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Tuesday, 4 December 1973
Page: 4201

Mr GORTON (Higgins) - The report presented by the Commission of Inquiry into Land Tenures, under the chairmanship of Mr Justice Else-Mitchell, and the statement on it made by the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren), are clearly most important statements for the future of Australia. They are fundamental in their approach. They are very detailed. They cover a great variety of matters. The Minister has stated that the Government has not yet had time to consider or agree to the report. Quite clearly, since the report came into my hands this morning, I have not had time to consider it either.

Mr Uren - Yesterday.

Mr GORTON - Yes. One must say at once that the objectives set out by the Else-Mitchell Commission are objectives which we would all seek to achieve. We are all on the side of good and we are all against bad. We all want to see that sufficient land is provided to meet the requirements of the community. We all want to see that land is kept to the lowest possible price. We want to see implemented the other matters that are included in the report, which I do not think that the Minister mentioned. I refer, for example to the requirement that industrial leases should be given only subject to conditions that anti-pollution devices were installed and the community was in that way protected. The report covers the manner of the lease of tenure of land. It makes strong recommendations on the tenure of land and discusses whether it should be in fee simple, freehold, perpetual leasehold, limited leasehold and matters of that kind. Without seeking to make a final pronouncement on that section of the report, I would merely express a personal opinion that so far as the recommendations concerning tenure in the Australian Capital Territory are concerned I agree completely with the Commission's proposition - and the reasoning for it - that land tenure in the Australian Capital Territory should be perpetual leasehold. That part of the report needs more study, of course, but it is of great significance. lt is not clear at this stage whether the objectives set out will in fact be achieved by what is recommended to take place in this report. The first point I make is that the objectives will not be achieved unless the State governments achieve them. Through no fault of the Government, the Minister, or this Parliament the recommendations which are made as to the acquisition of land can be carried out other than in the Australian Capital Territory or the Northern Territory only by the various State governments concerned. I would like to point out that the Minister took the Opposition to task a little in his statement by saying that we had permitted this situation which prevails at the moment to continue for too long. In fact, if the action to be taken can be taken only by State governments I think those strictures might be directed to State governments, and to State governments of all calibres, not of just one political complexion.

Mr Uren - You have heard of our proposals on land commissions and growth centres.

Mr GORTON - Yes, I am not objecting to that. Those poroposals are not contained in the Minister's statement. Does he want to have a debate on something else?

Mr Uren - It is involved in that recommendation.

Mr GORTON - The recommendation of most significance is that for the future what are called land development rights should not rest as they have done in the past, as it were, in the possession of the owner of the land but should be regarded as property of the community. Therefore, if the Minister makes a recommendation he thinks he will make; if the Cabinet .accepts that recommendation; if the Caucus accepts the Cabinet recommendation; if all these things happen as from this date-

Mr Daly - And the Senate.

Mr GORTON - All right. If the Minister, having had time to read the report, makes a recommendation and so on the proposition will be that from that time on, as from today, all land development rights will be the property of the community. The community will somehow or other be paid for it. I have not had time to read the report. Perhaps the Minister has had more time. I am not clear on how the payment will be made or to whom it will be made. Whether it will be made to a local government body, a regional government organisation or a State government, I do not know. At least it will be paid in some form or another to the community. I am also not clear on how the value of land development rights is to be determined. There may be a dispute about how valuable land development rights are in a particular area. At a cursory look through this report I do not see any suggestion as to how such a dispute might be resolved. It may be in the report. If it is not it will be a subject which will need to be discovered and set forth quite clearly so that everybody knows where he stands.

If this takes place and a cash payment is made to somebody on behalf of these land development rights, who is to make that cash payment? Will it be a development corporation that is set up, as is suggested in the report, using public funds, paying it to some other public body? Or will it, as it seems to be envisaged in the report, be a cash payment made by a private developer who, acquiring the land, as he does, somehow or other arrives at a decision as to what the land development rights are worth and makes that payment to the public body concerned. If that happens, and it appears that it would, it will require much more detailed examination than we can give it at the moment to see how this will help very much the ultimate consumer of the block of land in that development and the house that is built upon it, because if the full value of land development rights is paid by the developer clearly he will get back that full value when he sells the blocks of land and subdivides them.

