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Friday, 27 July 1906

Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) . - The Minister naturally takes an extreme case to suit his argument.

Senator Keating - Extreme cases generally afford the best illustration pf the effect of a provision.

Senator MILLEN - Quite so, and let me put another case to the Minister. The owner of a block of land worth' ^1,000 is, say, one of a group of owners of land in the same locality, each of whom owns- a block of the same value. The Commonwealth resumes one-half his land and for that should pay him ^500. The effect of the public work carried out is to double the value of all the lands within a certain radius of it. Under this provision, in such a case the Commonwealth would take half of the first man's land and would pay him nothing for it, whilst it would make the adjoining owners a present of ^1,000 each.

Senator Findley - The honorable senator is a land taxer, and we shall soon have him on our side.

Senator MILLEN - If a land taxer is one who desires that the Commonwealth should act fairly to those from whom it acquires land, I am a land taxer. Where the Commonwealth steps in. to do anything for the commonweal, it should not throw upon any one individual the sole burden of the operation. It seems to me that it would be far better to omit this provision, and if the Ministry think that the betterment principle is of so much value, they should introduce a separate Bill as they have power to do under the Constitution, to provide that wherever a public work is constructed the betterment principle shall apply to all property, the value of which is enhanced by the construction of the public work, is propose, as is done here, to tax one man and exempt others who are equally benefited by the construction of the public work, is unjust, and is entirely opposed to the principles on which we are supposed to legislate.

Senator Sir JOSIAHSYMON (South Australia) [2.2*8]. - With Senator Keating, I do not see how it would be possible under this Bill to take from owners of land, none of whose land is acquired, the enhancement of value which the carrying out of a public work would give them. A special mode of taxation might be devised which would enable that to be done,, if we were introducing a complete system to give effect to the betterment principle, with which I agree. Where land isimproved in value by the construction of a public work, that increase in value should not go entirely to the owners, but: the whole or some portion of it might very well go to the State. The objection tothis provision, however, is that it introduces, a lopsided kind of betterment under which, where the half of a man's land was taken,, and by the construction of the public work, the balance was improved in value to theextent of the value of the half, he would" be compelled to make a present to the Commonwealth of the land, whilst tenadjacent owners of land, who might have their properties doubled in value, would" escape. That, on the face of it, is unjust. We should not do an injustice by attempting; to introduce a partial betterment system by which one land-owner would have to pav something whilst his neighbourswere benefited at his expense, without contributing anything to the Commonwealth.. A similar provision is contained in the existing Act, but, like many other provisions, it was not sufficiently considered, and it seems to me that it is' not desirable that it should be re-enacted in this Bill.

Senator Findley - The balance of the land held bv the man from whom land is taken, might be enhanced in value to a verv much greater extent than any land held by adjacent owners.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - That might happen, but it might also happen that the construction of the public workmight greatly enhance the value of property belonging to ten different owners of land" in the locality.

Senator Findley - The land taken might be enhanced in value fivefold, and' the other lands not be improved at all.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - It might. On the other hand, it might happen that the land not taken had had itsvalue enhanced fivefold. Yet it is proposed to compel the man whose land has- been taken to present it to the Commonwealth for the benefit of neighbouring owners. I am entirely in favour of the betterment principle, and I am glad that it is being introduced into State laws with regard to State undertakings. But I think it is a bad thing to attempt to introduce it in a one-sided way. It ought to be made equal in its application all round if that can be done. It cannot, however, be done in this Bill. Therefore, I think it is unfair to the man whose land has been taken that he alone should be singled out as the person who is to make a compulsory present to the Commonwealth, simply because his land has been enhanced in value. Then let us take the other side. Suppose that land has been depreciated in value, why should not that be considered ?

Senator Keating - That case would be met bv paragraph b.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - No. Suppose, for instance, that a battery were erected on Jones' land, I should say that if his house were within 100 yard's of the battery, it would mean a very serious depreciation in the value of his land. But it is not proposed to take that into consideration. What I suggest is that it would be much better to eliminate paragraph c, but if not, to insert the words "or depreciation" after the word "enhancement."

Senator Fraser - Depreciation would occur very rarely.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - Why not? _ _

Senator Fraser - If would occur in only a few cases.

Senator Walker - I know cases where it has occurred.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - T think that Senator Fraser is mistaken. In the case of railways it would verv seldom occur, but that is not what the Commonwealth has to deal with. It has to establish batteries for defence purposes, and that would mean a very serious depreciation in the value of a man's land. I am quite sure that my honorable friend would not like a battery or rifle range to be placed within a few hundred yards of his front door. The existing law is limited to the enhancement in value o'f other land adjoining the land taken or severed therefrom. That is a right principle. But it would be a monstrous thing to deduct the enhancement in value of other land which a man might have in a place half-a-mile away. Suppose, for instance, that a railway station were put near a man's land in one place. That land might be enhanced in value; but it would be very unfair to make an assessment of the improvement in the value of . his other land, situated halfamile away, in consequence of the erection of that railway station. I admit that it is a very difficult and complex question, and I think it is a pity that the provision in the existing Acf should be altered. I did not hear what Senator Millen said, but Tor these reasons I am against paragraph c altogether, because of its fragmentary character. If it is to be retained, I shall propose the insertion after the word " enhancement." of the words "or depreciation," and the insertion after the word " land " of the words contained in the present Act, namely, "adjoining the land taken or severed therefrom." If it be part of the same land, then it might be only a fair thing that the enhancement should be taken. If the Committee are agreed that one man is to be singled out to be a sort of scapegoat, and to the advantage it might be of adjacent owners, at an,r rate, it should only relate, as the Act limits it. to land adjoining the land taken or severed therefrom. I move -

That the words " or depreciation " be inserted after the word " enhancement," line 9.

Senator Keating - I do not mind the proposed amendments, but I should not like to see the provision struck out. It does seem to me to be a little wide to say other lands.

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