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Wednesday, 25 July 1906

Senator PEARCE (Western Australia) . - We have often to complain that the Federal Parliament is subjected to criticism of a parochial character by persons outside, but, in this instance, the arguments they use are being repeated in this Chamber. It is being contended that in these matters we can trust the States Parliaments, but that we cannot trust the Commonwealth Parliament.

Senator Millen - There is no question of trusting this Parliament, because the alternative would be to bring down a special! measure which this Parliament must approve.

Senator PEARCE - Senator Millenis aware that in most cases that remedy would le found1 to be impracticable, and certainly by the time a measure would be passed the urgency of the action proposed might have passed away. The arguments which have been used by Senator Guthrie are destructive of the position he took up, because he showed that a State Parliament, which he desires should be arbiter in these matters, had abused its powers in a most unwarrantable manner. The Federal Parliament has possessed" this power for some years', and the honorable senator brought forward no case in which there has been any abuse. Yet he proposes to transfer the power from this Parliament to the States Parliaments, which he says have repeatedly abused it. I remind honorable senators that the Commonwealth has only three Departments which are likely to require land for public purposes, whilst in the States there are many Government Departments requiring land. The States Governments are therefore verv much more likely to trench upon the; rights of private citizens than is the Commonwealth Government. The obligation to defend the Commonwealth is thrown upon the Federal Parliament, and in carrying out that obligation it may become necessary that we should take land which, in the opinion of people in the particular locality, might be usefully devoted to other purposes. The people of Australia have imposed upon us the obligation of carrying out the defence of the Commonwealth, and in doing so our power should not come in conflict with that of a local authority in connexion Avith the acquisition of a piece of land. The amendment proposes that we should hand over the right to deal with that piece of land to a State Parliament, which has no obligation or responsibility in connexion with the defence of the Commonwealth. It is clear that the position taken up by Senator Guthrie is untenable, and I am surprised that any honorable senators should in this matter propose to put the States Parliament in a position superior to that of the Federal Parliament.

Senator Millen - We do not propose to do so, but that, failing an agreement between a State authority and the Federal Government, we should legislate by a special Act>

Senator PEARCE - Senator Trenwith pointed out that there might be influences at work which would make a State Government unwilling to move in these matters. Local influences might have considerable weight with a State Government, and whilst thev might recognise the necessity for the acquisition bv the Commonwealth of a certain piece of land, thev might be loth to give their consent lest by doing so they should come into conflict with local interests. In some instances the States Governments delegate their powers, as in the management of railways, to Commissioners. I am not sure, but I believe that in such cases the Commissioners are given control over the lands on which the railways are constructed.

Senator Trenwith - They are practically the property of the Commissioners.

Senator Staniforth Smith - There was great difficulty experienced in Kalgoorlie in getting land for a bonded store from the Railway Commissioner in Western Australia.

Senator PEARCE - I know of another case of the kind at Fremantle. The Railways Commissioner was in possession of certain tend eminently suitable for a Customs House, and though the land might not actually be put to any use, if the State Government in such a case were applied to. they would refer the Federal Government to the Railways Commissioner. He would look at the Question from the point of view of the manager of the railways, and though, the land might be required for purposes of defence, he would consider the possibility qf its being required for railway purposes, probably at some far-distant time. Honorable senators must see that ulti mately in these instances the States Governments would not have the settlement of the question at all. All these objections can be urged to the amendment, and surely in this matter the Federal Parliament can be trusted to see that no injustice, which can be avoided, is done to local interests.

Sitting suspended, from 6.34. to 7-4-5 p.m.

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