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Tuesday, 22 March 1927


Senator ELLIOTT (Victoria) .- The Minister (Senator Glasgow) said that the commission, in fixing upset prices, has regard to the prices that have been paid for blocks in the immediate neighbourhood of those that are made available. I doubt very much whether he has gone deeply into that matter. Whilst individual blocks were run up to a very high figure, many were sold for the original upset price. One of the plans shows the upset price of a corner block to be £3,000. I know that the block on the opposite corner, which is better situated, remained in the hands of the commission for six months after the last sale, and was finally bought by a speculator at the upset price. After the lapse of six months, the price of the other corner block has been trebled.


Senator Sir William Glasgow - In the meantime, there has been increased activity in the Territory, and we are approaching the time when the Parliament will be transferred.


Senator ELLIOTT - That may be. The Minister cannot have it both ways. When fixing the price, the commission must either have regard to the sales which have taken place or look to the speculative value that will be 'created when Parliament is transferred to Canberra.


Senator McLachlan - Is it not the duty of the commission, as an arm of the Government, to obtain the best prices it can?


Senator ELLIOTT - That may be, if we are to regard this as a huge land speculation. If it is the policy of the Government to extract the last pound it can from the unfortunate people who will be compelled to live in Canberra, let it come out into the open and say so plainly. If that is the policy of the Government I have nothing further to say, but it is idle for Ministers to declare that they are not asking exorbitant prices, and then allow the commission to limit the supply of blocks to twelve. At Blackburn or Surrey Hills, near Melbourne, an auctioneer will sell 50 blocks in an afternoon. In Canberra the supply is limited to twelve for twelve months, or 'an average of one block a month for sale. If the commission is anxious to meet the legitimate demand of those who require blocks it will throw open at least three times that number.


Senator Sir William Glasgow - The honorable senator has already said that on the last occasion when blocks were thrown open one remained on the hands of the commission.


Senator ELLIOTT - Cannot the Minister see that by fixing the upset price of the corresponding corner block at £3,000 the commission is giving a profit of £2,000 to the speculator who paid £1,000 for the first block submitted for sale ?


Senator Foll - Yes, but the commission is retaining the unearned increment which has accrued in the intervening period and has been brought about by the expenditure of the taxpayers' money.


Senator ELLIOTT - If it were a question of retaining the unearned increment I should have nothing further to say ; but why is the corner block not offered for sale to the highest bidder, and without reserve, if the commission is anxious to test the market and secure a true index to the unearned increment ? It should also submit for sale at least another 24 blocks. That is the only method of getting a fair criterion of the price that should be paid. Any child can see that by limiting the demand the commission can secure exorbitant prices.


Senator Foll - The honorable senator has not shown that more than twelve blocks are needed.


Senator ELLIOTT - ,'As every block previously sold has already changed hands it is obvious that the people who have bought blocks from the original holders would have been glad to take other blocks if they had been made available at a reasonable price. The first purchasers would not have had the opportunity to make a profit out of the second purchasers if the latter could have come in on the ground floor.


Senator Foll - The honorable senator evidently wants to keep down land values.


Senator ELLIOTT - If I were a speculator who had bought land at Canberra, the more the commission restricted the supply of blocks the better I should be pleased, but from a broad national stand-point. I say that a continuance of this policy will cripple the progress of the capital, because it will have the effect of forcing the people to pay exorbitant prices for blocks. Where does the honorable senator imagine tenants will stand in a year or two when £50 a year rental is demanded for a block of land 20 ft. by 108 ft. ? If the Government would say straight out that its policy is to squeeze the people at Canberra honorable senators would know where they stood, But the Government has not the courage to do so, although it allows the commission to follow this policy.

Senator COX(New South Wales) |8.50|. - I have been at Canberra a good deal during the last three or four years, and I say that the work done by the Government and the commission is a credit to them. Canberra is provided with splendid electric lighting and sewerage systems, with a magnificent water supply and with roads second to none. Every piece of ground submitted for sale is disposed of by public auction to the highest bidder, and if the purchaser holds the land he must build on it within a certain period. There are plenty of unoccupied houses at the Capital, but I suppose they will all be filled when Parliament is removed to its new home.


Senator Elliott - At what rent?


Senator Graham - At £3 a week for a five-roomed house!







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