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Friday, 27 July 1906

Senator KEATING (Tasmania) (Honorary Minister) . - The alternative suggested! by Senator Millen is, I think, surrounded with a certain amount of difficulty. In estimating the compensation to be paid we propose to consider the value of the land acquired for public purposes, the damage sustained by the owner as the result of the severance of his land, and, thirdly, the enhancement in value of the other land held by ihe same proprietor, which is, of course, set against the other considerations in determining the amount of compensation to be paid. That is the principle adopted not only in the existing Act, but also, I think, io some of the States Acts. If my recollection serves me .rightly, it is the principle adopted in Tasmania, in connexion with the resumption of land, if not for general public purposes at least for the construction of railways. Senator Millen points out that, although the balance of the land retained bv an individual from whom a portion of his land is acquired under this Bill may be enhanced in value by the construction of the public work, the value of the lands in the vicinity in the possession of other persons from whom no land has, been acquired! bv the Commonwealth may also be enhanced in value in the same way. The honorable senator suggests that the question of betterment .shall be determined, not only in relation to the particular individua.1. a portion of whose land is acquired, but in relation also to every owner of land whose property is enhanced in value bv the construction of the public work. I doubt very much whether we could do what the honorable senator proposes in this Bill. We have power under the Constitution to make laws with respect to -

The acquisition of property on just terms from any State or person for any purpose in respect of which the Parliament has power to make laws.

It might be open to question that what the honorable senator suggests would be just terms. It isverydoubtful whether it is within our power in such a measure as this to impose any conditionson persons other than those from whom we acquire property. Tor instance, A, B, C, and D are adjoining owners, of land, and for the purpose of the illustration I assume that the value of the land owned by each is£1,000. Under this Bill we take a portion of A's land, valued at£250, and the improvement in value of the rest of his land due to the construction of the public work is estimated at£150.In estimating the amount of compensation we shall pay him for the land we take we must take into consideration the extent to which the land he retains is enhanced in value by the construction of the public work, and we deduct that from the value of the land taken, to which, of course, there is added the value of the damage occasionedby the severance of the land. No land is taken from B, C, or D, although the construction of the public work enhances the value of their property. Senator Millen suggests that we should not deduct from the compensation paid to A any amount in respect of the enhancement in value of the remainder of his property, since we do not propose to do the same to meet the enhancement in value of the properties held by adjacent land-holders. I do not know that we should hesitate in the matter.It might be that, in the case I have suggested, under this measure, A- will be placed in a less fortunate position than his neighbours, but are we to say that we shall not give ourselves credit in the individual transaction with which we have the power to deal for the additional value which the construction of the public work will give to the balance of the land held by the person from whom we take the land? I doubt very much whether we have the power to go beyond that individual and impose conditions on third or fourth parties-

Senator Millen - Not under our powers of taxation?

Senator KEATING - We might do so under our powers of taxation, but I am dealing with the powers we propose to exercise under this Bill. We are here proposing the acquisition of land from States and persons on just terms, and when we are dealing, with an individual owner the terms must, I think,apply to that owner alone. I think we cannot make the terms applicable to third parties.

Senator Dobson - That is a State matter.

Senator KEATING - Or it might be a matter of general Federal legislation with regard to direct taxation. I do not know that Senator Millen would favour legislation of that character. At present we are concerned merely with the purposes of this Bill. I say that we should not go by this particular clause, and wait until some systematic legislation is passed in regard to betterment generally, but that in this measure we should apply the betterment principle in every transaction with individuals where the effect of a public work is to enhance the value of land retained by them. I think that is a fair and reasonable principle, and it has certainly been acted upon in the past by some of the States in connexion with acquisition of land for railway purposes.

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