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Friday, 20 July 1906

Senator BEST (Victoria) .- It would have been most useful if Senator McGregor- had first fortified himself with an idea of the contention from this side.

Senator McGregor - I heard it.

Senator BEST - Nobody has suggested for a moment, either directly or indirectly, that in the future it should become necessary to compulsorily resume any land from a State. If such a practice has, for the purposes which have been mentioned, been resorted to in the past, now is the time to put an end to any difficulty which has existed. Clause 6 of the Bill' says in specific terms that the Governor of a State, acting, on the advice of the Executive thereof, may do certain things. It has been urged that it is unfortunately framed, and that, in order to achieve the same end, in a previous Act we said that the GovernorGeneral might negotiate with the State to do certain things, in this case, to purchase land. In these circumstances, it will be seen that we have not taken upon ourselves the apparently unfair position of prescribing what the Governor of a State should do. On the contrary, we have provided, as we did recently in the Meteorological Bill, that the Governor-General might enter into an arrangement with the Governor of a State, and the State laws have always been sufficient to enable the Governor of a State to carry out any such agreement.

Senator McGregor - Honorable senators have been told that, under existing circumstances, they are not sufficient.

Senator BEST - That is what the Minister has suggested. I want him to realize the serious principle involved in passing the clause in this shape. Of course he will have the right to give us the justification for this departure, but I submit that the seasons which he has already advanced are totally inadequate. If everything which is sought for can be achieved in a. nice -way, instead of introducing the unfortunate principle to which I have referred, what is the objection to recasting this clause for that purpose? The Minister has said, "Yes, that would be all very well; but then we have to bear in mind that in some instances the Governor of the State has only the right to make grants subject to certain reservations."

Senator Mulcahy - Subject to Crown Lands Acts.

Senator BEST - Subject to the local laws. That would be very sound if we had no means of overcoming the difficulty. I contend that the. provision in the Constitution Act which says that the Commonwealth may acquire property practical]]}' means; that we may acquire the absolute

Tight to property free from every reservation. In this Bill it is recognised that that is the real and true construction, because it provides that, in the case of a compulsory resumption - the notification shall have the effect of cancelling any dedication or reservation to which the land was subject at the date of the publication of the -notification.

No one in the Chamber doubts for a moment that we have the right to cancel all forms of reservations contained in any document in reference to any land compulsorily acquired. Now it is said that we want to provide for the acquisition of land by voluntary arrangement. The true method, I submit, is to enable the GovernorGeneral to acquire the land, and then to declare, as we have done, that when once the land is so acquired, the notification of the agreement in the Gazette - shall have the effect of cancelling any dedication or reservation to which the land was subject at the date of the publication of the notification.

That would relieve the clause of the objectionable feature to which I have referred, and it would give us precisely every power which we desire to possess. And what is more, the Governor of a State, in entering into negotiations with the GovernorGeneral, would be aware that the moment he signed a grant to the Commonwealth, all dedication or reservation would be cancelled.

Senator McGregor - That is a distinction without a difference.

Senator BEST - If it is a distinction without a difference, and it would have the effect of removing from the clause objectionable features, it should' be accepted and the clause recast. But the honorable senator cannot seriously contend that there is no difference. I ask him : Is it not objectionable for this Parliament to declare what the Governor of a State shall do?

Senator McGregor - Only what he may do.

Senator BEST - If we were driven to do that, it would be a different thing; but here is a mutual arrangement which is to be provided for. Let us follow the precedent which we established in dealing with these matters. Why should we unnecessarily create friction with any State by determining what shall be the duty of the Governor of a State ?

Senator Mulcahy - Will it not be also necessary in each case to empower the GovernorGeneral and the Governor to negotiate?

Senator BEST - It is necessary that we should do as we have hitherto done, and that is, give the Governor-General the power to act. Section 3 of the present Act says -

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.

All that we need to do is to add to that provision the following words : -

The notification of such agreement in the Gazette shall have the effect of cancelling any dedication or reservation to which the land was subject at the date of the publication of the notification.

That would completely get rid of the objection which the Minister has urged. No one doubts that we can enact that provision. Why, then, should we unnecessarily create friction?

Senator McGregor - We are not creating friction.

Senator BEST - My honorable friend must see that the clause, if enacted in its present form, would create friction. To begin with, why should we alter the phraseology of the existing provision? If it is defective, there is a way of amending the defect. If we prescribe what the power of the Governor of a State shall be, the provision may appear inoffensive in this Bill ; but there may be times when, if the precedent were followed, it would bear quite a different aspect, and lead to friction. I have proposed a reasonable and effective means whereby the difficulty suggested by the Minister could be overcome.

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