Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Thursday, 9 August 1906

Senator KEATING (Tasmania) (Honorary Minister) . - I move -

That the words "Lands Acquisition" be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words " Eminent Domain."

I wish to adhere as closely as I can to what I indicated just now would be my course. When the Bill was brought into the Senate the short title was Eminent Domain Act. That title was canvassed on the second reading, and in Committee it was moved by Senator Symon that the words " Eminent Domain " be struck out, and " Lands Acquisition " substituted. The arguments both for and against were set forth, and I need not repeat them. " Eminent Domain " is a term which aptly and correctly expresses the sovereign right of a politically organized society to resume for public; purposes the property of individuals.

Senator Fraser - Ninety-nine men out of every one hundred would not understand it.

Senator KEATING - There is a term that we use in connexion with our legislation, and that is used in the ordinary journals of the day, to which the same objection might have been taken a few years ago. I refer to the word "betterment." When that word was first used in legislation the same argument was applied to it - that it was a novelty which some people would not understand.

Senator Lt Col Gould - There was a strong reason for adopting that term - that it was explanatory ; but " Eminent Domain " is not.

Senator KEATING - It is a term known in law as expressing the idea I have already referred to.

Senator Walker - Is it not an Americanism ?

Senator KEATING - No, it is not. The fact that the American people have used it does not give them a monopoly in it. Moreover, it is creditable that they should have adopted so expressive a term.

Senator Lt Col Gould - We shall. have people asking where the Eminent Domain is.

Senator KEATING - Some people will always ask foolish questions. I saw it reported of a person who attended a meeting in Sydney that, when reference was made to an " absentee tax," he said that he was "opposed to a tax on tea of any kind." Persons who are capable of mis understandings of that kind are the sort of people who would ask where the Eminent Domain was.

Senator Sir JOSIAHSYMON (South Australia) [5.50]. - I do not propose to occupy the attention of the Committee upon this question for more than a few seconds. I should have been glad to have it decided without coming to Committee again, but I quite recognise that honorable senators desired to afford . an opportunity for reconsideration. The present title of the Bill is " The Lands Acquisition Act." Does that describe this Bill, its purpose, and its intention ? Undoubtedly it does. Is it plain to the man in the street, who is affected by this measure? Undoubtedly it is. Is it- plain to lawyers who have to advise upon this measure? Undoubtedly it is. Does it correspond with the title of the Act that is now upon the statute-book, and which we propose to repeal? Undoubtedly it does. The man who wants to see what the law of the Commonwealth is with respect to the acquisition of land for certain purposes looks into the index of the Statutes, and sees there "Lands Acquisition Act 1901-2." If he wants to ascertain whether there has been any repeal, he looks down the list of Acts subsequently passed. He finds no mention of an Act repealing the Act of 1901-2. He does not know what " Eminent Domain " is. I say, as I have said before, that ninety-nine out of one hundred persons, even amongst the lawyers of Australia, would not know what " Eminent Domain " meant in connexion with legislation of this kind. I suppose that I have had as much experience as most lawyers, but I confess that I should not know that it was intended under this fancy expression to provide merely for the acquisition of lands for public purposes. I say, without hesitation or fear of contradiction by any lawyer in Australia, that, off-hand, lawyers would not know that an Act called the " Eminent Domain Act" was simply to enable the Commonwealth to acquire land for public purposes. The important use of a short title is to indicate the nature of the Act to Which it relates. You can, of course, use any fancy name you like. But that is not a sensible thing to do. It is desirable to use a title which will indicate to the people what the object of the measure is. It is for that reason, and not because I am opposed to the use of picturesque names, that I object to the title originally given to this Bill. We should use a title whose meaning will be apparent at once to any person who wants to know what the powers of the Commonwealth are with respect to this matter. My honorable friend, Senator Keating, has raised no objection to the title of "Lands Acquisition." It is not possible to object to it. It is the one title which exactly describes this measure. If my honorable friend had' shown that it was misleading or inaccurate, or might confuse people, we might have been with him. But he has given no reason. The title of the Bill now is "Lands Acquisition," and I trust that honorable senators will not agree to strike it out.

Suggest corrections