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Wednesday, 25 July 1906

Senator BEST (Victoria) .- If the Minister desires to make substantial, and, as I conceive, most necessary reforms in the law relating to the acquisition of land and compensation therefor, there is ample room for doing so. The danger I have referred to applies most seriously, I think, to paragraphs b,h, and i, because a lessee for years cannot be said to have the legal estate.

Senator Keating - Upon looking at the English Act, 1 find that there are provisions for the application of compensation when it exceeds £200 in the direction indicated by the honorable senator.

Senator Lt Col Gould .- Will the Minister make a provision of that character?

Senator Keating - Personal ly, I see no objection to doing that.

Senator BEST - I hope that the Minister will see the desirability of making an amendment.

Senator Keating - The sections in the English Act are very cumbersome', but they make provision for the deposit of the compensation, and the application of it amongst the various parties interested.

Senator BEST - That is all I am contending for. The Minister will see that under the Bill as it stands it would be quite possible, and it is a very common case, for a man without knowledge to be completely robbed of his property.

Senator Keating - In the English Act there are differential provisions, namely, for sums up to £20, from£20 to £200. and then from£200 on.

Senator BEST - For the reasons I have urged, I think it is undesirable that the Government should be at liberty to negotiate solely with a -

(b)   tenant in tail or for life ;

(h)   person for the time being entitled to the receipt of the rents and profits of any land in possession or subject to any estate in dower ; or

(i)   lessee for life or for life and years, or for years, or for any less interest.

It is most undesirable that the Government should negotiate with those persons alone. My suggestion to the Minister is that where a person is not the owner in fee-simple, and where there are subordinate interests - for instance, where property is held in trust - then-, in order to relieve the Government from any embarrassment or difficulty, they should simply deposit the amount, and allow the persons to take out the money for themselves. That would assure to these persons, at all events, that they would be placed in no worse position than they previously occupied, because they would get an assessment of the value of their interest. I do not deem it necessary that in the interest of the Government there should be any person who would convey to them a legal estate, because in these Acts, right from the very commencement, there has always been provision made for the vesting of the estate by the execution of a deed-poll by a purchaser, whilst in some cases the mere fact of the deposit of the money has vested the estate in the Government. What I am urging is that the Minister should adopt some of the principles embodied in this measure itself, and say that, on taking possession of land, and on notification in the Government Gazette, instead of paying over the money to the tenant for life - who may disappropriate it - or to the other persons mentioned, he should simply deposit the money. Then the interests of the other persons would be protected. In the interests of the Government it is not necessary that the purchase money should be paid to the' person from whom the land is acquired. There is no value in a clause of this kind, which picks out a person having a comparatively small interest in a property, and says that that person shall convey to the Government.

SenatorPearce. - Are we in a different position from a State in this respect?

Senator BEST - We should be in a better position in the way I have suggested - by saying that when we have deposited the money the property shall vest in the Commonwealth. I suggest that, instead of the present provisions contained in paragraphs b, h, and i - under which injury can be done, money embezzled, and a man deprived of his estate - the money should be deposited, and the person dealt with should only have power to draw out a sum corresponding to his interest.

Senator Keating - I think that the persons mentioned in paragraphs b, h, and i are provided for in paragraph a of clause 9. They can only convey as far as their own interest is concerned, not for any other party.

Senator BEST - As a matter of fact, a tenant for life can convey absolutely.

Senator Lt Col Gould - A tenant for life is a different person from a lessee for life.

Senator BEST - I think that Senator Keating realizes that the Government has nothing to gain by setting up a person with a limited interest to convey the whole of the property concerned. All that need be done - what should be done to protect the interests of others - is simply to deposit the money.

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