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Friday, 20 July 1906

Senator BEST (Victoria) .- I have had an opportunity, whilst Senator Symon has been speaking, to look up the existing law and the proposed alteration, and I must confess that I do not think that the new clause, as to its legal effect, takes us any further than the old section did. I read together sections 3 and 5 of the existing Act. Section 3 provides that -

The Governor-General may agree with the owners of any land which is required for any public purpose, and with any State where such land is Crown land of the State, for the absolute purchase by the Commonwealth for a consideration in money or its equivalent of such land, or for the exchange of such land for any land of the Commonwealth.

Then, in order to carry out that provision, section 5 is supplementary-, and says that the Governor of a State may execute the necessary documents for the purpose. It is a matter of fact that if there is an agreement between the Governor-General representing the Commonwealth and the Governor of a State to acquire any State land, essentially the Governor must resort to the local laws for the purpose of enabling him to carry out that bargain. It is a bargain on the part of the. Commonwealth, on the one hand, to purchase land belonging to the State, and it is recognised that that property must be dealt with in accordance with the law of the State. Consequently my first view is that I do not think it is necessary that there should be any alteration whatever. But if an alteration is proposed, I am1 certainly disposed to agree with my honorable friend, Senator Symon, that this clause is put in a rather unfortunate form - it may be unintentionally. It does seem to me to be very extraordinary that we in the Common wealth should set towork to legislate as to what the Governor of -a State shall do. It is unusual, and it is especially unnecessary in the case of a matter of mutual agreement. I suggest that there is an abstract principle involved! which may result in some friction.. It may be resented bv the States that we as a Commonwealth should say in- this clause that the Governor of a State, acting with the advice of the Executive Council thereof,, may do so and so.. The States may say,. " Thank you for nothing; we do not want you to authorize our Governors what to doand what not to do." We did not attempt to put it in that form in the old Act. We did not pretend to say what the Governor of a State might do: We did- not pretend' to give novel powers. The last case of thekind was the Meteorological Bill, which' was before us a little while ago. In that Bill there was inserted a clause enabling the Governor-General and the Governor of a State to come to a certain agreement. We did not attempt to say in the forefront of .the measure that the Governor of a State might do so and so. We enabled the GovernorGeneral to enter into an arrangement with the Governor of a State, relying uponlocal powers and abilities for the purposes of carrying out that agreement. In the existing law it is put very plainly that the Governor- General may agree with the owners and with any State where the land to be acquired is the Crown land of a State. In the existing law t'he State is specifically mentioned; Certainly, even in the existing law, section 5 was not necessary, because when it says: that the Governor-General may enter into an agreement with respect to the purchase of Crown lands with a State, the Governor of a State has the power to enable him to carry that out. Therefore, seeing that the Government can achieve the same object in a manner involving less friction, and can enable the Governor-General to enter into agreements, relying, upon the local power which must necessarily exist, I would ask my honorable friend, Senator Keating, to consider whether he cannot recast the clause, in order that we may follow precedents, and avoid any possibility of friction and resentment on the part of the States.

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