the taking of a lease of land, and any such lease has to be granted to the Commonwealth by a local authority.
– Even with that explanation, which seems quite satisfactory, I think the period of ten years is somewhat long, and I would ask the Minister to agree to make it five years, so that the action of the local authority may be reviewed by its constituents without their having to wait ten years for that opportunity.
– The Air Board’s request was for a lease of seven years. Would the honorable senator accept that period ?
– Yes. I am satisfied now that no duress can be exercisedby the Commonwealth against a State or a local authority in regard to land over which, by the Constitution, the Commonwealth is given very little jurisdiction. It seems to me that this Bill, the tenor of which seems to predicate a hostile attitude on the part of the States, puts in the hands of the Commonwealth Government not friendly disposed towards those States a very powerful weapon that may be misused to their detriment. I want to avoid any possibility of that, and it is the duty of the Senate, which is the States’ House, to see that nothing of the sort takes place. However, on the assurance of the Minister that no compulsion is possible, and that he is prepared to have the period fixed at seven years instead of ten, I think the Senate would not be lacking in its duty in accepting the proposal.
– Sub-section 1 of section 14 of the principal Act reads as follows : -
The Governor-General may approve of the acquisition by the Commonwealth of any land by agreement with the owner.
Those words will still remain in the section, so that leases can only be secured by agreement. I have no objection to making the period of a lease seven years.
Amendment of the amendment (by Senator Kingsmill) -
That the word “ten” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ seven.” put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment of the amendment agreed to.
Amendment as amended agreed to.
Clause also verbally amended, and, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 9 (Notification of acquisition).
– The insertion of this provision in the principal Act has been found necessary in order to provide that a lessee of a property compulsorily acquired may still continue undisturbed as a lessee for the term of his lease, and thus have no claim for compensation. In some instances it may not be necessary to disturb a lessee. It is very desirable that insuch cases the Commonwealth should not be liable for compensation, but that the lessees should simply become tenants of the Commonwealth until such time as the property is required by the Commonwealth.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 10 and11 agreed to.
Clause 12 (Parliament may declare notification to be void).
– This is an important amendment of section 19 of the principal Act to which I direct the attention of the Committee. The power to revoke an acquisition, either wholly or as to any part of the land acquired, is necessary to safeguard the Commonwealth from any claims that might occur due to the Commonwealth acquiring some interest in the land other than that disclosed at the time of acquisition. As a case in point, I may mention that the War Service Homes Commissioner acquired from the Caledonian Colliery Company a property known as the King’s-road Estate, Adamstown, New South. Wales. The purchase price, amounting to £5,943, was agreed to prior to the acquisition. The property was subsequently acquired under the compulsory clauses of the Lands Acquisition Act, and after the acquisition, the Caledonian Collieries Limited (Howard Smith and Company) claimed £10,000 damages for loss of certain coal, and loss of access, as the acquisition acquired, in addition to the surface of the land, the land below the surface, practically to the earth’s centre, and all interests in connexion therewith. After the acquisition, the Caledonian Collieries Limited produced evidence that they held a registered transfer from the Waratah Coal Company, which was not disclosed by a search against the title, of all the coal under the subject land, and had the right to pass over and through the land in any way for the purpose of working such coal. This company also owned certain coal areas on both sides of the subject property. If the Commonwealth had had’ power under the Act to revoke such acquisition as to the interests of the company, the difficulties experienced in settling this case- would have been overcome. The acquisition of the property at Fairy Meadow is another case in point. Tn that instance, an exorbitant claim was made for certain valuable lime deposits which, up to the time of the acquisition, and ‘ not until their value was disclosed by the Commonwealth, were not considered of any commercial use by the then owners of the property. The question of revocation has already been provided for in the Lands Acquisition Act, as modified by regulation for War Service Homes purposes, and has been found in practice to be of great assistance to the Commonwealth. The concluding portion of section 19 provides that no persons interested by such revocation shall be hardly dealt with, as provision is made to compensate any person who is entitled to compensation for any damage which he may actually and unavoidably have suffered by reason of th« notification. It will be noticed that the voiding of the acquisition is by resolution of both Houses of Parliament, which is an adequate safeguard.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 13 (Registration of Notification).
– This Bill has been in draft form for some time, and the principle of the clause has, since the Bill was drafted, been subject to a decision of the High Court. As it is extremely doubtful that we can do what is proposed, I ask the Committee to negative the clause.
Clauses 14 to 17 agreed to.
Clause 18 (Compensation - how estimated).
. Provision is made in this clause for compensation to a lessee of property compulsorily acquired for any right or option of extension of his lease or renewal for purchase which he may be legally entitled to at the date of the acquisition. This interest of a lessee has, in the administration of- the Act, always been considered, and the amendment is to bring the Act into line with every-day practice.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 19 to 22 agreed to.
Clause 23 (Procedure on claim for compensation being received).
– Paragraphs a, 6, and c of sub-clause 2 are in conformity with the principal Act, but sub-clause 4 is a new departure, and provides that the Minister may make an offer in respect of an acquisition to all or any two or more of the claimants jointly without apportioning the amount offered among those claimants. The need for this amendment has been experienced in the administration of the Act in cases where the Commonwealth has . acquired a property, portion of which has been let under a long lease and the lessee has sub-let to others. A case in point is the acquisition of premises for the Commonwealth Bank in Adelaide. The Commonwealth should be able to make one offer for the acquisition, and those who have claims against each other should be the subject of adjustment between themselves. It does not seem right that the Commonwealth should have to shoulder the responsibility of settling claims against lessees and sub-lessees of property acquired by the Commonwealth.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 24 (Action for compensation).
