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Wednesday, 9 November 1910
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Senator VARDON (South Australia) . - I wish to know why the Government should be placed in any better position than a private individual. There are men now in Port Darwin who have held land there for years. Suppose there should be some development there, and an increase of trade, as the result of our legislation, and that half-an-acre of land, which is now worth only £5 should, in ten years, become worth £50. The Government propose to say to the owner of the land, " We want that half-acre to build a public office, and we will give you £5 for it, which was all it was worth ten years ago." A private individual comes along, and says to the owner, " I will give you £50 for that land, because it is worth it." Why should the owner of the land be called upon to lose £45. What right have the Government to take for £5 land for which the owner could get £50 from a private individual ?

Senator Barker - Under the contract into which he has entered that is clear enough.

Senator VARDON - He has not entered into any contract. The position is that he may have purchased his land years ago. It is his own. The certificate of title is in his name. He may have used the land so that in the course of ten years its value has increased considerably. A private individual may then say to him, "I am prepared to give you £50 for your block." But the Government may step in and say, " We intend to take it, but we will give you only £5 for it, because that represents its value ten years ago." Would that be righteous ?

Senator McGregor - The honorable senator knows very well that if this Bill be passed no man would offer£50 for such a block.

Senator VARDON - That is the very reason why the proviso should not be inserted.

Senator Rae - As we do not know what land will be resumed, its speculative value will be destroyed.

Senator VARDON - We hear a lot about the speculative value of land, but I have never known any honorable senator opposite who was prepared to give that value away. Under the law, a man may have acquired a piece of land-

Senator McGregor - Subject to the laws of the country.

Senator VARDON - Subject to the laws which then existed. Does the VicePresident of the Executive Council say that it is a righteous thing for the Government to come along ten years hence and to take out of that land the value which has been added to it ?

Senator McGregor - The Government will not take any value out of it.

Senator VARDON - It is not right to place the Government in a better position to acquire land at Port Darwin than that which is occupied by a private individual. If a private individual is prepared to give ten times as much as the Government for a block of land, we have no right to rob the land-owner of that advantage.

I am aware that there are leases in the Northern Territory which embrace large areas. But when South Australia passed the Act under which those leases are held, it had experienced a succession of droughts. As a matter of fact, a good deal of difficulty was experienced in getting the land taken up at all. It was owing to this circumstance that it was almost given away. But since then good seasons have been experienced. Large cattle-breeding stations have been established in the Northern Territory, and if the Government desire to resume any of these leases, the Act provides the way in which that can be done. I am sorry that these large leases should have such a long period to run. But they have not forty-two years to run, because that was the original tenure. The longest lease, I believe, has now only about thirtyfour years to run. But I would point out that the leases impose certain conditions, with which lessees must comply. Failing compliance with them, the Commonwealth can resume the lands comprised in these leases to-morrow. I am anxious to insure that, in passing a law of this description, we shall do only what is just . To say that the Commonwealth, fifty years hence, shall be able to acquire land for public purposes at its value today, is to suggest something which, to my mind, is outrageous.

Senator Findley - We have done the same thing in the Seat of Government Act.

Senator VARDON - No. Under this. Bill we are asked to place the Government in a much more favorable position than that which is occupied by a private individual.

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