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Wednesday, 25 July 1906

Senator KEATING (Tasmania) (Honorary Minister) . - I have listened with a good deal of interest and attention to the different speakers. There is one thing to which it seems to me no supporter of the amendment has directed his attention. At the present time we have the power of resuming compulsorily. if necessary any properties such as those which are referred to in the amendment. That power has been in existence ever since the Property for Public Purposes Acquisition Act was passed in 1901. I do not know that a single case has been giver, or even hinted at, where it has been exercised unjustly or abused. Then., again, each State has the absolute right to resume property for public purposes, whether it be dedicated tosuch uses as those indicated in this amendment or not. The amendment seeks to; differehtiate the Commonwealth, as a sovereign power from exercising corresponding rights to those of the States. In other words, although each State can within its own sphere resume property compulsorily for public purposes, whether it be dedicated for the health or recreation of its citizens in any part or not, it is now sought to impose an express statutory limit upon the Commonwealth. I ask honorable senators who support the amendment, why thev draw this glaring distinction between the States and the Commonwealth. Not a single reason has been advanced to support the proposal.

Senator Drake - We do not draw a distinction !

Senator KEATING - Undoubtedly, my honorable friends do. Most decidedly this power exists in all the States in Great Britain and in all: civilized communities.

Senator Fraser - By an Act of Parliament only we can repeal many dedications.

Senator KEATING - My honorable friend knows that the Commonwealth possesses the power to resume these lands compulsorily, and that if we were to exercise the power, all the dedications and reservations applicable to any areas would cease to have any effect. Has that power been abused so far? If a single instance of that kind had been cited, I admit that there might be some_ weight of argument behind the amendment. Or, if there had been advanced a single reason why. we should take up a totally different position from that taken up bv any of the States, there might be some weight behind the argument. But everything points, not to the possibility, but to the probability, remote even in the minds of those who suggest it, that the power might be wantonly used to the prejudice of persons in different parts of the Commonwealth who are at present enjoying the benefit of recreation and health reserves.

Senator Mulcahy - It might not bewantonly used by the Government, but they might be misled1 by their officers.

Senator Trenwith - The same objection would apply in every instance to the action of a State Government.

Senator KEATING - Experience has shown it to be a remote contingency so far asthe Commonwealth is concerned.

Senator Mulcahy - My experience has shown the very opposite.

Senator KEATING - Not so far as the Commonwealth is concerned.

Senator Mulcahy - Yes ; so far as military officers are concerned.

Senator KEATING - In order to provide against that remote contingency, we are asked to exempt one class of land from the exercise of the power of the Commonwealth to resume property for public purposes. This is a serious amendment'. It is a most radical departure from the principles of similar legislation in all the States and in ithe United Kingdom. I ask why honorable senators should single out the Commonwealth and the Government in power to-day.

Senator Drake - Oh, no.

Senator KEATING - My honorable friend was Vice-President of the Executive Council when the present Act was being considered here, and if I remember aright, he did not suggest for a moment that it was desirable to impose any limitation upon the power of the Commonwealth to resume dedicated land. Why should there be this change of front on his part? Why should a limitation be sought to be placed upon the Commonwealth when the present Government are in power? Isthe amendment proposed in relation to the present Government? I hope not.

Senator Fraser - Because the Commonwealth cannot be so well posted as is a State in regard to State land.

Senator KEATING - The Commonwealth would take every precaution that it did not interfere with the lands of a State unnecessarily.

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