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Thursday, 31 May 1973
Page: 3022

Mr CALDER (Northern Territory) - I move:

That, in accordance with the provisions of section 12(2) of the Lands Acquisition Act 1955-1966, this House resolves that the notice of the acquisition of land by the Commonwealth in the Hundred of Bagot, County of Palmerston, Northern Territory, for the purpose of the planned development and control of the City of Darwin and its adjacent areas, which appeared in Gazette No. 59 of 24 May 1973, and which was laid before the House on 24 May 1973, shall be void and of no effect.

After the charade earlier this evening by the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), I feel as though I am speaking in an unclean circus tent. I bring before the House a matter concerning people. It concerns the affairs of ordinary everyday people, citizens of Aus tralia, who have a common and real problem. I feel as though the problem has a somewhat similar taint to that which I have mentioned already. I notice that the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren), who is responsible for a lot of this, is not in the. House at the moment. I do not know whether he is in the precincts of the House.

I refer to a question which I asked the Minister for Services and Property earlier. I asked whether it is a fact that, when such a notice is given in respect of the disallowance, of a normal regulation and the motion is not called on within 15 sitting days, the regulation is automatically disallowed. However, in the case to which I refer, the Land Acquisition Act provides:

Either House of the Parliament may, within thirty days after a copy of a notice has been laid before it in pursuance of the last preceding sub-section, pass a resolution that the notice shall be void and of no effect, and thereupon the notice shall be void and of no effect . . .

That is the matter to which I refer. The first point I make is that, if the motion I put on the notice paper - notice No. 1 of 29 May - had not been called on and a decision taken today, the lands acquisition notice to which I have referred, and which was gazetted on Thursday, 24 May, and brought into this House on the same day, would have become effective automatically during the winter recess after the statutory 30 days had expired.

The acquisition notice was tabled without any explanatory papers. All that we members of the House were told was that the public purpose approved by the Governor-General was the planned development and control of the city of Darwin and adjacent areas. Honourable members knew nothing else about this matter. They had been given no information. How big is the proposed acquisition area? How many people are to be affected by the acquisition, particularly those who live in the area? What plans are there for the development of the area? What is the reaction of the people of the area to the acquisition? What is the degree of urgency? Does this acquisition involve a change from freehold to leasehold over the whole area? Members have received none of this information. We do not know whether the royal commission under the chairmanship of Mr Justice Else-Mitchell has been asked to investigate the proposal. The House has been kept in the dark. Surely honourable members are entitled to some explanation and, in view of what I am about to say, I think it is disgraceful that the Minister has not bothered to give one.

Here are some of the facts: The Government is acquiring 20,480 acres of freehold land compulsorily, using guillotine provisions rather than the normal notices to treat. It will all be converted to leasehold. There are several hundred people living in the area - probably nearer 1,000 - and nearly all of them are small owners and battlers. Some of them are permanent residents whose families have held the land for 2 generations. These people, and a couple of thousand others who live nearby and who have been threatened that they are next on the list for the axe, are strongly against the way in which this acquisition is being carried out. They are not against acquisition for public purposes when such action can be clearly justified and properly carried out. The Minister would be well aware, from his personal experience of visiting the area, of the strength of local feeling.

The Legislative Council for the Northern Territory, including members of the Australian Labor Party, has opposed the move and has appealed for variations. No plans are available Or have been started for the area. The Minister might say that a committee is in the Northern Territory investigating at the moment, but it arrived there only last week. A royal commission has been set up to look at the administration of urban land in the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory and has been asked to provide a report within 6 months. So, why cannot the people affected by this acquisition appear before that royal commission and have their position considered? The consultants, P. G. Pak-Poy and Associates, have indicated that areas within the present city of Darwin are available immediately, or could be made available within the next few years, and they could accommodate 100,000 people in addition to the 46,000 people living there now. All honourable members know that the Pak-Poy report has been mentioned widely. It is a broad-brush report, however, and does not contain details of the intimate things that people want to know when they are to be thrown off their land.

Honourable members must realise that this guillotine process to which I refer has not been used before in the Parliament. In brief, from the time of tabling, 30 calendar days - not sitting days - are allowed for disallowance. This is a safety clause whereby the public and the legislature may make an examination of the situation and, if not satisfied, move for a disallowance. It is typical of the ruthless approach of this Government and its disregard for the welfare of the small individual of whom it so often talks so glibly. The Government has allowed only one day - that is, today - for the issue to be considered, and only then when I forced its hand. Ideals are one tiling but people are another. Surely there is still room in this country for both. Ii the Government has any regard for people, especially the little people and not just some academic ideas, it will take notice of the fact and disallow this acquisition. It could still proceed immediately to negotiate with some of the landholders who are prepared to surrender. They represent 8,000 or 9,000 acres, which would be ample for the next IS or 20 years. In the meantime the Government could draw up proper plans and the balance of the small landholders would know where they stood in the future. The overall cost to the taxpayer will be approximately $20m. This proposal has been thrown in here at a moment's notice and discussed for a few minutes. I am appealing for justice for the people of the Northern Territory. I strongly commend the motion.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Isthe motion seconded?

Mr Sinclair - I second the motion and reserve my right to speak at a later stage.

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