– This is a rather importantclause. The suggested amendment of the Act is nothing new so far as the method to be adopted with regard to the allocation of costs is concerned, as it follows closely upon section 30 of the Victorian Lands Compensation Act of 1915. . The amendment is considered necessary in the interests of the Commonwealth, as, in practice, the method adopted by claimants in disputed claims has invariably been to claim an amount considerably in excess of the value of the property, and call a large number of witnesses to endeavour to substantiate such claim. The Commonwealth has relied in such cases on the evidence of, at the outside, three or four valuators of repute, and during the Court proceedings the weight of evidence produced by the claimants has always, in practice, had the effect desired by the plaintiff of getting a judgment somewhat in excess of the Commonwealth’s offer. This has resulted in the Commonwealth, in almost every case, having to pay the costs of the plaintiff. These costs, in consequence of the number of witnesses called by the plaintiffs, have been of considerable moment. The following are some of the cases which the Commonwealth has had before the Court during the last few years : -
– What is the proposed amendment?
– It will be understood by referring to sub-clause 7, which states -
In any action for compensation, the following provisions shall apply in relation to the costs of the parties to the action, unless the Court for any special reason otherwise orders: -
If the amount of compensation awarded is equal to or greater than the amount claimed in the action, the costs of the plaintiff shall be paid by theCommonwealth;
If the amount of compensation awarded is less than the amount claimed in the action, and is equal to or less than the amount offered by the Minister, the costs of the Commonwealth shall be paid by the plaintiff; or
If the amount of compensation awarded is less than the amount claimed in the action, but is greater than the amount offered by the Minister, the Commonwealth shall pay the proportion of the costs of both parties, which the excess of the amount awarded over the amount offered bears to the excess of the amount claimed in the action over the amount offered, and the plaintiff shall pay the balance.
– Why should the Commonwealth have to pay the costs if the amount of compensation awarded is equal to the amount offered by the Commonwealth ?
– The Commonwealth takes the initiative and deprives the owner of his property on which he may have been making his living. If the owner considers he has not been justly treated in the matter of compensation he has the right to take the case to the Court for adjudication. But it hardly seems fair that where the Commonwealth’s offer and the judgment of the Court are equal, the owner should have to pay the costs.
– The Commonwealth has the power to acquire the land.
– Of course.
– But it should not use its power arbitrarily.
– No; and it does not.
– We should take a rather generous view of this matter. It often happens that the land-owner has no desire to part with the property which the Commonwealth decides to acquire for public purposes. For sentimental reasons, the owner may be particularly anxious to retain his land. The decision of the Court doesnot always afford positive proof that the owner has received adequate compensation. A property may have been in a family for generations, and although its ordinary market value may not be equal to the sum offered by the Commonwealth, there is nevertheless a sentimental value that it is difficult to estimate by arbitration. We should not make the owner pay the costs in these cases when the land is acquired by the Government.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 25 and 26 agreed to.
Section 40 of the principal Act is repealed, and the following section inserted in its stead : - “ 40. - (1.) Compensation shall bear interest at the rate of three per centum per annum for the period for interest set forth in this section.”
Section proposed to be repealed -
– It does not seem desirableat present to alter the rate of interest, although 3 per cent., as proposed in this clause, may seem low. The present indications are that money is becoming cheaper. The question of the rate of interest is, of course, a matter of policy. The other amendments made by the clause are designed to place on a more equitable basis the payment of interest on compensation. Should the owner continue to occupy and use the land, it is considered that interest should not commence until the Commonwealth takes possession, and in cases of compensation to a mortgagee, he will only be entitled to statutory interest as from the expiration of six months from the date of acquisition of the land, instead of as at present from the date of acquisition. It is considered that these amendments, together with others in sub-clause 3, will considerably assist the administration of the Act with regard to the computation of the amount of interest to be paid.
.- It is not desirable to retain the low rate of 3 per cent. which was the amount fixed in the original Act when it was passed some years ago. Money is now much dearer than at that time, and there is no likelihood of its being as cheap as it was when the original measure became law. Whatever is the reasonable current rate should be paid. The Minister (Senator Pearce) himself, apparently, does not feel satisfied that it is desirable to retain this low rate. It might meet the case to provide for a maximum rate not exceeding 5 per cent.
– This is very close to the Commonwealth Savings Bank rate at present.
– The original Act has been in existence for twenty years.
– I move-
That the words “ the rate of three,” sub clause 1, be left but, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ a rate not exceeding five.”
– It might be unfair to make the rate 5 per cent.
– It would not be unfair at present.
– Then it would be necessary to name some authority to fix the rate.
-(Senator Newland). - I point out to the honorable senator that he can test the feeling of the Committee by moving that the word “the” first occurring be left out. Is the honorable senator agreeable to test the matter in that way ?
– I am quite agreeable to that suggestion.
– It is not wise to import into Bills a greater number of definitions than are naturally inherent in them. I point out to Senator Payne that, if the Committee agreed to an amendment providing that the interest should be at a rate not exceeding 5 per cent., it would not thereby fix the rate, and no authority would be appointed which would be charged with that duty. I should very much prefer to provide for the payment of the ruling bank rate, which, although indefinite in sound, has the merit that information relating to it is obtainable at a few minutes’ notice. There is generally a reluctance displayed by any Government to payment of the ruling commercial rate of interest, though there is usually extreme willingness to receive it. By making the indefinite provision suggested, we would be adding another difficulty to a piece of legislation which already bristles with a great number of difficulties. It would be far better to say that the rate of interest should be 4 per cent. This proposal is on similar lines to an amendment which once was handed to me, proposing that certain actions should be legal two or three times a year.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Home and Territories) on a definite rate of 3 per cent., 4 per cent., or 5 per cent. Under the amendment proposed by Senator Payne, the Minister would fix the rate, and he would be in a position to say that it should be 2 per cent. I ask the Committee to adhere to the rate of 3 per cent. This Act has been in existence for twenty years, and there has been no great outcry in regard to compensation, although we have been paying 3 per, cent. right through. It is not possible to acquire until the money has been voted by Parliament. Therefore, as soon as the legalities have been complied with, there is generally very little delay in making payment. In the circumstances, I think we can very well allow the rate to remain at 3 per cent.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Senator Payne) negatived -
That the word “ three “ sub-clause 1, be left out with a view to insert the word “ four.”
