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Wednesday, 7 December 1927

Senator GRANT (New South Wales) . - I direct the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories to the delay which is taking place in connexion with the leasing of homes and business sites at Canberra. In reply to questions which I addressed to the Minister on 6th October, I was informed that up to that date only 447 building sites had been leased by vhe commission. Honorable senators will recall that some time ago Senator Elliott stated that owing to the scarcity of building sites, and because the com- mission refused to make more available, he had to pay a premium of £1,100 to e. person who had purchased a lease at one of the first auction sales. This is a most deplorable state of affairs. I venture to say that more than 400 sites have been disposed of in one afternoon at land sales in Melbourne or Sydney. Those cities could not have developed as they have done in recent years, if land had been withheld from occupation. If the commission refuses to make more sites available, the progress of Canberra must necessarily be retarded. I was informedfurther that the total rent received from the 447 leased sites was £13,549. If the development of Canberra had been entrusted to a competent body determined to do the right thing, the rent from leased sites by this time would have been twenty times the amount that has been received by the commission. The Minister stated also that rent for leased pastoral areas up to 6t,h October was £39,900. Altogether the total rent received bythe commission for nearly 1,000 square miles of territory, was only £53,449. The unleased area in the Territory totals 186,000 acres, and in Canberra itself it is 50,960 acres. What is behind this policy ? Why is the commission refusing to make more building sites available? I deny its right to fix an upset price on the blocks when they are made available. The price ought to be determined by public competition. The policy of the commission appears to be to limit the number of blocks to be submitted, and then to place a fictitious price on those that are offered. The locking up of this magnificent territory with all its potentialities, is a very serious matter. I know, of course, that the Government has laid it down that the annual value of the leases must not be disturbed during the first twenty years. Of course that is entirely wrong. The blocks ought to be made available to the highest bidder, and be subject to annual or triennial reappraisement. Are honorable senators aware that the Government is borrowing money for expenditure in Canberra?

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Plain).Order ! In the proposed vote before the committee there is no reference to the leasing of lands in the Federal Capital Territory.

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