Do you own your house?

The SMH carries an article on Saturdays front page lamenting the power the state of NSW is giving itself in regards to bipassing property rights.

THE State Government plans to give its agencies and councils power to compulsorily acquire private land to re-sell to developers at a profit – or, if they choose, at a reduced price so the developers make even more money.

Legal authorities describe as “quite remarkable” a section of new planning laws flagged by the Minister for Planning, Frank Sartor, to acquire land by force to onsell to private developers.

I agree with the concerns raised in the article. However I do find odd the notion that governments stealing your land and selling it is somehow worse than stealing your land and keeping it. And is there really any distinction between stealing your land so a private for profit road can be built for the public good or stealing your land so a private for profit shopping mall can be built for the public good? In one sense I think there is a distinction in so far as new road corridors are not easily or readily created through private market means, whilst shopping centres are. However the key legal constraint on governments (at all tiers) really ought to be a proper and transparent assessment process of the public benefit of such a forced acquisition which is open to legal challenge, and a system of just compensation.

16 thoughts on “Do you own your house?

  1. Reminds me of a sign I once saw:

    Trespassers will be shot, if they move, they will be shot again.

    Terje, seriously, the NSW govt can’t be thinking about such legislation. There should be rioting in the streets if this goes through.

  2. Speaking of Iemma government… Incredibly, Morris Iemma is sitting in at the 2020 summit – in the health stream of all things! I certainly hope he’s not there to share his own ideas on the subject.

  3. Fleeced,

    Perhaps this is exactly the sort of issue that the ALS can have a voice about. A Press Release, I’ll bet most aren’t even aware that the govt is considering this move. Ramp it up and make people aware that their home can be taken from them at the whim of some local govt official. Bloody amazing, local govt officials have been in the pocket of developers for yonks. Can you imagine the bribes and temptations placed before local council officers with this legislation?

  4. Wow, we have always had a terrible and unjust system of land theft by the government, but this really takes the cake. This is a platform for corruption on a grand scale.

    The worst thing about it is that people tend to think it wont happen to them, until it does and thus tend to be ‘ho hum’ about it. It is a bit like the old analogy of the frog in water and slowly heating it until it boils.

    This is like the worst aspects of the US eminent domain laws.

    Bloody good post Terje, I missed this. Later on today I will pinch it.

  5. This was covered on last night’s news. It appears Sartor is backpedaling.

    It’s worth noting that this sort of legislation is only conceivable under State law. The Federal Constitution ensures just compensation.

  6. Thank God for the good old LDP!

    Private Property Rights:

    “More than any other political party in Australia, the LDP supports private property rights.

    Under the Constitution the federal government may compulsorily acquire private property, but only on just terms. State and Territory governments are not bound by the Constitution and can, in certain circumstances, compulsorily acquire property without paying any compensation.

    Both State and Federal governments are free to pass regulations that damage the value of property without paying any compensation at all.

    This needs to change. All levels of governments should be responsible for the consequences of any compulsory acquisitions as well as regulations that impact on the value of private property. The payment of compensation on just terms should apply in every case that government legislation impacts on property value.

    This change would mean that the government only introduced regulations that provided more benefit to society than the costs they imposed. This would introduce another important discipline on government, promoting good policy and protecting private property rights.

    The LDP proposes that these changes be made permanent through constitutional amendments.”

  7. Why is “just compensation” good enough? You are still forced to sell. Any examples where compulsory acquisition should be justified even with just compensation?

    I know a guy who has recently lost his business due to an underpass being built. He was not happy with his treatment and put a big sign out the front of his business saying “Not happy Rann” (SA premier is Mike Rann). But there’s nothing he can do about it.

    I still like the movie “The Castle” anyway.

  8. At this rate, we’ll end up as bad as the United States! Kelo may go down as an American version of the Oktober Revolution, when Governments became the ‘de facto’ owners of the country.
    We don’t need a Bill of Rights- We need a Magna Carta!

  9. ‘Just’ as in ‘just compensation’ can mean anything. Consider this, will the meaning of the term ‘just,’ be interpreted by the property owner of by the state seizing that property.

    Both State and Federal governments are free to pass regulations that damage the value of property without paying any compensation at all. I was recently involved in a focus group in relation to a proposed highway bypass going through our area.

    One of the questions asked of Warren Truss was, “why is compensation not paid to people who have the value of their property downgraded by the actions of government?” His reply was that if that was done the government would have the right to charge those whose property value was improved by say the moving of the current highway away from their area. (Warren has never been accused of being an intellectual).

    This is of course totally fallacious as privately damaging another persons property results in a law suit, whereas there is no way that a private individual can charge a neighbour for an incidental increase in value to his property caused by work done on his own property.

    Basically he was arguing that it was fair to pay the value of the properties being resumed and moving costs.

    I asked him if I was driving a semi load of toxic waste along the highway and rolled it on his property, making it uninhabitable would he tell his lawyers to settle for that. He asked for another question.

  10. Jim if I as a private individual build an ugly house in your street should you be able to seek damages from me? Likewise if I build a new shopping centre in your suburb which improves the value and amenity of your home location should you owe me anything? A road is in my view much like both examples. It may improve the amenity for some and reduce it for others. I don’t think compensation should be paid when a road is built except perhaps for noise, air pollution and vibrations that cross boundaries. The mere fact that a road is unsightly is not in my view a violation of property rights for those that live in the area.

    The exact value of “just compensation” for land acquired by force may be debatable and the subject of litigation. However the principle is quite clear. It is the value that the property would likely fetch in a willing sale in the prevaling market conditions. Ideally I’d like to insist that the government must pay twice what is just in order to dissuade them from casual acquisitions. However such a requirement would encourage a different sort of corruption and would itself shift markets substantially.

  11. Yeah but Terje local councils are already so corrupt perhaps the new laws won’t make any difference, just legalise what is already occurring one way or the other.

  12. Terje; I wouldn’t try to get compensation off you however ‘ugly’ your house is in my perception, I assume that you have enough sense to build one that is to you a thing of beauty. I might grumble about it and call you some names, but not sue you. If you read my comment again you will find the answer to your shopping centre is no also. I think I would be pleased to know my old mate is well enough off to afford not only a new ugly home, but a shopping centre as well.

    My argument on the highway issue was not about it being unsightly but about the noise and pollution. A couple of organic farmers were in fact worried about maintaining the certification of their enterprises with regard to the pollution. Incidentally My property is not affected by it, so I am not arguing from self interest.

  13. Jim – If your concern is pollution that passes onto your property then I think that the argument for compensation is a reasonable one. Sorry if I misunderstood your point.

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