Clause agreed to.
Clause 28 agreed to.
Clause 29 (Deposit of compensation in the Treasury).
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia-
Minister for Home and Territories) [4.11]. - This provides for the payment of rates, taxes, assessments, or any outgoings whatsoever chargeable upon the land and due at the date of acquisition, to be paid out of the amount of compensation which is to be deposited in the Treasury. No provision was made for that in the Principal Act, but, as honorable senators who have acquired land know, it is the ordinary practice adopted between the buyer and the seller of land.
Clause agreed to.
– I draw attention to the state of the Committee. [Quorum formed.]
Clause 30 agreed to.
Section forty-eight of the Principal Act is amended by omitting sub-sections (1.) to (4.), and inserting in their stead the following subsections : - “ (1.) If any land acquired under this Act by agreement is subject to a mortgage, the Minister may pay off the mortgage at any time at which the principal due under by the mortgage is repayable. “ (2.) If the principal due under the mortgage is not repayable at the date of acquisition, or at any time within six months thereafter, the Minister may give notice to the mortgagee that heintends, at the expiration of six months from the date of the notice, to pay off the mortgage, and may, at, any time after that period has expired, pay to the mortgagee the amount to which he is entitled under this section. “ (3.) The amount to which a mortgagee is entitled under this section shall be -
if the principal is not repayable under the mortgage (with or without notice) at the time the mortgage is paid off -
Section proposed to be amended - (1.)If any land acquired under this Act by agreement is subject to a mortgage, the Minister may pay off the mortgage. (2.) In order thereto the Minister shall give notice to the mortgagee that he intends at or before the expiration of six months from the date of the notice to pay off the mortgage and to pay to the mortgagee the amount to which he is entitled under this section. (3.) The amount to which a mortgagee is entitled under this section shall be -
the principal secured by the mortgage and;
the interest due at the date of the notice and six months’ additional interest ; and
the costs and charges(if any) due to the mortgagee under the mortgage; and
the mortgagee’s costs of discharging the mortgage and conveying his interest in the land to the Commonwealth; and
in case the mortgage is paid off prematurely, a sum to meet the costs of reinvestment of the principal ; and
in case the mortgage is paid off prematurely and the rate of interest secured by the mortgage is higher than the interest which can reasonably be expected to be obtained on the reinvestment, regard being had to the then current rate of interest, a sum to meet the loss sustained by the mortgagee by reason of the premature repayment of the principal. (4.) The mortgagee shall thereupon, and upon payment or tender to him, within the time specified in the notice, of the amount to which he is entitled under this section, execute a discharge of the mortgage and any conveyance necessary to convey his interest in the land to the Commonwealth.
Amendments (by Senator Pearce) agreed to -
That the word “ by,” line 8, be left out.
That the words, “ If the principal due under the mortgage is not repayable at the date of acquisition, or at any time within six months thereafter,” sub-clause (2), be left out, and that in lieu thereof the words, “ if, at the date of acquisition or within six months thereafter, the mortgagor would not have been legally entitled to repay the principal (either without notice or if notice had been given to the mortgagee) otherwise than under this Act,” be inserted.
That the words, “ the principal is not repayable under the mortgage (with , or without notice),” paragraph (e), be left out.
That after the word “ off,” paragraph (e). the words, “ the mortgagor would not have been legally entitled to repay the principal (either without notice, or if notice had benn given to the mortgagee) otherwise than under this Act,” be inserted.
That the words, “ the principal would have been repayable (with or without notice),” paragraph (e), sub-paragraph (ii), be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words, “ the mortgagor would have been legally entitled to repay the principal (either without notice, or if notice had been given to the mortgagee) otherwise than under this Act.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 32 agreed to.
Clause 33 (Requisition by Minister as to existence of mortgage).
– This clause, together with clauses 34 and 35, deals with the requisition to the Minister as to the existence of the mortgage, the compensation to a mortgagee, and certain rights of a mort gagee, together with the . question of compensation to a mortgagee being deducted from the compensation payable to a mortgagor. These amendments have been found to be necessary as the result of the working of the Act. They will lead to simplification, and at the same time will protect the rights of mortgagee’s and mortgagors.
Clause agreed to.
Section 51 of the principal Act is repealed, and the following section inserted in its stead : -
– (1.) The compensation payable to a mortgagee shall be -
the principal due under the mortgage at the date of acquisition; and
any interest, costs, or charges due to the mortgagee under the mortgage at that date; but not exceeding in any case the amount of compensation payable to the mortgagor in respect of theland. (2). In addition to the compensation mentioned in sub-section (1) of this section, the mortgagee shall be entitled to the following amounts : -
(i) if the principal was repayable (with or without notice) at the date of the acquisition of the land, interest on the amount of principal included in the compensation at thelowest rate (whether for prompt payment or otherwise) secured by the mortgage from the date of acquisition until payment of the compensation to the mortgagee, or until the expiry of a period equal to the period of the notice to which the mortgagee would have been entitled, whichever is the later, but not in any case exceeding six months from the date of acquisition ; or
if the principal was not repayable (with or without notice) at the date of the acquisition of the land, interest on the amount of principal included in the compensation atthe lowest rate (whether for prompt payment or otherwise) secured by the mortgage from the date of acquisition until the principal would be repayable (with or without notice) or until payment of the compensation to the mortgagee, whichever is the later, but not in any case exceeding six months from the date of acquisition; and
the reasonable costs of the mortgagee of executing any discharge of the mortgage required by the mortgagor or the Minister; and
if the principal was not repayable (with or without notice) at the date when interest ceases to be payable under this section -
the costs of the mortgagee of re-investing the principal paid off; and
should a loss of interest reasonably be expected, regard being had to the rate of interest secured by the mortgage and the rate of interest obtained or likely to be obtained on the reinvestment, a reasonable allowance for loss of interest until the date on which the principal would have been repayable (with or without notice) .
