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Tuesday, 22 March 1927


Senator GRANT (New South Wales) . - I am glad to have this opportunity to reply at once to the statement made by Senator Foll. I should like to say at the outset that my remarks earlier in the debate were directed exclusively to the action of the commission and the Government in refusing to make available a sufficient number of business and residential leases. That is the point I wish to make. I do not retract a word of what I have said on that score. The Commonwealth has had control of the Federal Capital Territory for many years. During that time the neighbouring town of Queanbeyan, and other towns in New South Wales, have made remarkable progress; whilst in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Perth, and other big cities, the population and value of property have almost doubled. What has been the trouble at Canberra ?


Senator Foll - The circumstances there have been entirely different.


Senator GRANT - Undoubtedly, the trouble at Canberra is that the Federal Capital Commission, with the concurrence of the Government and the Minister for Home and Territories, has steadfastly refused to offer at auction a sufficient number of leases for business and residential purposes.


Senator Foll - A repetition of that statement does not prove it to be true.


Senator GRANT - Nevertheless, what I am saying is true. Does Senator Foll know or care what is happening at Canberra ? Not so long ago the honorable senator, after a visit to the Territory, declared that the temporary Houses of Parliament were being erected on the site of one of the lakes shown on Mr. Griffin's plan of the city; but when attention was drawn to his ridiculous and irresponsible statement, he withdrew it and apologized.


Senator Foll - The honorable senator is wrong. The original site was where I said.


Senator GRANT - As far as my recollection goes, the temporary Houses of Parliament are on the original site; and from my knowledge of the Capital city, I have no hesitation in saying that there would not be very much of Canberra left if that site were covered with water. That is the kind of irresponsible statement which Senator Foll makes. He made another just now when he said that I had uttered a general condemnation of the work of the commission. This is not true. My remarks have been directed especially to the action of the commission in limiting the number of business and residential leases to be offered. Does any honorable senator seriously suggest that twelve retail business sites is a sufficient number to be made available at the forthcoming auction sale? The upset price is very much inflated. This has been brought about through the action of the commission in limiting the number offered at earlier sales. That what I am saying is correct is proved by the substantial profits made by speculative purchasers at the earlier sales. It would have been much better and in the interests of all concerned if the commission had offered a larger number of leases at a reasonable price. Had that course been followed, persons who decided, subsequent to the last sale, to go into business at Canberra, would not have been forced to pay the purchasers as much as £1,000 for the transfer of leases. The return furnished by the Minister for Home and Territories recently showed that a considerable number of leases had changed hands since the last auction sale.


Senator Foll - Many of those who bought leases at the first sale cheaply were able to do so because no one else would touch them.


Senator GRANT - I am not condemning them for that, but I condemn the Government and the commission for making it possible for a person to speculate in Canberra leases.

SenatorCox. - What is the remedy?


Senator GRANT - The remedy is a simple one - the more frequent reappraisement of the leases, and the offering of a sufficient number of blocks. Surely the honorable senator does not contend that twelve additional business sites at the civic centre will meet the requirements at Canberra, where the Federal Parliament will soon be in session.

SenatorCox. - The honorable senator knows that it is difficult to get labour, or bricks or any other building material there.


Senator GRANT - That is not our business. If persons are prepared to pay the necessary rentals, why should not the commission allow them to lease blocks ? The other day the Commonwealth borrowed £1,000,000 for expenditure on works at Canberra, yet the commission will not make its assets productive! Its failure to do so is a proof that it is deliberately and wilfully crucifying Canberra. Every honorable senator must admit that I am stating facts. Does anybody imagine that if Canberra were in the hands of a private owner he would hang on to the land year after year ?

SenatorCox. - The lands at Canberra have been handled in a most scientific way, which is a credit to the Government.


Senator GRANT - What experience has the Chief Commissioner had in dealing with land ?

SenatorCox. - He was not appointed to deal with it. The man who dealt with it until recently was one of the most able men in land matters in Australia.


Senator GRANT - Can Senator Cox tell me what experience Sir John Harrison has had in dealing with land ?

SenatorCox. - He was one of the biggest and most successful builders in Australia.


Senator GRANT - I happen to know him; and I knew his father before him . Building was their business. Can Senator Cox tell me a single landed estate with which Sir John Harrison has dealt?

SenatorCox. - The late Mr. Gorman was appointed to deal with the lands of the Federal Capital Territory, and Sir

John Harrison with its building operations. Mr. Butters was to exercise an oversight of the whole of the operations in the Territory.


Senator GRANT - Mr. Butters has had no experience in landed estates. Neither, so far as I have heard, has Sir John Harrison. The late Mr. Gorman occupied an entirely different position ; but, even so, can Senator Cox tell me of a single estate that he handled on the leasehold system ? He and his firm for years were accustomed to dealing with lands on the freehold system. He did not handle the lands at Canberra as they should have been handled.

SenatorCox. - He did.


Senator GRANT - That is merely an assertion, which carries no weight.

SenatorCox. - How many leasehold estates are there in New South Wales? The only one that I can call to mind is Cooper's estate.


Senator Foll - If the comparison which the honorable senator has made of the Federal Capital City and Queanbeyan is correct, it is a serious reflection on State socialism.


Senator GRANT - It is a serious reflection upon those who are administering the Federal Capital Territory. How can bricklayers, carpenters, or any other tradesmen erect a building if they cannot obtain a building site? The commission is determined that those sites shall not be made available.


Senator Foll - Can the honorable senator tell me why building costs in Canberra are 25 per cent. higher than in Sydney ?


Senator GRANT - I do not admit that they are 25 per cent. greater in Canberra than in Sydney. I should like to know why the output of the Canberra brickworks has not been trebled, and why it is necessary for a commission with such unimpeachable business capacity to import bricks from Sydney at a cost of £8 per 1,000. If the commission had been equal to its responsibilities, one of its first acts would have been to treble the output of the brickworks.


Senator Foll - It has to secure the labour to lay the bricks when they are turned out.


Senator GRANT - Plenty of that labour is available.


Senator Foll - It is not. Evidence to that effect was given before the Public Works Committee by the secretary of the Bricklayers' Union.







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