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Wednesday, 25 July 1906

Senator MULCAHY (Tasmania) .- I move -

That the following words be added to the clause : - " Provided that nothing in this Act shall authorize the acquisition by the Commonwealth otherwise than by agreement with the State of any Crown land of a State which is dedicated for the recreation op: amusement of the public, and has . been so dedicated for a period of seven years."

I quite agree that the amplest power should be given to the Commonwealth to acquire lands which may be necessary for Federal purposes. In regard', however, to lands dedicated to public recreation or amusement, we map reasonably ask for a little restriction. We should not enable, possibly, a military officer who has rather large ideas, as military officers sometimes have-

Senator Pearce - Senator Gould does not say " hear, hear," to that.

Senator Lt Col Gould - I will say " hear, hear," if the honorable senator wishes.

Senator MULCAHY - We should not allow such officers to acquire these public lands when they may be able .to secure others. In all the State capitals, and many of the other cities, there are reserves which the public enjoy and appreciate, and which they very jealously guard; and the restriction I suggest seems very insignificant.

Senator Best - Is it insignificant? It is very serious.

Senator MULCAHY - It is a small restriction, applying only to lands which have been dedicated for seven years. It will not prevent the Commonwealth acquiring such lands, but merely stipulate that the consent of the State Government shall be. obtained.

Senator McGregor - This amendment is in contradiction to the short title of the Bill.

Senator MULCAHY - That may be; possibly the short title of the Bill, although I supported it, may not be exactly the one that should have been applied to the measure. However, I know that in the various capital- and other cities, there are reservations which the public have enjoyed for many years, and which ought not to be lightly taken away.

Senator Best - Hear, hear.

Senator MULCAHY - As the Minister of Defence is present, I may mention that there is a disposition on the part of the Defence Department to sometimes ride roughshod, not only over public, but also private rights.

Senator Playford - Give an instance.

Senator MULCAHY - I can at once give an instance of such proceedings in the case of a private owner of land.

Senator Playford - But the honorable senator was talking about public lands.

Senator MULCAHY - I do not think it is right for any public Department to send officers to examine and survey private lands, without having the courtesy to approach the owner and give him notice of the possibility of the land being acquired.

Senator Pearce - If the honorable member objects to that proceeding, he will have to oppose a great deal of this Bill.

Senator MULCAHY - In the case of Melbourne, those who first surveyed the city showed very wise foresight in dedicating large reserves for public purposes. I suppose there are few cities in the world the inhabitants of which have such reason to be thankful in this respect, and in all the cities of the Commonwealth there are reserves of one kind and another. In Hobart and in Launceston, the chief city of the north of Tasmania, there are reserves on the maintenance and beautifying of which public money is spent year after year, and which are regarded by the people with as much, if not more, jealous care than is their own private property.

Senator McGregor - For what purpose would the Commonwealth Government resume Cataract Gorge?

Senator MULCAHY - But the Commonwealth Government might resume some of the reserves for the purposes of a drill ground, and thus deprive the public of access to them.

Senator Findley - The citizens of the island are not Tasmanians, but Australians, now.

Senator MULCAHY - That is so; and they have ho objection to the Commonwealth Government acquiring all the land that is necessary for Federal purposes. It may be considered only wise, however, to have some little restriction in regard to lands which are now dedicated to public purposes. There is a disposition, on the part of military officers,, at any rate, to disregard the rights of the people - to proceed in time of peace much as they would in time of war. My desire is to put a brake on the ardour of those gentlemen, and to give them to understand that there are public rights which even the Commonwealth ought to respect. It is all very well for the Minister of Defence to say that the Department would never endeavour to obtain a piece of a recreation reserve unless the land was absolutely necessary.

Senator Playford - I do not think that the Department ever did, or ever wanted to, acquire land that was not absolutely necessary.

Senator MULCAHY - On the other hand, I do not think any State Government would raise any real objection if a certain piece of land were necessary, and another piece quite as good could "not be obtained. -However, I have placed the amendment before the Committee, and I hope it will receive fair consideration and support. I have proposed the term of seven years, but, it it be deemed advisable, I shall have no objection to an alteration in that regard. The principle of the amendment is that there shall be no absolute power to compulsorily acquire land used for recreation and amusement and the promotion of the public health.

Senator Findley - What would be the use of the Bill if under it we could not acquire such land ?

Senator MULCAHY - The proviso will not prevent the acquisition of land of the kind, but will only prevent it from being compulsorily acquired.

Senator Playford - If the proviso be passed, a special Act of Parliament will be required for every piece of such land it is sought to acquire.

Senator MULCAHY - No.

Senator Playford - There are tens of thousands of acres in the National Park of New South Wales, and, if a small piece of land were there required for public purposes by the Commonwealth, a special Act would have to be passed if the amendment were accepted.

Senator MULCAHY - Not necessarily.

Senator Playford - There would have to be a special Act if the State objected.

