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Wednesday, 25 July 1906

Senator McGREGOR (South Australia) - - I fee' quite sure that honorable senators are viewing this question from the Commonwealth point of view. No party issue is involved, and I believe that every honorable senator is endeavouring to pass a measure which will work smoothly. When the present Act was under consideration here, very few senators other than those' who belonged to the legal profession, took any active interest in its provisions. Speaking from memory, it was left entirely to the superior intelligence of the lawyers to frame a measure which would carry out the intentions of the Parliament, and which would not in any way be oppressive to the States. It has been found, however, that notwithstanding all the diligence of the learned senators, it is not a perfect measure. Senator Keating has pointed out the direction in which it has not fulfilled the object of Parliament, and that is in coming to an agreement without resort to compulsion. Senator Guthrie has been persistent in his declaration that the Commonwealth could not take lands which hare been dedicated to the purposes of the public in the 'different States. But that is all nonsense. Ac- 4 cording to the present Act - and also according to this Bill - if the Commonwealth choose to resort to compulsion it can take any land, whether it is dedicated to the purpose of a park land, or a cemetery, or a church. In some instances, the Government have not been able to come to an agreement with a State other than by resorting to compulsion, and they wish to obviate that. They wish to empower the representative authorities of the Commonwealth and a State to meet together, and to say, "We are both agreeable that this shall be done." That is the object of the clause, and it is the object which Senator Best has in view when he wishes to embody section 3 of tha present Act in his suggested amendment. I believe that clause 6 is far more likely to be acceptable to the States than is his amendment, and I am very glad to find that my view is shared by Senator Trenwith. What does the clause provide in its present form ? It provides that if, in an emergency, or under any circumstances, it be desirable to resume any land, it shall be within the power of the representatives of the Commonwealth and the State to come together, and, notwithstanding any State legislation to the contrary, or any reservation attached to any land, to come to an agreement that the land shall be transferred to the Commonwealth. An interjection was made by an honorable senator about the land being handed back to the States, bin! that is a different matter. The Commonwealth already has full power to take any land for temporary use, and then it can revert to the State under the agreement, but that has nothing to do with the clause. If honorable senators will read the clause carefully they will see that it really is not necessary to retain the words - notwithstanding anything to the contrary in the law of any State.

The very object of the Bill implies that, and the expresion is only used in the clause as an indication of what is meant. Senator Best wishes to provide in an open manner that the Governor of a State, with the consent of his Executive Council, may do a certain thing.

Senator Guthrie - And under any conditions.

Senator MCGREGOR - If there were any reservations which the Government of a State wanted to maintain, they would noi recommend the proposal, and the Commonwealth would have to exercise its compulsory powers. The honorable senator does not, seem to recognise that whether the Government of a State agrees or not the Commonwealth has power, under existing legislation, to take land compulsorily. and that the Bill keeps that power in .existence. The clause, as it stands, will enable the Government of the Commonwealth to act as fairly as possible towards a State. Etu' what Senator Best wishes to do is to embody in this clause section 3 of the Act, which empowers the GovernorGeneral to make an agreement with a State, and provides that, upon its publication in the Gazette, the matter shall be finished, in spite of any legislation of the State to the contrary, or of any reservation attached to the land. In the clause, however, we say that the Governor of a State, with the consent of his Executive Council, may come to an agreement with the Commonwealth. I hope that honorable senators will be able to see the matter in that light.

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