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Thursday, 19 November 1936

Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) (Minister for External Affairs) [10.6]. - I move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

If honorable senators have before them the memorandum showing theamendments proposed to be made by this bill, they will be able to follow my remarks more closely. This is a bill to amend the Lands Acquisition Act 1906-1934 in the direction of altering certain machinery or procedural steps in relation to the assessment of compensation for land taken for public purposes. The bill does not seek to alter, in substance, the principles upon which compensation forland taken for public purposes shall be assessed. It may be assumed that any person whose land is compulsorily acquired by the Commonwealth for Commonwealth purposes will still be entitled to the same measure of compensation as he would have received under the existing law. The alterations proposed to be made may be grouped into two main classes. The first class of amendments relates to the form of the claim for compensation. Sub-section 2 of section 32 of the existing act provides -

A claim for compensation shall be in writing, and shall be served on the Minister, and shall set forth the prescribed particulars, and shall be in accordance with such of the prescribed forms as is applicable to the case.

By clause 2, it is proposed to omit that provision, and to insert in its stead the following sub-section: -

A claim for compensation shall -

(a)   be in accordance with such of the prescribed forms as is applicable to the case;

(b)   set forth the total amount of compensation claimed and the amount (if any) attributable to each item in that prescribed form; and

The purpose of the amendment, and the others which are contingent upon it, is to provide that, where a man claims compensation, he shall claim not merely a lump sum, but shall also itemize his claim by indicating how much he asks, for instance, for the unimproved land value of the property. It is most desirable that that should be done. In the absence of an itemized claim, the decision on the claim cannot be used for purposes of assisting in. the consideration of other cases. The decisions on itemized claims will be of inestimable value in arriving at decisions in like cases. The drag-net provision has been preserved in order to enable the claimant to make a general claim. A claimant is not, therefore, denied the opportunity to claim any thing to which he is rightly entitled.

The second class of amendments provided for in the bill is intended to avoid a multiplicity of proceedings in relation to any one acquisition. All property that is sought to be taken for public purposes is not necessarily in one ownership, or held in one right. Thus, the fee-simple of a parcel of land may be held by A, the head lease by B. and a sub-lease by C, while D may have a right of easement over it. Each one of these persons might have some claim for compensation for the compulsory taking of the property. As the law now stands, the owner in feesimple may proceed before the High Court, his head lessee may proceed in the State court, whilst the person claiming a right of easement may proceed under another jurisdiction, with the result that there would be parallel proceedings, involving. enormously increased expenditure, while no particular authority would attach to any judgment given. The bill provides that when an action is instituted in the High Court for the determination of compensation, any action commenced in other courts in respect of the same parcel of land shall be stayed, and the whole matter taken into the High Court. The purpose of the amendment is to provide that where various claims come from various sources in relation to one piece of property, they shall all be heard in one court, the court giving notice to the parties so that they may be brought together for the one hearing. In this manner, it is hoped to simplify procedure, save time, and make for greater certainty.

It has been felt for some time that amending legislation of this kind was necessary. These very amendments were included in a. bill brought down in 1924, but it was not proceeded with to the point of enactment. However, in view of the fact that the Commonwealth is from time to time making resumptions of properties, it is considered that action should now be taken to simplify the procedure. I commend the measure to honorable senators.

Debate (on motion by Senator Collings) adjourned.

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