– I move -
That paragraph (a) sub-clause (2) be left out and the following new paragraph inserted: - “(a) Interest on the amount of principal included in the compensation at the lowest rate (whether for prompt payment or otherwise) secured by the mortgage from the date of acquisition until the earliest date thereafter on which the mortgagor would be legally entitled to repay the principal (either without notice or if notice had been given to the mortgagee) or until payment of the compensation to the mortgagee whichever is the later but so that interest shall not be payable in any case for a period exceeding six months from the date of acquisition;”
This, in effect, is very much the same as the clause as it stands, but it puts the clause in better form.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Senator Pearce) agreed to -
That the words “ the principal was not repayable (with or without notice)”, sub-clause (2), paragraph (c), be left out.
Amendment (by Senator Pearce) proposed -
That after the word “ section,” paragraph (c), sub-clause (2), the words “the mortgagor would not have been legally entitled to repay the principal (either without notice or if notice had been given to the mortgagee)” be inserted.
– I do not wish to oppose the amendment, but to take the opportunity of asking why this Bill has not been printed with the amendments included in it. It would have been cheaper and a saving of time if this had been done, instead of moving a large number of amendments.
– There is a good deal in the honorable senator’s contention. It is within the memory of honorable senators that this Bill was on the stocks for a long time. The question arose whether we should withdraw it and submit a fresh one, or proceed by way of amendments. It was considered that, as a great number of the amendments were merely drafting amendments, it would be better to proceed with the Bill in its present form.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Senator Pearce) agreed to -
That the words “ the date on which the principal would have been repayable (with or without notice)”, sub-paragraph (ii), paragraph (c) sub-clause (2), be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ the earliest date when a mortgagor would have been legally entitled to repay the principal (either without notice or if notice had been given to the mortgagee)”.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 35 agreed to.
Section fifty-three of the principal Act is repealed.
Section proposed to be repealed.
– This clauserepeals section 53 of the principal Act, and it is necessary to insert a clause in its stead. I move -
That after the word “ repealed,” the following words be inserted - “ and the following section inserted in its stead : -
The clause is self-explanatory. Both parties must be protected, and nobody’s rights will be jeopardized. The Committee should accept the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 37 to 39 agreed to.
Clause 40 (Claimants to produce title).
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Home and Territories) claiming purchase money or compensation for property acquired shall produce deeds and documents in support of his claim. It is considered that the claimant should bear the expense of establishing his title. The words “ at his own expense,” in sub-clause (2), were taken exception to when the Bill was previously before the Committee. I think that it is a fair provision.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 41 to 44 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Elective Committee - Trial by Jury.
.- I move-
That, in the opinion of the. Senate, it is desirable, in the best interests of the progress of the Mandated Territory of New Guinea, that immediate steps be taken by the Government to make provision for the election by the local adult residents of a Committee of niue of their number, for the purpose of considering and advising the Administrator on all matters affecting the Territory.
When I ask that the adult residents of the Mandated Territory of New Guinea be clothed with power to elect nine of their number as a Committee, honorable senators must understand that I mean the adult white residents. I had the pleasure recently of visiting a portion of the Mandated Territories, and I took a very keen interest in all that I observed during the brief period at my disposal. In conversation with the residents, I ascertained that there was a good deal of discontent and dissatisfaction among them on account of having no representation or control over the making of the ordinances or regulations by which they are governed. As far as I was able to gather, they were unanimously of the opinion that the time was opportune for some form of local government to be extended to them, and with that I agree. The men and women who have gone to the Mandated Territory of New Guinea are, generally speaking, well educated, enterprising, and necessarily intelligent. They are a class of people who might very advantageously and very safely have conferred on them the instalment of self-government that I have suggested. Australia was once controlled from
London, but, in the early stages of its history, it was divided into colonies which had conferred on them almost complete governmental independence, and, at a later stage, it took further steps in that direction by merging the colonies into a Commonwealth. It may be pointed out that Lord Howe Island has no form of local government; but just across the mountains, On the mainland of New Guinea, the people of Papua, of the same class as those who are pioneering the Mandated Territory, have an instalment of local government with which, so far as I have been able to ascertain, they are satisfied-. There may be some objection to the partial form of self-government in operation in Papua, but, nevertheless, it is a step towards com.plete self-government, and my proposal is merely to extend that partial form to the adjacent country. There are 92,000 square miles in the Mandated Territory - about 10,000 more than there are in the State of Victoria. The white population will gradually increase. For climatic reasons the increase may be slow, but, whether it be slow or quick, the people in the Territory are entitled to self-government. I do not make any adverse comments on the present Administrator, but I think it is unfair to subject to the complete control of one man a large number of Australians who have been accustomed to taking a share in the government of the country in which they reside. I know that the regulations drawn up by the Administrator must receive the approval of the Commonwealth Government, but it would be more satisfactory to the pioneers of that part of the world if they were given a small instalment of self-government. The bulk of the white population of New Guinea is situated mostly in and around Rabaul, on the island of New Britain, but there is a very fair sprinkling of people, in New Ireland and on the other islands of any importance. On the mainland, also, there is a fair-sized township at Madang, and there are white people at the various mission stations. All of those I met, and with whom I discussed this subject, were of the opinion that the time was opportune to extend some form of self-government to them. They declared that they would be prepared to visit Rabaul once or