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Friday, 20 July 1906

Senator McGREGOR (South Australia) . - I listened yesterday very patiently to the objections raised by Senator Symon to this particular clause, and today I have listened patiently to all that has been said. But the very objection which has been raised to the clause constitutes the argument which should be used in favour of it. Honorable senators urge that, so far as we possibly can, we should approach the States in the most cordial way, and should do nothing in the direction of aggravating the States authorities; that we should never exercise the full powers of the Commonwealth, or of any Commonwealth Act, until we have exhausted every other means of arriving at the desired end. That is what Senator Symon has been saying for hours. Yet in this clause it is so evident that that is the intention of the Government that I am unable to understand why any honorable senator should oppose it. Senator Keating has said that in the past the Government have found that there are difficulties in negotiating with the States, and they have had to resort to compulsion. The honorable senator has given instances, which I could multiply, and honorable senators must see that they might easily be made more numerous in the future than they have been in the past. It would be possible in any State for a law to be passed that no land should be acquired by anybody except through some particular agent.

Senator Fraser - That law would not hold good against the Commonwealth Act.

Senator McGREGOR - It would not hold good against the existing Act. Has not the Minister told honorable senators that we can always fall back upon the compulsory system of purchase. Honorable senators, a few minutes ago, were trying to make us believe that they desired that the States should be treated in a conciliatory manner. That is what the Government are proposing to do. In this clause they say that, instead of exercising the power, which it is admitted we have, we desire to negotiate, and to acquire properties from the States in the most friendlymanner.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - That is not what theclause says.

Senator McGREGOR - Most decidedly it is. It says that the Governor-General and the Governor of a State-

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - It does not mention the Governor-General at all.

Senator McGREGOR - That is so; but the honorable and learned senator knows that it is through the Governor-General that the acquisition is always made.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - This clause does not deal with the Governor-General.

Senator McGREGOR - I am telling the honorable and learned senator what the method is. This clause gives the Governor of a State, with the consent of the Executive Council of that State, the power, when dealing with the Commonwealth, through the Governor-General, or anybody else, to transfer land to the Commonwealth.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - No; to sell it. To repeal a local Act of Parliament.

Senator McGREGOR - It says, " Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in the law of any State"; but it is to get over that difficulty that this clause is inserted. If the Executive of a State has the slightest objection to override any State law, they have only to say to the Commonwealth, '"We will not do it," or, "We cannot do it; you will have to exercise the powers you have, and take the land compulsorily." Then honorable senators opposite get up and talk about the difference between' a private individual and a State in this matter. I cannot imagine any difference. Is it not as great a crime to do an injustice to an individual as to a number :of individuals ? If we do an injustice to a State, we do injustice to a number of individuals ; and if we do an injustice to a land-owner, it is just as criminal as if we did it to a State. If we acquire land from an individual, we have at the same time to acquire the rights of the State in respect of that land. That is the only difference, and honorable senators have entirely overlooked it. Where the Commonwealth acquires land from an individual, with that acquisition should go all the rights which the State has thereto. But in this clause we are simply asked to enact that where any law of a State prevents the State, in a technical sense, from negotiating with the Commonwealth, if the Governor, through the Executive, is prepared to enter into negotiations with the Commonwealth for the transfer of the land, the Commonwealth is prepared to do so in the way which may be most agreeable to the people of the State. But honorable senators on the other side say "No; you must fall back upon your absolute right of compulsory purchase. We shall not give you the opportunity through the Governor of a State to acquire land for the Commonwealth." As Senator Keating; has said, in years to come the authorities in a State may say - " That is the way in which we have been treated. Every piece of land which has been acquired by the Commonwealth has been forcibly taken from us; we have never been allowed an opportunity. to negotiate." Who is preventing that from being done? It is only honorable senators on the other side who are seeking to place an obstacle in the way of the Commonwealth doing what they argue ought to be done. I hope that they will read the clause, endeavour to understand what is really meant by it, and believe that,, instead of doing an injustice to any State, it is only providing a means whereby the most harmonious relations may exist between the States and the Commonwealth.

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