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Tuesday, 30 May 1939

Mr RIORDAN (Kennedy) .- I support the amendment of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). The Assistant Minister (Mr. Holt) stated that the amendment was not necessary because the Commonwealth already possessed power under the Lands Acquisition Act to acquire what lands it needed, but the Opposition desires the inclusion of this amendment so as to put it beyond all doubt that the Commonwealth shall have power to acquire land, whether by purchase or lease. I cannot understand why the Government is opposing the insertion of this proposed new sub-clause. It is a reasonable provision and one which is to be expected in a measure providing for the construction of buildings and factories on leased lands.

Mr HOLT - It is unnecessary.

Mr RIORDAN - The Assistant Minister for Supply and Development, being a lawyer, knows well that the question of whether or not the Government has power to do certain things under certain legislation is one for interpretation, and decision by the Court. Members of the Opposition want to make sure that the power of the Government to acquire the land on which these buildings are to be erected will not be in doubt.' But it seems to me that the Government is most anxious to proceed with the erection of these annexes simply to assist its wealthy supporters, and not in order that the machinery to be installed may be brought into use in the interests of the nation. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) referred to the sale by the Government of the woollen mills. Similarly I instance action taken three or four years ago by this Government in connexion with defence buildings and equipment at Thursday Island. Fortifications, were destroyed, buildings, barracks, &c.,. established there were sold to local residents and other persons for a mere song, and the . garrison was removed to Darwin. The Assistant Minister . also stated that provision was made in the contracts for the leasing of land, and that the terms of leases would also make provision for cases in which the owner of the land became bankrupt. In that case he said that all improvements belonging to the Government would be protected because of a ten years' lease. If the Department of Supply and Development is to remain in existence for only five, years, why does the Government propose to lease land for ten years ? The Minister stated that in the event of the bankruptcy of the proprietor of land leased by the Government, there would be nothing to fear because the Government buildings could not be interfered with and the lease would continue at a nominal rental of £1. That may be all right in the case of the first lessor, but eventually the Government may find that its position is not quite so sound when the estate has passed into the hands of a trustee in bankruptcy. For this reason . and for other reasons advanced by honorable members on this side of the House, I cannot understand why the Government should oppose the insertion of this proposed new sub-clause. I suppo rt the amendment.

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