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Friday, 18 December 1914

Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) . - I am sorry to have to detain the Senate, even for a few seconds, but I feel that a statement having been made in the Chamber recently, and appearing on record in Hansard, I am justified, even at this late hour, in asking the attention of the Senate for a couple of minutes whilst I malco reference to it. The statement was made by Senator Senior that certain land in South Australia had been purchased by the Defence Department for the purpose of a rifle range, that on the land were several very valuable buildings, and that although the land and the buildings were entirely suitable for the purpose for which they had been bought, they were resold to a private individual for a sum much less than the value of them. The honorable senator went on to say that he was quite sure that a Labour Government would not have been guilty of this act of re-sale of land to a private individual. Senator Story affirmed - the statement is there in Hansard - that it must have been a Liberal Government which did it. The simple facts are that a previous Labour Government did purchase this land with its buildings for the State Government, but the area was greatly in excess of that which was required by the Defence Department. The State Government, however, would not sell a portion, and therefore the Defence Department had to purchase, during Senator Pearce's previous term of office, the whole in order to obtain the portion it wanted, and so was left with an excess on its hands. Then the question of disposing of the excess came up, and it was finally determined by the Defence Department to surrender that portion, and the Department of Home Affairs was called upon to take action. Senator Senior's statement was that the whole area had been resold for £1,000. I find that it was the surplus area only which was sold, and the decision to sell it was arrived at by Mr. King O'Malley, who was then Minister of Home Affairs. Applications were invited from persons willing to purchase, but there was no response to thf advertisements. A little later, offers were again invited - Mr. Kelly was then Assistant Minister - and an oner was received, which the Minister regarded as too low, and, as a consequence, other negotiations took place with the tenderer, who finally agreed to make his price £1,700. I only wish to say that the inaccuracies in the statement of Senator Senior, no doubt made without a full examination of the whole matter, do, as they are printed in Hansard, make it appear that there has been some wrong action on the part of the Defence Department. The disposal of that land had nothing to do with that Department, and the facts given by Senator Senior, are, as shown by the replies to my inquiries at the Department, totally inaccurate. It was not the whole of the land, but only the portion which the Department did not want which was sold, and the price obtained was £1,700, not £1,000.

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