twice a year, for a limited time, at their own expense. The men and women in New Guinea are obliged to pay taxes. first of all, there is the Customs House, which seems to be a necessary adjunct to any form of civilization, and all the residents are obliged to contribute a percentage on all goods they import. There is ‘.so an export duty on copra. The more coco-nuts the planters produce, the more they are fined. It seems a stupid idea, but that is the arrangement which has been foisted on them by the Administration, with the endorsement of the Commonwealth Government. They have also to pay another stupid form of taxation, known as the income tax. The more work a settler does, the more he is fined annually It is a system of taxation not unknown in other parts of the world. The membership of the Committee I propose need not be the number I have suggested. I do not think that the fact that the Territory is controlled by the Commonwealth under a mandate should prevent the residents from having some form of local government. They are separated from each other by immense distances, and means of communication ire costly, but these handicaps do not prevent them from taking an interest iri what is occurring in other parts of the world. They may be inarticulate through having no local paper to voice their opinions, but it must not be thought that they have forgotten that they belong to Australia. They feel very much aggrieved that they have no form of self-, government. If a vote of the white people in the Territory were taken it would be almost unanimously in favour of securing some form of self-government. We have given this concession to other Territories. The Northern Territory has representation in the House of Representatives, and it is a mistake that the people of that Territory were not given the right to return a representative to this Chamber. My opinion is that as time goes on the people of- all the Pacific Islands under the control of the Commonwealth, whether under mandate or otherwise, will insist on the right to govern themselves. They will not be content to continue paying taxes without some form of representation. In New Guinea they are entirely under the domination of the Administrator. However benevolent, capable, and willing- that gentleman may be, he cannot give to the residents of th« Territory that satisfaction which would be afforded to them by self-government. They suffer considerable hardships. They are doing the pioneering work required at the outposts of the Empire, and the very least that we can do for them is to extend to them without delay the small instalment of local government suggested in my motion.
– I do not think that the time has arrived to put into effect what is proposed in the motion submitted by Senator Grant. We must pay some regard to what is the population ‘ of the Mandated Territory to-day. There are practically only two activities there - the administration under the control of the Administrator and his officers, and the operations of the Expropriation Board. In that respect New Guinea differs from Papua, where the plantations are privately owned, and where .mining companies are also operating. In Papua, the population consists of plantation owners and mine owners, and plantationmanagers and mine managers, and whatever white men are employed. Nothinglike those conditions are to be found in New Guinea, and if an Advisory Council were elected it- would simply mean Government officials electing other Government officials to give the advice which is now available. Officials are paid to control the plantations and to administer the Territory. It would be farcical to elect a certain number as an advisory council to control the whole. The motion is premature. The time will arrive when we shall dispose of the plantations instead of conducting them under the Expropriation Board, and when they are controlled by private owners there will be a civil population. At present it is almost wholly an official population. I do not think the time has arrived for the election of an advisory council. If the honorable senator wishes to pass some motion on this subject, perhaps he will be prepared to accept an amendment, which I now move -
That after the word “ that” second occurring the words “ immediate steps “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ when the numbers of the non-official population justify it action should,” and ‘that after the word “ for,” line 5, all the words down to and including the word “ number “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof -the words “ an advisory or legislative council consisting of nominated or elected representatives.”
If the amendment is carried the motion will then read : -
That in the opinion of the Senate it is desirable in the best interests of the progress of the Mandated Territory of New Guinea that when the numbers of the non-official population justify it, action be taken by the Government to make provision for an advisory or Legislative Council consisting of nominated or elected representatives for the purpose of considering and advising the Administrator on all matters affecting the Territory.
Our action would then be consistent with what was done in Papua, where the first step was to appoint a Legislative Council, some of the members of which are nominated by the Lieut. -Governor and some by the people. A further step has recently been taken in connexion with the Legislative Council at Papua, by allowing the non-official representatives in the Legislative Council to elect a non-official member to the Executive Council. We cannot, I think, very wisely rush in bo provide for elective local governing bodies in such communities, as they have not reached that stage in. their evolution. The proper course is to follow the practice adopted in Papua. From that system a more completely elective body can develop and eventually selfgovernment may be secured. If the honorable senator cannot accept the amendment I have moved the Government must oppose the motion, because it is one to which effect cannot be given at this stage. After having organized a public service in which certain men are placed in public positions to advise the Administrator, it would be unreasonable ‘to bring the same people together to select others to advise him. I trust Senator Grant will accept “the amendment I have moved.
Senator GRANT (New South Wales) [4.551. - If this amendment is agreed to, it will mean indefinitely postponing the granting of any form of local government to the residents in New Guinea. The make-up of the official and civil population is exactly the same.
– What is the civil population apart from the officials ?
– I could not say. The number of people to-day employed by the Expropriation Board and by the Administrator comprises a substantial proportion of the population of the Territory.
– Probably fourfifths.
– There is a number of independent planters or planters engaged by private enterprise in New Guinea who are, so far as I am able to judge, similar in every way to members of the Expropriation Board. What representation have the overseers and the wives of the overseers of the 263 plantations controlled by the Board ? What voice have they in advising the Administrator ?
– Does the honorable senator wish the overseers to advise the Administrator in one way and their wives in another ?
