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Wednesday, 25 July 1906

Senator BEST (Victoria) . - I desire to say only a few words, because I spoke on the original amendment, the principle of which is practically the same as that of the proposal now before us. The amendment which the honorable senator has now submitted really carries him no further, except in a limited number of cases. No doubt this is the more comprehensive amendment; and the intention of the honorable senator now is that there shall be a direct dealing with trustees or other owners of parks or reserves dedicated to public purposes, and an agreement entered into with them. Taking Victoria as an illustration, I may say that the Crown grants of the various reserves are dedicated, in some cases, to the municipalities, and in others to municipalities and the Board of Land and Works, while lands have also been acquired by purchase or gift. The powers of the trustees are contained for the most part within the four corners of the grant, though, in other cases, they are assisted to some extent by Act of Parliament. But I do not suppose there is a grant in existence in Victoria of public lands for recreation purposes which permits the trustees to enter into any such agreement as is proposed. Senator Dawson. - With the consent of the State.

Senator BEST - The consent of the State is quite immaterial. Of course, if a State chooses to put that consent into an Act of Parliament, it is another matter; but it is absurd to suppose such a contingency.

Senator Lt Col Gould - The matter could be dealt with by the State Executive.

Senator BEST - No.

Senator Millen - I take the honorable senator's point to be that, under the terms of the grant, the trustees in such cases would not be empowered to enter into an agreement for the sale or disposal of the land. But surely the Bill would give the Commonwealth power to take the land; and, to that extent, would empower the trustees to make an agreement?

Senator BEST - It is proposed to put a distinct curb and limit on the powers of the Commonwealth; and that is what I, protest against.

Senator Mulcahy - We have passed clause 6.

Senator BEST - That clause does not affect the amendment, but simply provides that the Governor of a State may enter into agreement with the Governor-General with regard to the grant of Crown land. As I say, it is proposed to put a distinct limit on our powers. If the amendment be carried, there will be no power for the compulsory resumption of recreation reserves. We have now to see what power there would be to make an agreement for handing over a recreation reserve to the Commonwealth Government. As a matter of fact, any power would be within the four corners of the Crown grant, or, at most, there might be some assisting power in the Land Act of the particular State. But there would be no power which would permit what is proposed; and, consequently, Senator Mulcahy will see that by carrying his amendment, he would not be one small step forward1 towards the object he has in view. Of course, it is unfair to apply destructive criticism to a rapidly-conceived amendment. All we can do in fairness to Senator Mulcahy is to suggest that if we desire to vote on the principle we might do so in reference to some preliminary words, and not on the actual amendment itself. The result of the vote could then be taken as an instruction to the Ministry to see that the intention of the majority of honorable senators was expressed in proper verbiage, and the necessary machinery provided for carrying it into effect.

Senator Trenwith - AH the arguments have been directed against the principle.

Senator BEST - I have already dealt with the principle, which I oppose as altogether wrong, and in derogation of the terms of the Constitution. I am now pointing out that, even if the amendment were carried by both Houses, Senator Mulcahy would not be one step forward, because the provision would have no validity, and the proposal is quite impracticable.

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