There appears to me to be a question that needs to be answered. I do not say that there is not an answer to it. I just say that 1 cannot see it at this time. We really need to examine the matter. Let us assume that a private land developer under this proposition buys land at what we are told he should buy it at. I presume this applies to a private developer, nol just to a government. Let us assume that he buys the land at its existing use value at the time of acquisition. It is not clear whether a private developer is, by virtue of government strength, allowed to acquire that land or whether this only applies to a government itself. But if it does apply to that private developer he pays either the existing use value at the date of the acquisition or the market value as of today. He may not acquire it for sometimes years to come, or a government may acquire it and keep it for some years before it is developed. If he is to acquire it at the market value as of today and inflation is to continue to run in the way in which this Government is allowing it to run' at the moment, then in a period of years-

Mr Bryant - Are you going to vote 'Yes' on Saturday?

Mr GORTON - I am asked whether I am going to vote 'Yes' on Saturday. This referendum has nothing whatever to do with preventing the rate of inflation which this Government has allowed to take place and will continue to ensure takes place no 'matter how people vote next Saturday. But that is a digression. We can take it for granted that there will be continuing inflation because of mismanagement, and if that is so is it fair to pay a man market value as of today, in say, 8 years time? These are things that may be answered, but they are not at all clear at the moment. It is essential when we reach any decision on this not only that we see that the community is not held to ransom, because I agree that the community should not be held to ransom-

Mr Uren - Is it not now?

Mr GORTON - In some cases I think it has been, and I am agreeing that it is a bad thing for it to be held to ransom; but I also say that just as the community has rights and a right not to be held to ransom so the individual has rights. He has just rights and proper rights which should not be overridden by making him by force subsidise the community. Both these rights need to be protected as is clearly noted in the English legislation and in the English approach, as the Minister will agree. They both need to be protected. I am not sure, on the first examination of this report, that this individual right is taken care of.

Nowhere in the report is there - I hope that when any recommendations are made to State governments there will be - any suggestion that I can find as to how these values are to be arrived at in the event of disputation. It is all right to talk about the existing use value at a date of acquisition, but that is obviously quite likely to be the subject of different opinions. Who is going to reconcile them? Is the individual to get the protection of a court? Is the Commonwealth to be bound by the requirement to pay just terms? There needs to be some protection for both the individual and the community. The market value again requires it. The assessment of the value of the development right and all other matters I have mentioned are matters in relation to which we have to take great care to protect the community and the individual - not just protect one and leave the other. We also need to be sure - so far it has not been explained - about how, if the full value is paid for the land by a developer, including land development value, the ultimate consumer will get a block of land and a house at a lower price than he is at present paying. Wc come down eventually to this - and this is recommended in the report and I agree with it completely: What is basically needed is to ensure that sufficient land is released to meet the demand and, if necessary, a little bit more than the demand, and that that land is released without monopolistic practices being able to inflate prices far above what they should be. We need to ensure that when that land is released it is quickly serviced, quickly passed through the local government planning bodies, and quickly passed through the State titles offices so that it does not lie around for a long time while the various bureaucratic processes are gone through and the cost of holding that land is ultimately added to the price the final consumer has to pay. These are things we need to go into. They may stem from a debate on the report. They are not clearly in it at the moment insofar as I have been able to read it.

Having made those preliminary comments on a very complex matter, what I would hope would be that we will have a full opportunity for a long-ranging debate on this matter, important as it is, detailed as it is, in relation to which there may in some cases be disagreement and will undoubtedly in other cases be agreement.

Mr Keogh - You are slipping, Fred.

Mr GORTON - I beg your pardon.

Mr Daly - He said that I am slipping. I threw a piece of paper at the waste paper basket, but missed.

Mr GORTON - The interjection, which was most disorderly, was to the effect that the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) was slipping. I can only express the hope that he does not slip sufficiently to deny this House a full opportunity to debate a matter of such great importance. I am encouraged in my hope that he will not do that by the encouraging nod being given to me by the Minister for Urban and Regional Development, agreeing with me that he hopes the Leader of the House will not slip in that way. It is significant; it is important. It is not clear. I seek leave to continue my remarks.

Motion (by Mr Bryant) proposed:

That the debate be adjourned.

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