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Tuesday, 22 March 1927

Senator GRANT (New South Wales) . - I object to civil servants being singled out for special treatment by the Federal Capital Commission. It would be manifestly unfair to give the public servants homes at £4 per acre, the price at which the land was originally bought; but it would be far better to do that than to have the land lying vacant. If I were in charge of the Territory, *I would immediately release the whole of the city sites at whatever price I could get for them, always reserving the right to reappraise the rentals at fixed intervals and more frequently than every twenty years. The residents of Canberra should pay to the commission the full rental value of the land they occupy; the commission should be satisfied with a fair rental value, and more blocks should be made available. But that is precisely what it will not do. Apparently it makes residental areas or business blocks available solely with the determination to prevent businesses from being established at Canberra or prevent homes from being erected there. No progress can take place in the Territory until blocks are made available in sufficient numbers and at a reasonable price, but they are not being made available at a reasonable price when the commission asks a rental of £50 a year for a block 20 feet by 108 feet.

Senator Foll - That is not a heavy rental to pay for a block in the centre of a capital city.

Senator GRANT - It is a heavy rental to pay at the present time.

Senator Elliott - Of course it is when there are only 5,000 people in the city.

Senator GRANT - I want to know why the Minister should back up the commissioners in their determination to secure a fictitious price for this land. If more blocks were made available, there would be more settlement. By withholding blocks the commission succeeds in preventing settlement, and I am at a loss to understand why this is done. Is it to make Canberra unpopular ? Or is it to provide an excuse for charging civil servants who are compelled to go to Canberra a higher rental than they would otherwise pay? Whether that he the objective or not, it is most certainly the result of the action taken by the commission. For instance, it is absurd, as in this instance, to make available only twelve retail trading' sites for a city like Canberra.

Senator Sir William Glasgow - That is in one portion of the city only. " There are four other sites set aside for industrial purposes.

Senator GRANT - Some time ago Parliament devoted an all-night sitting to the consideration of a proposal to locate the proposed arsenal at a point on the outskirts of the territory where hundreds of blocks were to be offered for sale. There ought to be a desire on the part of Parliament to give Canberra a fair deal. We ought to compel the commission to cease withholding building blocks from the public. What would be thought if a relative of the Chief Commissioner purchased a block such as mentioned by Senator Elliott, and the commissioner refused to make further blocks available until that which his relative was holding had been sold at a high figure. I do not suggest for a moment that that has been done. This Parliament would not tolerate such action. Supposing a relative of the Minister (Senator Glasgow) was the lessee of one of the blocks mentioned by Senator Elliott, and the Minister directed that no further blocks were to be made available until the one in question had been sold for £1,000. The action of the Minister or the commissioner would not be countenanced for a moment. We ought to lay it down clearly and definitely that blocks should be made available at a reasonable rental in sufficient numbers to meet present requirements. There should be no upset price fixed by the commission; blocks should be sold by auction to the highest bidder, and subsequent reappraisements at frequent intervals should be made. If the present practice is continued for 50 years, the rental of blocks, instead of being £1 per week, will be £100 per week. We should insist upon a discontinuance of this " dog-in- the manger " attitude in order that Canberra may have an opportunity to develop in a proper and business-like way.

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