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Tuesday, 4 December 1973
Page: 4221

Mr DALY (Grayndler) (Minister for Services and Property) - I want to deal, firstly, with the comments of the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon), who has a good knowledge of the Land Acquisition Act because he administered it for some considerable time. In regard to the amendment that he proposes to move, which provides for the tabling of a list of land acquisitions each 21 days, or 30 days when the House is sitting, in principle I have no objection to it, and I am prepared to give it appropriate consideration. I only qualify that, as the honourable member did, on the basis that it will be a list of acquisitions, and the vendors might not wish prices to be disclosed, at least at that time. Of course, I would like to look further at this aspect. But I assure the honourable members that the matter will be carefully considered, and in principle I have no disagreement with it. By the time the legislation is presented in another place I will have had the opportunity to give full consideration to the proposal. In my present frame of mind I can see no reason why it should not be accepted.

I have also advised the honourable member of the number of corporations that are to be excluded from the provisions of the proposed new section. He is aware of them. There is a variety of reasons for excluding them. I should also like to mention to him that any acquisitions for the Cities Commission will be undertaken by the Department of Services and Property. That is a statutory authority, and it is listed amongst those for which we will take appropriate action. Similarly, the National Pipeline Authority comes within this category. But acquisitions for lands commissions which have been set up in each State, as the honourable member knows, will be effected by those commissions or by the States concerned. Consequently, I think that to that extent there is no reason for us to be at variance on the question. I think the honourable member is also aware that there is no ulterior motive behind the proposed amendments to the Act. The Bill has been introduced in order to improve an Act that has not been amended since it was introduced in 1955. I think that the proposed amendments will bring about desirable improvements.

In regard to the speech of the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson), what he advocated today was not the policy of the previous Government in respect of the matters that he mentioned. I am extremely doubtful whether there is substance for making any change on the basis that he suggested. For instance, the Commonwealth can acquire land only on just terms, under the Constitution and by virtue of section 31 of the present Act. If land is not acquired on what is considered to be just terms, every citizen so affected has the right to apply to the courts for just terms to be fixed. The final decision as to whether land has been acquired on just terms rests with the courts, and I do not think we can quibble with that.

I point out also for the benefit of the honourable member that interest is not part of the compensation paid by the Commonwealth. The compensation is determined at the date of acquisition having regard to the value of the property at that time. For the life of me, I cannot see how, if the Commonwealth desires to reach an agreement with a person or to acquire land today for a given purpose, the compensation can be fixed 1, 2, 3 or 5 years hence, as the case might be. Interest is payable on outstanding claims from the date of acquisition, and compensation at the date of acquisition must be the just price. I think that if the honourable member were buying a house today and if settlement did not take place for 3 months, he would be very upset if those from whom he was buying the house wanted to be paid the inflated price, which prevailed at the time of actual settlement. That is just not a business proposition. The date of acquisition is the date on which the just price should be paid. We pay, as no doubt did the previous Government, an advance as required on compulsory acquisition before finality on the purchase price is reached. Only today I have authorised the approval of an advance of $80,000 to a person in Queensland whose land is being acquired and who is seeking a higher price than the Commonwealth is offering. So all in all, the person concerned is well protected by the Act. He has his recourse to the courts, and in every way I think a reasonable cover is provided. Whilst realising the sincerity of the honourable member's approach, I am not hopeful that we can meet his wishes in respect of this matter.

Mr WILSON(Sturt)- Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Doesthe honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?

Mr WILSON - Yes, I do. I think that I was misrepresented unwittingly by the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly). I did not suggest, or mean to suggest, that under present conditions land acquired under the present legislation was not being acquired on just terms. In fact, the courts have held that the Act is in accordance with the Constitution. The point I wanted to draw to the attention of the Minister was that because of the longer time now being taken in regard to many acquisitions - I particularly directed the Minister's attention to statements made by his colleague the Minister for Urban and Regional Developoment (Mr Uren) - there were changing approaches to the question of acquisition in order to take account of this time factor. Where land is acquired, the processes happen quickly and advances are made, as the Minister has just explained, the constitutional requirement is met. I know that it is a matter for the courts and for any citizen who feels unjustly treated to apply for his rights under the Constitution, but I think that where possible Parliament ought to try to anticipate the changing circumstances and to ensure that its legislation does not put the average citizen in the situation of having to go to court to obtain just terms.

In Committee

The Bill.

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