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Thursday, 11 July 1946

Mr McEWEN (INDI, VICTORIA) - I rise to make a personal explanation touching the statement of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) that while I was Minister for the Interior I had neglected to amend the Crown Lands Ordinances of the Northern Territory, thereby making inevitable the allocation to a lessee who held 10,600 square miles of country an' additional 825 square miles for a period of 42 years. My explanation is that nothing in the Crown Lands Ordinances, as they existed during the term of my administration, prevented the resumption of land from lessees who held large areas. On the contrary, they specifically provided for the resumption of areas - 25 per cent. after 10 years, and 50 per cent. after 20 years. The managing director Alexandra Downs, Mr. Forrest, interviewed me personally, and made representations that I should not exercise my right, as Minister, to resume 25 per cent. of the area of his lease. I told him - and I am sure the records of the Department of the Interior will support my statement - that nothing would prevent me from resuming the proportion of his lease that I was entitled as Minister to resume, for the purpose of making it available for new settlers. Mr. Forrest's company was able to obtain the additional area only by an unprecedented administrative act of the Department of the Interior during the term of office of Senator Collings, by advertising as available the' resumable proportion of the lease before the resumption fell due. Because this method was followed the department established the sole right of the Alexandria Downs Company again to secure a lease of the additional area.

Mr Johnson - Coupled with the honorable gentleman's failure when Minister to amend the ordinance.

Mr McEWEN - Had the present Minister's predecessor merely delayed advertising the advisability of the area in accordance with the Crown Law Ordinances until after the due date for resumption, the land would have been open to application by any person who desired it. The charge of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) is supported by the records.

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