– The overseers on a. plantation are doing the actual pioneering work in the Territory, and, so far as I am able to gauge the position, they have no voice or vote in advising the Administrator in regard to the Ordinances or regulations brought into operation. What physical change are the overseers likely to undergo when they become owners of the plantations or are employed as overseers for those who may subsequently purchase them? Their interests will be precisely the same as they are today. The proposal to postpone any form of local government until the civil population equals or exceeds that of the Administration and that controlled by the Expropriation Board is only an attemptto postpone the granting of local government to the people.” We might just a3 well say that the Commonwealth public servants should not have a voice in the Government of Australia, because the men employed by the Board are actually public servants. I do not know why the Administration should not control the plantations instead of the Expropriation Board, as the men employed by that body are as much public servants as are those employed by the Administrator. These men are in exactly the same position that they will be in when they own the plantations, or when they are under the control of other people, and are therefore entitled to a voice in the control of the Territory. The Government will not entertain the idea of disposing of the plantations until Central Europe is rehabilitated and reasonable prices are obtainable for copra. If the properties are sold before that stage Tis reached the price obtained will be 50 per cent, less than that which, will be available when the Central European powers are purchasing copra. I cannot accept the amendment, and trust the Senate will reject it.
Debate (on motion by Senator Drakebrockman) adjourned.
– I move -
That, in the opinion of the Senate, it is desirable that the Government should take immediate steps to establish trial by jury in the Mandated Territory of New Guinea.
For many years trial by jury, which is regarded as the bulwark of the liberty of the subject, has been firmly implanted in the Commonwealth and throughout the British Dominions; but that right is not conceded to the people of New Guinea. Those who went to that Territory to carry out the necessary preliminary work are deprived, not only of the right to vote, but also of the right of trial by jury, as the Administrator is both Judge and jury. When I was in New Guinea it was represented to me by almost every white resident with whom I conversed on the subject that they were unanimously in favour of, urgently requested, and in fact demanded, the right of trial by jury. It is a very reasonable request, and if we are not to extend to them any form of local government we should at least be prepared to give them the right of trial by jury. I do not know if there is anything to prevent effect being given to the motion if carried, because the Territory is being controlled under a mandate; but if such is the case the difficulty could, I presume, be overcome. I commend my motion to the favorable consideration of the Senate.
– I must oppose this motion, very largely for the same reason that I objected to the previous motion submitted by Senator Grant. The population of New Guinea is almost wholly official. The conditions there are not analogous to those in Australia, where the great majority of the people are non-official. An even greater objection to trial by jury in such a country is the fact that the population is scattered over a wide area. In many districts only two or three white people are to be found. When, the Honorary Minister (Senator Crawford) was at Rabaul, in October last, the same proposal was made to him, and he asked the Chief Judge of New Guinea to com ment on it. This official very pertinently points out in a memorandum on the subject that in some districts of the Territory of New Guinea there are not sufficient Europeans to form a jury. In others - Kavieng and Madang - practically the whole white population would be on the panel, and the business of the place would be suspended, and that at the busiest times, because, as a rule, the Court can only sit when the steamer is in port. In Rabaul, it would be possible to get enough Europeans to form a jury, but only at the sacrifice of much valuable time, and to the detriment of the work of the community. The community is so small and so isolated that every case would inevitably be thoroughly discussed before the trial; and, as a matter of fact, during the trial. In many cases the views and sympathies of the persons on the panel could be ascertained before the trial. Very seldom would a jury go into the box with an open and unbiased mind. The jury system would be quite unworkable in cases where the accused was not a European. There is grave objection to the members of the Civil Service or the Expropriation Board serving on juries. If they were exempt the remaining population would be much too small to supply sufficient persons to serve. Arrangements are being made for the passage of an Ordinance to be called the “ Central Court Assessors Ordinance,” which will provide for the appointment of not more than two assessors to advise the Court on matters of fact, customs, or usage, or any other matters arising at a trial. The assessors will not have power to adjudicate in any case. Juries selected under the conditions obtaining in New Guinea would be very different from those empannelled in Australia, where there is a large population to select from, where the right of challenge can be freely exercised, and where it can be fairly assumed that the jurors would not previously have discussed the case among themselves. In a small community, probably every juror would have expressed some opinion before he entered the court. Since the jury system would be totally inapplicable to the Mandated Territory of New Guinea, I hope that Senator Grant will not press his motion to a division. If he does, I shall have to ask honorable senators to vote “against it.
– The arguments of the Minister in opposition to my proposal are of the most flimsy character. Why should not the men employed by the Expropriation Board and by the Administration of New Guinea be eligible to sit on juries?’ I do not think the statement quoted by’ the Minister regarding the population is correct so far as New Ireland is concerned. There are about 60 plantations, and on each there is some white population. A number of people reside at Kavieng itself and on the islands adjacent to it. At Rabaul there is a considerable white population, and southwards from it the plantations are all occupied by white people. Madang may only have a few white residents, and it might upset business somewhat if they had to serve on juries. That, however, is not a vital objection to my proposal in view of the importance of the principle involved. Some little advance on the present crude state of affairs will be made by the appointment of assessors, but that does no.t go far enough. . If a vote were taken of the white population of the Territory, it would show that the people were almost unanimously in favour of some form of local government, and certainly in favour of the right of trial by jury. Every white man and woman I met there expressed that view in no uncertain manner. They feel that they are exiled Australians who have been deprived of the right of self-government, and even of the right of trial by jury. They resent the idea that one man should exercise the combined functions of judge and jury. I regret that the Minister has taken the retrograde step of whipping up his supporters, and asking them to vote against the motion. I cannot accept the suggested amendment. No attention should be paid to the remarks of the high officials of New Guinea. The residents themselves - the men working on the plantations, and those occupying various positions at Rabaul and elsewhere - are the people directly concerned.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The Senate divided.
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move -
That, in the ‘ opinion of the Senate, a section of the business and residential sites at Canberra should he made available for private enterprise without further delay.
