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Wednesday, 25 July 1906

Senator KEATING (Tasmania) (Honorary Minister) . - I hardly think that, in adopting the role of prophet, as Senator Gould did in his concluding remarks, he was justified by anything that has taken place within the last five years.

The Commonwealth has power under the Property for Public Purposes Acquisition Act to acquire lands, whether dedicated or not, either by agreement or compulsorily. So far as I know, there has been no case since the Commonwealth was instituted where friction has been caused, nor do I think there is any ground for apprehension as to the Commonwealth pursuing any different policy in the future. But we must have this reserve power.

Senator Mulcahy - This is a power .to acquire land at all times ; it is not merely to apply to emergency occupation.

Senator KEATING - We must have a reserve power for compulsory acquisition in respect of all land, whether belonging to an individual or to a State, or whether controlled by a Government, a municipality, or any other body. One reason which I think will appeal to Senator Mulcahy is that, if we have what may be termed a divided authority, it will be considerably to the disadvantage of the Commonwealth. We will assume the case of a park which has been dedicated to the public for recreation purposes. Suppose that the Commonwealth desires to acquire a portion of that land. Under existing circumstances, the Government would go to the persons who hold the title to the land, and negotiate with them for its acquisition. If the negotiation failed, we could exercise our compulsory powers. But if this amendment were carried the Commonwealth would have to go, in the first instance, to the State Government. The State Government would naturally consult the local governing, body, or other1 authority, in which the land was vested. That authority would not unnaturally be inclined to say, " We have no power to part with this land ; if you like, as a State Government, you can do it " ; or the controlling authority might say that it was absolutely disinclined to dispose of any portion of the property. Then the State Government would be left in a most unenviable position. On the one hand, it would have the Commonwealth Government saying that it must have this land for public purposes, and on the other hand, it would have a local authority in conformity with a not uninfluential body of public opinion influencing it in an entirely different direction. Any State Government would rather that the local municipal council, or other body in whom the land was vested, should take the responsibility. I am certain that if Senator Mulcahy were a State Minister of

Lands, as he has been, and a question of this kind came before him, he would prefer that the case should be settled by the local authority.

Senator Mulcahy - I should not care at all.

Senator KEATING - I do not think that any State Government would be obliged to us for saddling it with such a responsibility.

Senator Mulcahy - What is the State Government there for?

Senator KEATING - It would not be a pleasant thing for the State Government to stand between the Commonwealth Government and the local authority in a case like this.

Senator Mulcahy - It should take the responsibility and protect public rights.

Senator KEATING - If we set up a divided authority we shall find that the Commonwealth will be unable in very many instances to come to a satisfactory arrangement with regard to the acquisition of land. Naturally a State Government will not like to run counter to the express wish of a local governing authority controlling land which has been dedicated for public recreation purposes. I do not for a moment wish it to be supposed that it would be the desire of the Commonwealth Government to resume dedicated land for public purposes whenever it was at all possible to obtain other land that was equally suitable. There exists in all the States of Australia a very strong respect for the rights of the citizens in the enjoyment of public lands. Naturally a Government would not desire to run counter to that feeling. On the contrary, the desire of Governments has always been, so far as I am aware, to try to avoid taking land of this character for public purposes. It will be remembered, for instance, that some years ago it was suggested in Svdney that a portion of Hyde Park should be appropriated for a railway station. Honorable senators probably recollect that the very suggestion evoked a storm of opposition. I doubt very much if such a course was ever seriously contemplated bv any Government, or if it were, would be persevered with. The general spirit in every State of Australia is directly in favour of preserving such lands for the people. That is the feeling that I believe will always exist in this community, and every Government, Common wealth or State, will be bound to pay the utmost respect to it.

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