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Thursday, 25 June 2009
Page: 7271

Mr HAWKE (9:54 AM) —I rise this morning to express my dismay at the passing of an amendment to the Land Acquisition (Just Terms Compensation) Act in the New South Wales parliament this week. This act was allegedly passed by the New South Wales parliament in order to overcome some unintended consequences of two provisions of the Land Acquisition (Just Terms Compensation) Act that they thought were revealed by a recent High Court decision. This High Court case, which was a very important case to my mind, said that the Parramatta City Council did not have the right to compulsorily acquire land belonging to two business owners in the case of the Grocon development. Mr Fazzolari, the owner of an adjoining property, and Michael Winston Smith, had been fighting since their High Court victory in April to stop the government amending the law to allow the Parramatta council to acquire their land and transfer it to a Melbourne developer Grocon as part of a joint $1.6 billion residential, retail and public space development.

This is a retrograde step for property rights in New South Wales and in Australia. I find it distressing that a group of business owners who have property there and who sought just terms from the council could have won their case in the High Court and then have the state government, in a heavy handed way, change the law. An analysis by Maureen Peatman, a partner from Hunt and Hunt lawyers who ran the successful appeal to the High Court, of some of the changes that have been proposed and now enacted into law by the state government says large numbers of private properties could potentially now be acquired by councils under the changes agreed to by parliament.

This ought to be of great concern for all landowners across New South Wales. As I say again, large numbers of private properties could now be acquired by councils under the changes agreed to by parliament. An amendment to this legislation was proposed by the opposition and that amendment was accepted. The amendment said that it would ensure that councils would not have the power to acquire land for purposes that are private and not public. Indeed, in the second reading speeches of many of the members, they expressed the hope—and ‘hope’ was a word that was used quite often—that the government would not abuse this change, these amendments, that were being proposed to the act.

I want to reflect this morning that I do not have a lot of hope in our state government—this state government or any future state government in New South Wales—not to abuse that. There is now a grave concern for private property owners across New South Wales as a result of this retrograde piece of legislation being passed.