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Wednesday, 26 October 1910

Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) . - Surely the Vice-President of the Executive Council has entirely missed the point of my amendment. He has spoken of improvements, the value of which evaporates by process of time. But such improvements are not in any way touched by my proposal. " Less the value of improvements ' ' would mean the value of improvements at that particular time. If £100 had been expended upon constructing a dam fifteen years ago, and it had depreciated in value to £ 10 at the time the valuation was made, its value would be set down at ;£ro.

Senator McGregor - But the owner might claim its original value.

Senator MILLEN - Let me show how little the Vice-President of the Executive Council knows of his Bill. The very next definition provides that the value of improvements shall mean the added value which they give to the land.

Senator Rae - Is not that a fair thing ?

Senator MILLEN - My contention is that it is a fair thing, but I want to have the two definitions placed on the same footing. I am showing that there is a conflict between them now. In the one case, what Senator Rae admits to be a fair thing is taken as the basis ; but in the other definition quite another basis is taken. There is likely to be conflict and litigation in consequence.

Senator Rae - The two definitions seem to me to be the same.

Senator MILLEN - How can they be? There is no subject which has given rise to greater conflict than the question with which we are dealing. It is not so easy as it looks to determine the unimproved value of land. We have here a very clear definition. It is stated that the value of improvements is to be the value which they add to the land, irrespective of their cost. They may have cost ^5, but may have added £$0 to the value of the land. In that case ^50 is to be taken as their value under this Bill. Senator Rae admits that that is fair. Very well, then, let us have the same provision in the previous definition. We should not have in one definition a provision that the bare value of the improvements is to be taken into account, and in another the provision that, not the cost or value of the improvements, but the value that has been added to the land, is to be considered. There is a difference that has led to trouble, and will lead to trouble later on. I propose to remedy it in a very simple way.

Senator McGregor - There is no" conflict. The definitions are quite clear.

Senator MILLEN - I absolutely despair of producing any effect upon the mind of the honorable senator by argument, -if he says such a thing. I am quite serious. I never was more conscious than I am now - even though I lay myself open to a charge of egotism in saying so - that this is a question which I understand. There is here a conflict on a matter which has been fought out dozens of times in the Land Courts of New South Wales, and which, in one case, was carried to the Privy Council. I refer to the case of the Iandra improvements. The Minister says that there is no conflict, though this difference has been the subject of protracted litigation; and when I mention it some honorable senators opposite laugh, as if I were not pointing out a danger in the very Bill which they profess to have so much at heart. The point at issue, I say again, is that in the one case you are to take the value of the improvements, and in the other you are to take, not the value of the improvements, but the value which those improvements have added to the land. These are two different thingsI am attempting to remedy the conflict by a simple amendment. If the Minister is not satisfied with the form of the amendment, he can consult the draftsman as to an improvement upon it.

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