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Tuesday, 22 March 1927


Senator GRANT (New South Wales) . -I have spoken several times upon this subject, and the statement just made by Senator Elliott, who has been supplied with a lithograph plan of leases proposed to be sold shortly, affords me an opportunity to make further remarks. I say, without fear of contradiction, that by acquiescence in the policy of the Federal CapitalCommission the Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Glasgow) and this Government are crucifying Canberra. The commission after a lapse of twelve months, is now proposing to make available only twelve sites for retail trading. Evidently thecommission, backedup by the Minister and the Government, is determined to prevent settlement at the Federal Capital. Judging by the prices to be charged for the leases, the obvious purpose is to drive into the bankruptcy court all who dare to commence business in Canberra under such conditions. The date of the sale has been fixed for the 9th April next. The upset price of the several blocks to be made available is shown on the plan. I am not objecting to that, but I do object to the action of the commission in not offering a sufficient number of leases. I am not sure what the Canberra city and suburban area is, but I understand it is about 64 square miles. In that area the Commission proposes to offer at the forthcoming auction only twelve small sites for retail trading. It makes one think that the commission is trying to repeat in Canberra the disgraceful slum conditions to be found in some of our capital cities. The commission should be definitely informed that more leases must be made available, and that the public shall have the right to fix the upset price at auction.


Senator Cox - So they have.


Senator GRANT - They should be untrammelled by the limitation which has been placed upon the number of blocks by the commission. The public wishes to go to Canberra.


Senator Cox - The public is paying more than the upset price in every case.


Senator GRANT - The commission, backed up by the Government and Senator Cox, is determined to prevent both business and residential settlement at Canberra.


Senator Cox - The commission is now making available as many blocks as can be built on.


Senator GRANT - It is doing nothing of the kind.


Senator Cox - There is not a sufficient number of tradesman, or the quantity of bricks and other materials necessary, to proceed with the erection of a greater number of buildings.


Senator GRANT - If people are prepared to build shops at Canberra, why should they be prevented from doing so? The commission is determined that a number of sites sufficient to meet public requirements shall not be made available.


Senator Foll - Who is to be the judge of what is sufficient? The commission is on the spot, and cognizant of the" condi tion. The honorable senator cannot know whether or not twelve blocks is a sufficient number to make available.


Senator GRANT - That number might prove more than sufficient with the upset price so high. That price need only be fixed high enough and no one will buy. Canberra has been deliberately and persistently crucified by this Government ever since it has been in office. It is impossible for people to pay the prices that are placed upon the blocks by the commission. I have read something of the early history of South Australia when land could be bought for 10s. an acre. As soon as migrants ascertained that fact they ceased to work for others and became land-owners. What was the result ? The men who had charge of the affairs of the State said, " This is no good to us. We want these men to remain in our employment and not to work on their own account." The price of land was increased to £1 an acre so as to prevent men from procuring home sites and farms. That objective was successful. At Canberra a determined effort, which has succeeded most admirably, has been made to prevent settlement. Nothing was more certain to achieve that object than the limitation of the number of blocks made available and the placing upon them of a fictitious, exorbitant, outrageous, shamefully high upset price. Since the Federal Capital city has been open for settlement the advance in Queanbeyan has been ten times as great. Why ? Because the land in that town is not held out of use as it is in Canberra.


Senator Sir William Glasgow - The reason is that the land there is freehold.


Senator GRANT - That is not the reason. The Minister is well aware of the determination of the commission to prevent settlement at Canberra. If the leases of blocks were knocked down to the highest bidder they would be bought up.


Senator Cox - They are being bought up now.


Senator GRANT - Two or three thousand blocks ought to be made available.


Senator McLachlan - Speculators would secure them.


Senator Cox - There would be a slump in values.


Senator GRANT - Settlement would follow immediately. Every Saturday in the suburbs of Melbourne and Sydney one can see hundreds of blocks being auctioned. Yet in the Federal Capital city a good-for-nothing, useless, outofdate commission, backed up by an equally useless Minister, is determined that only a limited number of blocks shall be made available. The leases of two or three thousand blocks should be auctioned immediately, and the highest bidder should secure them.


Senator Cox - That is what has been done.


