Opinion Number. 724

Subject

ACQUISITION OF LAND ACQUISITION OF LAND FOR POST OFFICE BUILDINGS: WHETHER COMMONWEALTH CAN LET PORTIONS TO TENANTS: EXTENT OF POWER TO ACQUIRE PROPERTY

Key Legislation

LANDS ACQUISITION ACT 1906

Date
Client
The Postmaster-General

The Postmaster-General asks for advice as follows:

As much difficulty is experienced by this Department in securing suitable sites for post offices except at high values, and as such capitalisation added to the cost of building makes the cost heavy in proportion to the accommodation required, I desire to know if there be any constitutional or legal obstacle to the Department building premises that would permit of a redemption of capital charges, by letting portions to tenants requiring same. If such be permissible, it would relieve the Department of a difficult problem.

In my opinion there is no constitutional objection to building premises for the purpose stated, provided that funds are legally available for that purpose.

A question might arise, however, whether the Government could, under the Lands Acquisition Act, compulsorily acquire the site for a building which was not intended to be used solely for postal purposes, or some other purposes in respect of which the Commonwealth Parliament has power to make laws.

There must of course be some limit to the extent of the power of acquisition. The Commonwealth Government could not acquire land for the purpose of erecting a whole suburb merely because a post office was included in the design. On the other hand, the Government can acquire so much as is reasonably applicable to the Commonwealth purpose.

In my opinion, the Government has power to compulsorily acquire land when the substantial purpose is the erection of a post office, notwithstanding that the purpose may incidentally include premises not intended to be used for postal purposes, but intended to be sublet.

[Vol. 14, p. 384]