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Tuesday, 6 November 1973
Page: 1554

Senator WILLESEE (Western AustraliaSpecial Minister of State and Minister for Foreign Affairs) - As usual in these debates a lot of exaggerations have been thrown in. I will deal with those that did not stray too far from the point. Senator Wright, as is his wont, of course, has gone on with a lot of histrionics most of which have nothing to do with the case. His memory is slipping as he gets older. He has told us it was he who raised the question of the IPEC case. Of course, it was Senator McKenna. But it does not matter very much. Senator DrakeBrockman in putting forward the case which has been agreed upon by the Opposition, I think, because he may have been genuinely mistaken about what claims for compensation can be, said we would be denying compensation to persons winning such things as sand, gravel and rock. That is not the case. They would have a just claim to compensation if they were operating at that time to extract those types of materials from their land.

Senator Drake-Brockmancame to the crux of the difference between the Government and Opposition on this because he very obviously supported a proposition that a landholder can claim the increment that he gets from national investment. That is a part of the situation and it will become a little more clear from some of the things that I will say a little later. A lot has been made of section 51 of the Constitution- that land should be acquired on just and reasonable terms. However, I am informed that there is already a High Court decision on this in the Tau case in New Guinea in which it was held that in making laws for the acquisition of property in the Territory the Government is not limited to making laws which provide just terms.

Senator Withers - That is right.

Senator WILLESEE -Senator Withers agrees. So it is not just as simple as the Constitution makes out. Senator Wright again seems to be disagreeing with the High Court but that is the decision that has been made.

Senator Wright -Not at all. I thought that the Minister would understand.

Senator WILLESEE -The honourable senator claims great knowledge of the law and great fairness. I wish that when he is dealing with these things he would give us the benefit of his knowledge. If the Tau case was known to him I would have thought that he would have been generaous enough to refer to it. Senator Withers led for the

Opposition in a much more restrained manner than his colleague from Tasmania, Senator Wright. It must be remembered that until 1955 acquisition could be based on the 1908 value. That was altered then to fair and just terms. But even from then on there never has been this question of taking rural land and putting urban potential on it. The situation is not limited to that factor. Substantial areas are to be acquired. The acquisition of this particular area was started by the previous Government. It had not been completed when we came into government. The Department went on and then ran into the problem which we have at the moment.

I think that I should put a few things down for the record. The 3 Opposition parties have agreed on this matter. I wonder whether they thought it through fully before they made up their minds. I am inclined to think that they gave their judgment before they read the evidence. The history of this matter shows clearly that Parliament never intended that freeholders in the Territory should profit from the creation of the national capital. The way Canberra has developed it is obvious, as Senator O'Byrne pointed out, that the taxpayers' money is being poured in because somebody, sitting on rural land, suddenly decides that because of the increment which comes from this land it ought to be the basis for a claim. Generally compensation for acquired freehold has been negotiated at current rural values in spite of the amendment to the 1955 Act. When the Lands Acquisition Act was revised in 1955 legislation was introduced to remove the 1908 value peg and to substitute compensation on fair and just terms. Since then compensation for acquired rural lands has been on a non-urban basis. In no case has compensation been paid for urban potential. The next note I have here deals with the position at Tuggeranong where a claim is now before us for $35.54m. This is for one section of acquisition which this Government or any other government will have to face if we are going to have reasonably priced land and if we are to go on with the development of the Australian Capital Territory.

Senator Wright - What did the Commonwealth offer?

Senator WILLESEE -The Commonwealth offer was $ 1.875m for the 9,000-acre property. The owner can appeal to the court on that offer. That is what he has done. So far so good. A new concept is being imported into this situation which no Parliament or government- not the previous Government nor this Government- has ever contemplated should be brought in. If these claims were successful the cost of producing an average residential block in Canberra could increase very substantially. That is obvious. Outstanding and future claims from other freeholders could be adjusted upwards. The amount involved would bc enormous, possibly well over $100m. Wider national repercussions could be a questioning of the credibility of the Australian Government's policy in relation to land price stabilisation in areas designed for new cities. So we have here the whole base of the Government's policy. In many areas there is no disagreement with the Opposition. The question on which Senator Wright was waxing very eloquent was the difference between Hall and Tharwa. The situation is that with Hall and Tharwa there is developed urban land already and therefore the question of rural values does not come into the matter. There is no argument that if one is in a developed urban area that is the sort of compensation which one can expect to get. But the whole basis of this is that people acquire rural land for rural purposes and then start to say that the urban potential should be brought into the whole situation. I think that the difference between the Opposition and the Government is quite clear. The Opposition is saying that the freeholder is entitled to compensation for enhanced potential arising from the investment of public funds.

Senator Withers - We are not saying that at all.

Senator WILLESEE - With great respect, the whole of the honourable senator's argument and particularly the argument from Senator DrakeBrockman tends towards that end. Senator Withers has been sitting talking to Senator Wright and he is picking up the honourable senator's bad habits. He is starting to interject.

Senator Withers - Senator Willeseeis not putting the case correctly.

Senator WILLESEE -Well, let me finish and then judge me when I have finished. I accept Senator Withers' remonstrance. The main argument- and this is all we are trying to dorelates to taking rural land, applying to it an urban potential and making that the basis of a claim before the court. If that succeeds the whole basis of cheap land in Australia fails- if there is any cheap land left. We are trying to keep the price down to some sort of reasonable level as we have done in the Australian Capital Territory. We are seeking development on an orderly basis, but the whole of that basis will be smashed and the Opposition ought to realise that. We want to make this quite clear. All we are asking in this Bill is that the courts be left free in everything else, but what this Parliament has said ever since it first became a Federal Parliament should be made clear to them and should be underlined. I repeat that there has never been any suggestion by any government that this type of increment should be allowed to go to the question of acquisition, irrespective of the amendment to the Act of 1955. What we want to do is excise from the court's consideration that and that alone. Obviously the Opposition has met in caucus on this. It has the numbers so it will be on its head if it is decided to go on with this action. It is as clear as that.

We say that with rural land in large holdings like this the urban portential rate of the land should not be made the basis of a claim. Evidently the Opposition is saying that that is what ought to be done. It is still open for the court to make decisions, as has been pointed out by Senator Withers. I do not suppose that anybody ever goes into court with a claim such as this and expects to get the full amount claimed. Nevertheless- the lawyers can tell us more about this- this will be the basis of future claims if we go on with our action today. If the court is allowed to take this type of thing into consideration then the whole of the work of all parliaments and governments in federal jurisdiction over all these years will be reversed. I suggest that this will make it well nigh impossible to go on with the development of the ACT as has been the practice. Obviously this will multiply the price of land and housing many times. That is the decision which the Opposition is going to take. It is quite clear what we are doing. This is not a complicated thing. As I have repeated several times, it is simply that we want to go on with the compensation which has been granted by all governments over the years. We want to take into consideration all those other things but this new matter has reared its head. We say that this was never intended in any legislation before and it should not be allowed now.

Question put:

That the Bill be read a second time.

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