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Thursday, 8 August 1912

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) . - I wish to give a general support to the Ordinance, whilst, at the same time, I have to say, incidentally, that it brings before us a difficulty which I have mentioned previously. I hope the day is not far distant when we shall legislate directly for the important Territory which we have in the north, and the development of which is of great importance, not only to Australia, but to the Empire. I hope, also, that we shall have a Minister appointed to administer the Territory who will spend a fair proportion of his time there, and be responsible for legislation submitted to Parliament for its purposes.

Senator Guthrie - We want a Minister for Papua, too.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - We have quite enough to do with the Northern Territory at present. The reason why I give a general support to the Ordinance is that I believe .it represents a genuine attempt on the part of the Government to deal with probably the largest problem facing Australia to-day. Though there seems to be a contradiction in terms in using the words " perpetual lease," still we have the same difficulty with regard to freehold.

Senator Millen - - The alternative is a terminable lease.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I admit that. The limitations of the term are clear; but a man in possession of a freehold, so-called, may find that his propertyis compulsorily resumed by a State for public purposes. The term may not be quite correct technically, but it is, nevertheless, expressive of the underlying intention of the Ordinance, that a perpetual lease may be given, subject to certain modifications. It might be correct to describe what is intended in such terms as those, but they would be rather cumbersome. Senator Givens has expressed a fear that under the Ordinance the Territory will be secured in very large sections by a few individuals.

Senator Millen - One-third of the Territory is now in the hands of 256 people.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I admit that ; but those people secured their holdings before a Labour Government came into power.

Senator Millen - Does the honorable senator want to add to that state of things ?

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - No, I do not. If I thought that the Ordinance would add to that difficulty, I would not support it. Senator Givens was fearful lest the old difficulty of permitting a few individuals to secure rights over a very large portion of the Territory would be increased.

Senator Fraser - Senator Givens knows a good deal about the subject.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I am glad that Senator Fraser has so far modified his views that he now recognises Senator Givens as his leader. I congratulate Senator Givens on the conversion he has made, and wish well to his new party. I take it that the purpose of the Government is not to object to one person using a large area of land. Personally, I have no objection to that.

Senator Fraser - It is better for twenty men to hold a large area than one man.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Certainly ; but can we get twenty men to go' upon country which is held by one man in that Territory to-day ? The object of the Government is to apply the lands of the Northern Territory to the fullest possible use, and to have it occupied by the largest population they can induce to go there ; but it is evident that for some years we shall have only a small population there. If the community does not want to use the land that is available, what objection can there be to a few individuals using a large proportion of it until such time as it is wanted by a larger number?

Senator Givens - Can the honorable senator say that the community will not want it in a few years' time?

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I have looked through the Ordinance to see whether there is any justification for the fears of Senator Givens, and I fail to see that there is. It seems to me that the resumption provisions are all right, as long as they are honestly administered. We are trying to induce settlers to go to the Territory. Suppose that a man takes up land there, and becomes a cattle king. Suppose that there is an important mineral development in the middle of his run. A second Broken Hill might be discovered. A large portion of his land would be immediately required for township purposes. A city might grow up. It would then be the duty of the Government to resume the area. It might be necessary to compensate the man and to get rid of his stock at once. It would be possible to get rid of him on giving two years' notice.

Senator Pearce - For a town site we could give three months' notice.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I take the requirement as to giving notice to be a guarantee that the lessee will get an honest deal. That brings me to the matter of resumption. It seems to me that there is full power to resume at any time.

Senator Millen - The question comes to this : Why grant to-day what you may have to resume later on, and for which you will then have to pay ?

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - A block of land may be gold-bearing.

Senator Millen - Let me suggest a more normal position. A block of land may be occupied to-day in a large area for pastoral purposes, and may be required for pastoral purposes in smaller areas in forty years' time.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Under the Ordinance two years' notice and compensation are provided for. I should say it would have been a glorious thing for Victoria, and no doubt for all the other States, if in the past the different State Governments had had power to resume pastoral areas on such conditions as are here provided for.

Senator Millen - We have the power, but we have to pay for it.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Certainly. We, as a party, in assenting to this Ordinance, guarantee reasonable compensation, but we do not propose to pay for improvements made by the public "or for any enhancement of value due to public expenditure in the construction of railways and other public works. We propose to pay compensation for all improvements made by the lessee himself.

