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Monday, 15 October 1973
Page: 2102

Mr CALDER (Northern Territory) - I move:

That in accordance with the provisions of section 12(2) of the Lands Asquisition 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. 70a of 15 June 1973, and which was laid before the House on 19 September 1973, shall be void and of no effect.

I have spoken on this subject before. The subject has been considered in the Senate before. The notice of acquisition was disallowed in the Senate earlier this year. Last week, unfortunately, because of certain arguments which may have been specious, some senators did not support the small landholders in the Northern Territory whom I represent. The result was the second proposal that the notice of acquisition be declared void and of no effect was not accepted by the Senate. In actual fact we are now speaking in retrospect.

I think that something should be said about this matter in this chamber. It is not a question of the people of the Northern Territory, the members of the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory who represent the area which is under discussion or myself not recognising the fact that Darwin has to expand somewhere; it is a question of the way in which the Minister for the Northern Territory (Mr Enderby) went about this matter. He should have known only too well that the pr 'posed acquisition was not favourably received in the area because he stood before a meeting of some 300 to 500 people in respect to it and was completely disarmed by them. Had they had their way I think they might have taken some drastic action against him. I have been speaking to the representatives of the small landholders in the area and have ascertained that their feeling is exactly the same now. These people do not appreciate someone sweeping in from Canberra and saying: 'We will take this lot regardless', without discussing anything with them. I am certain that the Minister for Urban and Regional Development would not go about things in that way. He is an entirely different man. He would go and discuss them with the people concerned. The Minister for the Northern Territory is an expert at shooting from the hip. I will not mention what I said before about him. The people of Darwin and the rest of the Northern Territo. who are objecting to this proposal are objecting because of the way in which the Minister has gone about it. There has been a complete misunderstanding of the situation.

Mr McVeigh - They should have come to you for advice. They would have got good advice there.

Mr CALDER - Thank you. There are not many Ministers in this Government who would take notice of the advice I might give to them. One who would have benefited is the present Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Bryant), who was the previous Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Had he sacked Dexter instead of Giese he probably still would have been Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, but he did not. He did not know what to do; nor does the Minister for the Northern Territory. The big play of the Minister for the Northern Territory is that he is only carrying out the previous Government's policy. That is not correct. The Minister responsible for the Northern Territory in the previous Government had this proposal put to him by his Department but he did not accept it. He certainly would not have accepted it in the way in which the present Minister has accepted it. The present Minister has made great play of the fact that all the Government is doing is implementing the policy of the previous Government. He should know that that is not correct. He can say what he likes; but that is not correct. Surely he got the message in this instance when he stood in front of the meeting of 300 to 500 people in Darwin. He completely ignored them. What did the Minister do when the Opposition, as the representative in this place of those people, was successful in having the notice of acquisition declared void and of no effect? He became most upset, to put it mildly. When it was declared void and of no effect he immediately re-gazetted the acquisition without even so much as thinking of the people concerned. It did not matter to him. He was living in a socialist world in Canberra. He thought that he would put the Northern Territory into the sort of situation in which Canberra finds itself - a testing place for the Australian Labor Party's complete socialisation of Australia.

Mr Viner - A socialist enclave.

Mr CALDER - Yes. I might say to the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan), who I do not think will be the representative of that electorate after the next election, that at least I speak with genuine feeling.

Mr Whan - What did I say?

Mr CALDER - The honourable member for Eden-Monaro would not know what he said. In the arguments that have taken place concerning this matter we have heard the paragon of the Australian Labor Party in the Senate refer to representations that have been made on behalf of the small landholders in relation to this matter. A petition signed by 340-odd people was tabled in the Senate. It was claimed that it was a bogus petition. The petition was signed by landholders in the Northern Territory - not landholders in the area concerned. With a certain amount of astuteness the Government found that there was in it a name or two - probably under half a dozen - of people who were not actually living in the Northern Territory; so there was a great scream about its being a bogus petition. But the great majority of the people who actually signed it were landholders in the Northern Territory. Much was also made of the fact that only 33 of them would be immediately in strife because of the Minister's shotgun tactics in acquiring this 32-square-mile area. But the others - I would have signed it myself as a landholder in the Northern Territory - would be dismayed at the thought that the Minister could just at the drop of the hat slap this sort of acquisition freeze policy on freehold land. I should add that the actual wording of the petition was:

We the undersigned landowners and occupiers in the Northern Territory respectfully seek your support in disallowing the acquisition notice. . . .

There is no mention of the 32-square-mile area.

Mr Keith Johnson (BURKE, VICTORIA) - Who signed it?

Mr CALDER - Have a look at who signed it. There is a list of who signed it in the Senate Hansard. Much criticism has been laid at the door of the member for Victoria River, Dr Letts, and the member for Arnhem, Mr Rupert Kentish, because they took the action they did. Why would they not take the action they did when their constituents were demanding that they fight against this-

Mr Keith Johnson (BURKE, VICTORIA) - Socialist.

Mr CALDER - Overall lack of appreciation of their interests. Yes, it is the first step towards socialist acquisition of land and control of everything else in the Northern Territory or anywhere else in Australia. How did it come about that there was a change of opinion in the Senate? I gather that the Minister probably spoke to various people before the vote was taken on the second occasion on which the matter was debated and influenced them to vote against the proposal put forward. They were informed that there would be a shortfall of 1,000 to 1,750 blocks of land in 1976. The evidence which was presented in the Senate and on the basis of which honourable senators voted is false, according to what the landholders themselves have told me. The honourable senators virtually were misinformed. It was said that the landholders in the area affected by the acquisition order have been interviewed and generally they agree to the acquisition provided an assurance is given that longer term leases can be offered to them as soon as the acquisition is effected. But they had nothing in writing, and this is why they objected in the first place. The Government did not give them any information about compensation, plans for renewal of leases, or anything else. That is why they objected and that is why they are still objecting. They are disgusted with the decision that was made in the Senate. They have told me that no one has received compensation. That would be understandable. They have another 3 months in which to make application for compensation. There is no precedent of prices in that area and no one knows what to expect. This is what is worrying those small landholders.

I refer now to some of the evidence on which the motion to disallow the acquisition was thrown out in the Senate. This was said: Evidence is available of an attempt to exploit the position by certain landholders who expect to raise the price of land beyond the capacity of the home seeker with modest means to purchase a suitable block. What is the evidence? What about the Churcher estate? What about Mr Albany? He has asked the Government to treat for his land. It is said that he owns a quarter of it. Instead of attacking the small landholders, why did not the Government go to these people who between them would own half of the land? This is the sort of thing that I would expect of the ex-Minister for the Northern Territory. He has had it now; so it does not really matter. I would expect that a government would discuss the matter with the people concerned.

The way in which this Government has behaved is quite inconceivable. I believe that this was due mainly to the actions of the exMinister for the Northern Territory. He can get up and say what he likes about this, but he has done these things to which I have referred. He has instituted this acquisition of land in the face of the people. He has not taken any notice of the people. I will read what an honourable senator is quoted in the Senate Hansard of 11 October at page 1171 as having said. It reads:

In discussions with the Minister for the Northern Territory (Mr Enderby) on this development we have found that leases are now being issued to those who hold blocks.

I am informed by the small landholders there that that is not so. It is just not happening. Although this matter has already been dealt with in the Senate and this is a case in retrospect, I am putting it on behalf of the small landholders in this area of 32 square miles in the Darwin land acquisition area. I feel that the decision which was made in the Senate was arrived at as a result of quite a lot of false information being passed on to it.

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