I wish to remind honorable senators that as far back as 1910 the Commonwealth acquired from the State of New South Wales, 900 square miles of magnificent territory suitable for agriculture, pastoral pursuits, and building purposes. Despite all the representations that have been made to date, the various Commonwealth Governments have persistently refused to build homes in any number there, or to give other people the opportunity to do so. In October, 1921, the then Minister for Works (Mr. Poynton), approved regulations relating to the leasing of building sites at Canberra’. The idea then was to permit private individuals to secure the right to purchase a lease, and to build their own homes at Canberra. Up to the present that right has never been seriously challenged. I recognize that some persons believe that all the buildings at Canberra, including the erection of homes, should be exclusively the work of the Commonwealth Government. I would have no objection to that if the Government were prepared to do the work, but that is one thing which the Government is not prepared to do. Those who advocate such a policy, in my opinion, are retarding the progress of Canberra. Nothing has retarded the progress of Canberra more than the refusal, of this Government to permit any one to engage in building operations there. I am informed that between five million and seven million bricks are available for building purposes. I know that many hundreds of building sites were pegged out months ago. I understand that when the Government held a Cabinet meeting at Yarralumla House, on 31st January last, it decided to make available to private enterprise 500 building sites within the Territory. That was a step in the right direction. Its action, or want of action, since has been typical of the inactivity displayed in regard to the leasing of blocks at Canberra in the past. It also decided for reasons which have not been satisfactorily explained, that no persons would be permitted to employ any one at Canberra until after 1st October next; in other words, that no building sites would be made available at Canberra for a period of nine months from the date of the holding of that Cabinet meeting. We read in the press to-day, and mention has been made of it in this Chamber during the last few days, that other enterprising people have been disposing of blocks of freehold land adjoining the Territory even in London. I was pleased to see that there is a possibility of its being brought so forcibly ‘ before the London people that those sites are outside Canberra, that very much harm is not likely to result. It may be interesting to look at the regulations laid down by Mr. Poynton when he was Minister for Works. He laid it down that the rental value of each of these blocks should be equal to 5 per cent, of the capital value of the land, and that the term of. the lease should be 99 years, subject to reappraisement at the end of’ the first twenty years and every ten years thereafter. We do not yet know what regulations the Government proposes to submit to this Parliament for approval. Some persons would be delighted if a Board were created, clothed with the power to fix the rental value of these blocks of land. I should not like to see such a Board created. I believe that the public are the best judges of the value of the land. These blocks should be widely advertised, and the highest bidder should become the purchaser of the lease. I know there are some people who do not favour that doctrine.
– Would not that give an advantage to capitalists 1
– Those who do not believe that the highest bidder should be the purchaser of a lease would like to see a Board established to fix the rent, perhaps over a very long period of years. I do not want to see that done. In my opinion, the Commonwealth is entitled to receive the full rental value, and no more, of each of these building sites, and the lessee should be called upon to pay to the Commonwealth that full rental value. I have no sympathy with those who would give individuals the right to the use of these blocks over an extended term at a rental lower than that which the Commonwealth is entitled to get. Every effort which has been made in that direction, I believe, has proved a failure. Only a few years ago the Government of Queensland leased a big frontage on the south-east portion of the coast, and permitted the lessees to secure the use of that land without imposing any conditions in regard to building. The result has been that those blocks are still in the same condition as when they were leased. At a later date the Queensland Government adopted a different method; it leased blocks to the highest bidder, imposing the condition that a building should be erected thereon within a certain specified time. While the blocks originally disposed of are yet in a virgin state, in. almost every case those more recently disposed of have been built upon. It ought, I think, to be the aim of the Commonwealth to ensure that these blocks at Canberra are used for the purpose for which they were intended. I do not favour the making of very many regulations in connexion with these builds ing sites; the fewer the regulations, the better. If the lease were fixed for a term of ninety-nine years, subject to reappraisement at such periods as would ensure the Commonwealth getting the full rental value, and no more, of each block, it would be fair to the Commonwealth, and to the purchaser of the lease. There would not be the remotest possibility of any one acquiring building sites under those conditions for speculative purposes; no one could afford to do so.
– Doe3 the honorable senator believe in the principle of “ one man, one block “ ?
– I do ‘ not say I would confine one man to one block, hut
I should certainly object to one man securing many blocks. At the same time, we must not forget that, at Canberra, there are over 1,000 square miles, and even though a man secured two or three blocks it would, not be a serious’ matter, so long as he were compelled to pay annually to the Commonwealth the full rental value of each block, and to erect and keep ,in order a building in accordance with the regulations laid down. I would not support a proposal to give any person, no matter what he paid, the lease of a block, unless he utilized it foi the purpose for which it was intended. If my suggestions are carried out there would be no possibiltj’ . of the capitalist coining along and scooping up thousands of blocks and building upon them. I should be very glad if some one went to Canberra and built a thousand house’s. That would be a very good thing if other blocks were available, so that any one who felt aggrieved at the rent exacted by the landlord, could acquire a block and build his own .home. Why has the Government persistently refused to make available any of these building sites? Around Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, and other cities, during the last two or three years, I venture to say, tens of thousands of blocks have been made available for building purposes, almost at a few weeks’ notice; but, for some reason or other, the Government has persistently held out of use the whole of these building sites.
– In the case mentioned by the honorable senator it was a matter of supply and demand. In the case of Canberra there is. no demand from any one in Australia except the honorable senator.