Senator Rae - The Ordinance provides for more than that.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - As a party we have always stood for honest compensation, but we have been accused, not only iri this Parliament, but on every public platform in every town and hamlet in Australia, of desiring to confiscate property.

Senator Millen - To show that they are honest, the Government propose to give away to-day what they have no right to give away, in order that they may buy it back again later.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Surely the Leader of the Opposition is sitting on the wrong side of the Chamber?

Senator Millen - Quite right; I should be on the other side.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - The only reason why the honorable senator is not on the other side is that when he was given a trial he was found wanting by the public. Senator Rae. - If we give more than fair compensation, we must take it away again, and that will be considered confiscation.

Senator Fraser - Hear, Hear !

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Here we have Senator Fraser cheering a statement by Senator Rae. Certainly no one ever suspected Senator Fraser of desiring to rob a man of his land and the improvements he may have put upon it. The honorable senator has always been associated with a party who, whenever they resumed land for public purposes, not only gave the holders fair compensation, but robbed the public purse to give them more than they were entitled to. In this State we have had Ministers hounded down because they would not grant certain people the compensation they claimed.

Senator Millen - That should be a warning to the honorable senator. He is proposing to grant now what should not be granted, and he may be hounded down.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - What is it that we are granting under this Ordinance?

Senator Rae - We are granting, in addition to compensation for improvements, compensation for increased value due to public expenditure.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I have always suspected Senator Rae of a desire to keep a close grip upon compensation, and I prefer to learn from Senator Millen, who is inclined to be more generous in such matters, exactly what it is that we propose to give away under this Ordinance.

Senator Millen - It is proposed to give a perpetual lease, with the certain knowledge that sooner, or later some of the land which is leased in that way will have to be resumed.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Certainly, and I am prepared to do that. If I understood Senator Millen rightly, he quarrelled with the use of the term "perpetual lease" in this Ordinance, because provision is made for certain modifications of the terms of the lease. I have described it as a perpetual lease, subject to certain modifications. If Senator Millen does not believe that this Ordinance contains a provision for perpetual leaseholds

Senator Millen - My objection is that it does contain such a provision. Is not that plain enough?

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I understood the honorable senator to say that what was proposed was not a perpetual lease, because of the provisions for resumption and variation of terms.

Senator Millen - I object to the granting of perpetual leases of land which will have to be resumed at the public expense later on.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - The problem before us is to make the Northern Territory sufficiently attractive to induce a large population to settle there.

Senator Millen - Forty-two years' leases have been sufficiently attractive to secure the occupation of one-third of the Territory.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - The honorable senator will not contend that the area to which he refers is occupied in the sense we desire.

Senator Givens - It is as effectively occupied as it will be under this Ordinance.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I might refer to a remarkable thing in favour of the leasehold principle. The South Australian Government tried to bring about settlement in the Northern Territory by every possible means

Senator Millen - Including perpetual leases, let me remind the honorable senator.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - By every possible method, even that of giving land away. The result has been that some 473,000 acres have been alienated at about 7s. per acre.

Senator Vardon - Out of how many million acres?

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - On the other hand, the leasehold system has been so approved in the Northern Territory by some of the keenest men engaged in the cattle-raising business that they have taken up land under that principle to the extent of 103,000,000 acres.

Senator Millen - If terminable leases have been sufficiently attractive for these keen men to induce them to occupy so large an area, why should they not be sufficiently attractive to induce other men to take up the balance of the Territory?

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Men will not take up land merely because it is land. Accessibility to a market, permanence of water supply, and other things have to be considered.

Senator Givens - It would be better to make the country accessible than to give perpetual leases for huge areas of it.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - If Senator Givens had a perpetual lease of a property and woke up to-morrow morning to learn that his landlord, whether a private individual or a State, was giving him two years' notice of his intention to resume, and would be prepared to pay him for the improvements he had made in the planting of a few flowers or cabbages, he would be one of the first to claim more compensation, and to say that he was not getting a fair deal. Yet those are exactly the conditions provided for in this Ordinance.

Senator Millen - No; the Government propose to pay for more than the cabbages.

Senator Givens - Let the honorable senator read sub-clause 9 of clause 35.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - It reads as follows-

The lessee shall also be entitled to be paid compensation for any depreciation in the value of the lease by reason of any resumption, such compensation to be determined in the same manner as compensation for improvements.

What is there unfair about that?

Senator Rae - Does the honorable senator justify the settlement of the Territory by giving 2,000,000 acres of land to one man?