Senator MULCAHY - Yes, if the State objected ; but what reason is there for supposing that the State would object if a piece of the National Park were absolutely necessary to the Commonwealth?

Senator Findley - The amendment shows that Senator Mulcahy evidently presupposes such a contingency.

Senator MULCAHY - I do not presuppose such a contingency arising in the absence of substantial grounds. I know that Commonwealth Ministers, whether they be in Melbourne or at the future Capital, must be advised by their officers in various parts of Australia ; and my desire is to let those officers know that a check is imposed upon them. Under such circumstances, I believe the officers would seek for lands the acquisition of which would not involve any infringement of the public rights.

Senator Playford - Does the honorable senator not think that if the Government tried to infringe the public rights the question would soon be brought before the notice of Parliament?

Senator Lt.-Col.GOULD (New South Wales) [5.14]. - It is assumed by a good many honorable senators that, because the Commonwealth Parliament has control of the Defence and other great Departments, there should be the fullest possible means of acquiring lands which may be deemed necessary. We may concede all that; but I should like to quote the case of Svdney as an illustration affording some light on the other side. In. Sydney there is the Centennial Park, which for many years has been dedicated to public recreation, and is used and highly appreciated by thousands of people. The Defence Department might consider that a portion of the Centennial Park would be very convenient as a drill ground, or as a site for drill sheds.

Senator McGregor - It would cost thousands of pounds to level the Park.

Senator Lt Col GOULD .- Considerable sums have been spent in making many portions of the Park level ; and it is not quite an impossible contingency that the Commonwealth Government may desire to acquire a portion of it for defence purposes. If the State Parliament were opposed to any alienation, the Commonwealth Government could, under the provisions of this Bill, declare their intention to take the land, and to run the risk of any trouble that might subsequently arise in the Commonwealth Parliament. In the Commonwealth Parliament there are members who represent States far removed from New South Wales, and who are not seized, as members from that particular State are, with the importance of this Park ito the public. ' Under such circumstances, the Government might, under the protection of Parliament, do an act which would really be ruth/ess to an individual State, and by that means a conflict might be brought about between the State and the Federal authorities. Let us take another joint of view, and ask ourselves whether there is any more reason to believe that a State would object to give up land which was necessary for defence purposes, than that the State would object if the defence were still under its own jurisdiction?

Senator Findley - Would the honorable senator's line of reasoning not equally apply to the States when thev acquire land?

Senator Lt Col GOULD - No; each State has a separate Parliament, and if, in the opinion of the majority of members, anything wrong was done, the Government could be brought to book. The Commonwealth Government would not be amenable to the same tribunal as the State Government. The State Government would alwys be anxious to do everything possible for defence purposes, but they would have very intimate knowledge which might enable them to prevent the acquisition of land by the Commonwealth,, the parting with which might inflict an injury upon the State, which would not be compensated for by the advantage which its acquisition would be to the Commonwealth. For instance, if it were proposed to resume land near Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart, or Adelaide, for defence purposes, it would have to be remembered that it would be necessary not only for the defence of the Commonwealth, but for the defence of the particular city or port, and the acquisition of such land would be a matter of very great moment to the residents of the city concerned, who would probably be in the best position to decide on the wisest course to be adopted. They would be in closer touch with the matter, and under the amendment a means would be afforded to ascertain whether the State Government were willing to permit the acquisition of the land by the Commonwealth without allowing the Commonwealth Government to ride over them roughshod. We have here to deal with States Governments having rights over the Crown lands of the States and a Commonwealth Parliament having power to resume certain of those lands for public purposes. We do not desire to bring about any conflict between the two different authorities. These matters should be dealt with, if possible, in an amicable way. But

Senator Findley - The honorable senator does not believe that the Commonwealth would be arbitrary or aggressive?

Senator Lt Col GOULD .- I admit that the Commonwealth authorities might not desire to be so, but their action might be so regarded by the authorities of a State. We should not run that risk. I think that the amendment proposed is, therefore, reasonable, and should be accepted by the Committee. We must assume that a State Executive will be composed of reasonable men, just as we assume that the Commonwealth Executive will be composed of such men. Although the authorities of a State might, in the first instance, be disinclined to permit the resumption of certain lands, if they are shown that the resumption is absolutely necessary, and that there is no other piece of land equally suitable, they will naturally give way;

Senator Findley - Who is to judge that the Commonwealth Government cannot obtain another piece of land equally suitable ?

Senator Lt Col GOULD - I am contending that the Executive of a State should receive just as much credit for being reasonable as should the Executive of the Commonwealth, and just as much credit for being interested 'in seeing that all that is necessary for public purposes is given effect to. If the Executive of a State is unreasonable, the Commonwealth will continue to hold the supreme power of compulsory acquisition, but I say that we have no right to assume that the authorities of a State will not act reasonably.

Senator Findley - We have had no evidence that they will in connexion with the Federal Capital Site.

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