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Wednesday, 21 July 1926

Senator GRANT (New South Wales) . - It is interesting to hear Senator Elliott express himself so forcibly with regard to the development of the Federal Capital. I disagree entirely with his conclusions. Apparently he does not know what the real trouble is at Canberra. He complains very bitterly about certain people holding blocks of land out of use in the civic centre. He tells us that they have placed these blocks in the hands of local agents who are asking a premium of several hundreds of pounds from prospective new comers. If Senator Elliott wil] give the matter two or three moments' intelligent consideration he will realize that the only remedy for this state of affairs is the more frequent re-appraisement of land values. In nearly every municipality throughout the Commonwealth, property is valued every twelve months, or three years at the outside, and taxes are paid by the owners in accordance with ,the last valuation made. Although I protested against the Government's proposal to have the first reappraisement at the end of 20 years, the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce), who was then Minister for Home and Territories, and all Government supporters were against me. It is quite true that regulations have been made requiring purchasers of leases to commence building within a specified time, but it appears now that hundreds of blocks of land are being deliberately held out of use, the holders of the lease waiting for a rise in values. They have joined what is known as the " great nursing brigade " - nursing blocks of land for a rise.

Senator Ogden - They cannot hold them much longer without building on them.

Senator GRANT - They have already held them long enough. One man, so we have been informed by Senator Elliott, has offered as much as £1,500 for the right to build on one block, sold nearly two years ago, and the rent for which has been fixed for the next 20 years. If the commission had the right to re-appraise the value of blocks in the civic centre every twelve months, and if it increased the rentals, these people who are now holding land there for a rise in value would have to build on them or dispose of the leases.

Senator Elliott - If the rent were too high, no one would buy the leases.

Senator GRANT - The honorable senator is quite wrong.

Senator Elliott - The proper remedy is to make other blocks available.

Senator GRANT - That is not the remedy. Unless there is frequent reappraisement, what the honorable senator is complaining of will take place, and he knows it. . It is probable that if the commission made other land available, the value of certain blocks that are now being held for speculative purposes, would diminish, but the true remedy is to reappraise the blocks once a year.

Senator Abbott - How would the more frequent re-appraisement of rents cause buildings to be erected ?

Senator GRANT - No person would purchase the lease of a block unless he intended to build upon it.

Senator H Hays - Therefore the blocks would immediately drop in value.

Senator GRANT - Certainly ; and those who were prepared to build upon them would be able to obtain' them at a cheap price. At the present time this Parliament is standing behind the " shrewdies " who got in first, and are demanding a premium of upwards of £1,500 before they will allow a brick to be laid on their allotments. The sooner that fact is realized, the better. Senator Elliott talked about granting freeholds. As a member of the legal profession, he knows very well that there are' hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of vacant building sites in the capital cities of the Commonwealth, and that they are being held by the " great nursing brigade " in the hope of obtaining a higher price for them.

Senator Elliott - They are not to be found in Collins-street.

Senator GRANT - Even in Collinsstreet some blocks are not being fully utilized.

Senator Reid - There is one that has been vacant for years.

Senator GRANT - They are to be found everywhere. When you tax in dustry as it is taxed in Melbourne, nothing else can be expected. There is the same foolish system of taxation in Hobart, Adelaide, and Perth; but it is not to be found in Sydney.

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