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I am prepared, on the resumption of a freehold or a leasehold, to pay the holder compensation for all improvements he has himself placed upon the land. I take it that, under this Ordinance, he would not get any compensation because of any increase added to the value of the land by public expenditure.

Senator Millen - Let the honorable senator show the prohibition against it.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I cannot put my finger on the provision at the moment, but I will affirm that there are certain limitations to compensation provided for in this Ordinance.

Senator Millen - There is one.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - The principal one is that compensation shall not be paid for any enhancement of the value of the lease by the expenditure of public money.

Senator Rae - No; but other communitycreated values are to be allowed for.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - It is strange to find Senators Millen, Givens, and Rae in agreement. Are they fearful that the Government will dip their hands into the public purse to compensate lessees on too generous a scale?

Senator Millen - I am trying to point out the absurdity of paying any compensation at all. We should not grant leases to-day which we may have to resume tomorrow.

Senator Givens - We might just as well grant freeholds if we are to pay compensation on resumption in the way proposed.

Senator Findley - Senator Millen might be asked for the same reason why he would grant a lease of forty-two years?

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Senator Millenmay have been guilty of remissness in the past, but I hope that in future, when any member of the party accuses the Labour party of being confiscators, he will call him to order for making a statement which is unfair and untrue.

Senator Millen - It is possible to confiscate in certain instances, and to act foolishly in others, as the honorable senator is doing in this case.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I do not think I can be said to be the only one who is acting foolishly in this case. We want population for the Northern Territory.

Senator Rae - By giving one man 2,000,000 acres of land, we shall get a lot.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - We need to offer incentives to people to go to the Northern Territory. I hope and believe that the inducements offered under this Ordinance will be sufficient to attract a large population to the Territory, and that there will be a land scramble in the anxiety which people will display to establish homes there. We shall preserve the right of the community to the unearned increment of land there, and the people will be the gainers thereby. I do not know whether I shall be in order under your ruling, sir, but I wish -to indicate the possibilities of the leasehold system through the expenditure of public money and the settlement of a large population. To do so, I propose to quote the unimproved land values of New South Wales. Taking the municipal valuations, so far as they have gone, I find that the total unimproved value of land in New South Wales is ^156, 000,000. In Sydney, the unimproved value of land per head is .£158 ; in the suburbs of Sydney, ^49; and in the metropolis, as a whole, ^72 per head. In the country municipalities it is ^43 per head; in the shires, ^148 per head ; in the Western Division, the valuation, which I understand is only an estimate, is put down at ^492 per head. Now as to the valuation per acre. The unimproved value of land in Sydney is ^6,002 per acre; in the suburbs, ^225 per acre, which I consider a very low valuation ; and for the metropolis as a whole, .£456 per acre. Under this Ordinance there is more than a reasonable hope that this unearned increment, instead "of going into the pockets of the private land speculator, will go into the coffers of the Commonwealth Treasury.

Senator Givens - Only a small portion of it. Let the honorable senator read the Ordinance, and see for himself.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - It is a question of interpretation. However, I am more particular 'about securing the rights in the town blocks or mining centres, which I hope to see developed in the back country, because I realize that population is the cause of the unearned increment. In the country municipalities in New South Wales it is ;£io 17s. 4d. per acre, in shires 14s.. 4d., and in the western division 2s. 6d. That is an indication that the unearned increment in that State has grown far and away beyond the dreams of any of the earlier settlers. As we are about to settle the Northern Territory on a different basis, namely, that the unearned increment shall go directly to the coffers of the State, it is a big experiment. However we may differ as to details, 1 think that at this stage we can congratulate the Government upon having had the courage to put into operation a system which I believe will operate to the great advantage of the Commonwealth in the future, and also promote settlement.

Senator St Ledger - This experiment has been tried thousands of times in history and has failed.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - 1 ask the honorable senator to mention a clear case, more particularly in modern times, where a whole State has gone in for a system of leasehold as the Commonwealth has done in this Ordinance.

Senator St Ledger - I would take up your challenge, if I could.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I hope that as we ale entering upon an experiment, which is almost equivalent to the nationalization of the land in the Northern Territory, the administration will be sympathetic. I do not think that the Commonwealth, or its people, desire to do an injustice to any man. I hope that the individual case will be considered whatever may be the development ot the Territory, and that the whole idea at the back of die administration will be to attract population, to get the land settled, to do justice to every settler, and, at the same- time, to preserve the right of the Commonwealth to the unearned increment which the community, and the community alone, creates.

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