– That assertion is quite contrary to fact, and cannot be substantiated by the honorable senator. I know, notwithstanding the foolish interjection by Senator Drake-Brockman to the contrary, that there is a considerable demand for building blocks and housing accommodation in the Federal Territory. The Government cannot or will not build houses, and they prevent everybody else from doing so. There is, of course, a limit to the number of building sites available at Canberra; but a great number of quarter-acre blocks could be carved out of an area of 1,000 square miles, and certainly a good many within the area of the Capital itself, whether 16 square miles or 64 square miles. It is not yet settled whether there is to be a Capital area 4 miles square or 8 miles square, but in either case ample space is available, for a considerable number of years to come, for building sites. . This Government, to prevent settlement at Canberra - and there can be no other object in view - is deliberately withholding from the public the leases of building sites. The time has come for those in favour of the progress of the Federal Capital to express their views on this question. No- one can get behind the motion on the flimsy pretext that it is designed to hand over Canberra to private enterprise. It provides for nothing of the sort.
– Is not that the text of the motion ?
– Evidently the honorable senator has not read thoroughly his own motion, or else I must be dense.
– The honorable senator is quite mistaken. The motion protests against the inaction of the Government respecting the granting of building leases at Canberra. I ask the Minister to abandon the policy of inactivity, and so give Canberra an opportunity to- progress.
– Mr. President, Senator Grant has informed me that the motion is not designed to hand over to private enterprise building sites at Canberra. Will I be in order in asking that the motion be read ?
– The motion will be read to the Senate before it is put-
– Senator Gardiner is evidently attempting to side-track the motion. No progress is possible at Canberra while the Government continue to adopt a dog in the manger attitude. Senator Gardiner is entirely opposed to anybody but the Government building houses there. I am in favour of allowing any one who feels so disposed, to take up building leases.
– The honorable senator is in favour of giving the land to the wealthy boodleiers?
– That, remark cuts no ice whatever. The honorable senator is wilfully and deliberately misrepresenting the facts. I explained, in reply to a previous interjection, that, so long as the
Commonwealth is entitled to get full rental value for these blocks, it matters not who builds on them, provided that the buildings are to certain specifications. I explained that while Senator Gardiner was “ chin-wagging “ with one of my colleagues.
– The honorable senator is not entitled to repeat his arguments over and over again. On that point the Standing Orders are particularly definite.
– Instead of preventing building operations at Canberra., as has been done for the last fourteen years, the Government should abandon their attitude and without delay make building sites available to the public.
-brockman. - The honorable senator has already been informed that these building sites will be made available in October next.
– That is a long time ahead.
– Not compared with fourteen years.
– Why have any delay at all? Does not the honorable senator know that, notwithstanding all our beneficial legislation, we have large numbers of unemployed who would be only too pleased to engage in building operations at the Federal Capital ? While the Government officers there are housed in Yarralumla House, and in a magnificent and palatial residence at Acton, the working men are living at Queanbeyan, in camps on the Capital site, or in the old German concentration camp. These things do not concern the legal plutocrats like Senator Drake-Brockman.
– The honorable senator is now emulating his Leader by resorting to personal abuse.
– The honorable senator is a legal gentleman, is he not ?
Senator Gardiner. - I take exception to the insinuation made by Senator Drake-Brockman that I descend to personalabuse.
– I ask Senator Drake-Brockman to withdraw his statement.
– I withdraw. I shall take a further opportunity to call attention to what I consider personal abuse on the part of the honorable senator on the other side.
– That qualification should be withdrawn.
-Senator Grant, in elaborating his argument, has repealed himself over and over again. He should proceed with a defined and consistent argument, omitting any repetition.
– On the assuranceof the Minister for Home and Territories,I may safely leave this motion in the hands of the Senate, in the belief that, in the near future, and not at the time specified at the Cabinet meeting at Yarralumla; at least 500 blocks will be made available for building sites, and thus give to people other than Government officials an opportunity to erect modern bungalows at Canberra. If the Government officials had been compelled to live under the same conditions as apply to the workmen, building sites would have been available years ago.
– Is the motion seconded? The motion, not having been seconded, lapses.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– Referring to the cost of certain lighthouse service vessels mentioned by Senator Kingsmill on the. motion for adjournment yesterday, Iam informed that these steamships are of special design, having been constructed for very special work. They have extensive and complete accommodation for lighthousekeepers and their families, and also for certain officials, in addition to the officers and crew. Other special fittings and accommodation and refrigerated space for tropical service are provided. The auxiliaries and gear are of a special and complete character, the vessels being found in every respect with bedding, napery, and cutlery; in fact, with every essential for special work at sea at short notice. For their comparatively large dimensions, they carry only a very limited amount of dead-weight, which is made up of lighthouse stores, equipment, fuel, water, &c. In no sense of the word are they cargo boats. No shipbuilder would estimate the cost of vessels of this type on a deadweight basis ; the cost would be arrived at by taking every item in detail. It is incorrect tosay that these vessels could be built in England at anything like £9 or £10 per ton.
– I wish to invite the attention of the Minister dealing with War Service Homes to the case of Mrs. Eva Penketh, of “ The Retreat,” Hathill-road, Blackheath. This lady, for a considerable number of years, has endeavoured to obtain a home from the War Service Homes Commission. She had the misfortune to lose her two sons at theFront. Her efforts to secure a home from the Commission have been futile, as the pension the receives from the Repatriation Department isnot considered to be sufficient toenable her to pay the instalments necessary to purchasea home. I have no doubt that the Commission are carrying out the provisions of the War Service Homes Act, but their action is particularly hard upon this lady. I do not suppose that she is the only one directly concerned. In New South Wales rents, even for small homes, are very high, and Mrs. Penketh finds it difficult to live in reasonable comfort. I shall submit the correspondence, concerning the case to the Minister in the hope that he will carefully consider the matter, and, if nothing can be done under the Act, I urge him to considerthe advisability of bringing in an amending Bill to provide for such cases.
Question resolved in the affirmative. Senate adjourned at 6.50 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 15 May 1924, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1924/19240515_senate_9_106/>.