Senator GRANT - Senator Cox is misrepresenting the position. So far, only 300 blocks have been made available to private enterprise. Tens of thousands are being held out of use. Senator Cox does not care where the men who are employed in Canberra are compelled to live. The rent of a lease should he, not £1 a week, but 2s. 6d., or even ls.


Senator Foll - Does the honorable senator suggest that there is a shortage of residential blocks?


Senator GRANT - I do.


Senator Foll - That is not why men are living in construction camps. The reason is that they are handy to their work.


Senator GRANT - Hundreds of people would live in Canberra if they could secure a building site at a reasonable rental. They are not, and will not be, prepared to give the fictitious prices that have been fixed by the commission. Let the commission make available two or three thousand blocks to the highest bidders, conditional upon the payment in advance of the annual rental and the erection of a building within eighteen months or two years.


Senator McLachlan - Would the honorable senator have an upset price ?


Senator GRANT - No; but 1 favour the re-appraisement of rentals at more frequent intervals than twenty years, which is altogether too long.

Senator Sir WILLIAMGLASGOW (Queensland - Minister for Home and Territories) [o.56]. - When considering the price that should be placed upon the blocks that were made available for public servants, the commission took the values of other blocks in the vicinity, submitted them to its Lands Department, and then had the values ascertained by a sworn valuer from Sydney. The only proper course is to take the market value, and that is what has been done.

If the Government adopted the suggestion of Senator Reid, and made the land available to public servants at the price at which it was acquired, the way would be open to those who obtained the leases to realize on them immediately.


Senator Needham - But it is possible to create a fictitious value.


Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW - I agree that it is. On the other hand, the only possible way of fixing a price is to follow market values. The Public Works Committee recommended that repayments by public servants should be spread over a period of 45 years. I point out that -under the War Service Homes scheme, which is one of the most liberal housing schemes in the Commonwealth, the period allowed for repayment in the case of brick houses is 35 years. Again I inform honorable senators that originally the overhead charge was 7 per cent., and that it was reduced to 4i per cent. It was not found possible to reduce it to as low as 2$ per cent as recommended. Honorable senators must remember that interest has to be paid upon the money involved from the time a building is commenced until it is completed. Certain other charges have to be met, and the Government felt that it could not go below 4$ per cent. Even if permission were given to erect wooden houses in brick areas, that would not have the effect of reducing the cost, because they would be built in an area where the blocks were dear. Replying to Senator Elliott, I submit that the commission is justified in obtaining a reasonable price for its land.


Senator Elliott - But not an unreasonable one.


Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW - It has taken the best advice available as to the upset price that it should place on the blocks. However high the price may be now, it is bound to increase.


Senator Grant - Yes, if no more blocks are made available.

Senator Sir WILLIAMGLASGOW.Is it suggested that £50 a foot is an unreasonable price for land in the principal centre of the capital city of the Commonwealth ?


Senator Elliott - At the present time, yes.

Senator Sir WILLIAMGLASGOW.If the upset price is unreasonable, there, is bound to be a reaction.


Senator Elliott - Not if the supply is limited to two or three blocks.


Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW - The commission will see that sufficient blocks are made available a3 the demand grows.


Senator GRANT - Some of the transfers recently made, showed a premium of £1,000.

Senator Sir WILLIAMGLASGOW.Exactly, because the speculator was permitted to come in. The commission, in fixing the upset price of leases now being made available, would probably be guided by the values now placed on those original leases.


Senator Grant - Why does not the commission make more blocks available and thus prevent speculation?

Senator Sir WILLIAMGLASGOW.What the honorable senator suggests would provide an opportunity for the speculators to acquire leases and do nothing with them.


Senator Elliott - Speculators would not want many blocks if they were required to build on them within twelve months.

Senator Sir WILLIAMGLASGOW.If too many blocks were made available, the purchasers would possibly not be able io comply with the building covenants, because of a shortage in the supply of bricks.


Senator Needham - There is any quantity of material at Canberra for making the best bricks in Australia.


Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW - Yes, but although the capacity of the brick works has recently been doubled, the difficulty to which I have drawn attention would be accentuated if a great many blocks were made available subject to the condition that the purchasers must build within twelve months.







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