Fact sheet

Fact Check: Is compulsory acquisition a last resort for extreme cases?

Liberal Party of Australia Power resources Compulsory aquisition
Former prime minister Tony Abbott suggested the Government might need to compulsorily acquire the Liddell Power Station, if its owner, AGL, did not keep it open or sold it to another company which would. But government backbencher Tim Wilson claimed compulsory acquisition was a last resort only "used in extreme and critical situations." RMIT ABC Fact Check found that Mr Wilson's claim is overreach. It would be highly unusual for the Commonwealth to acquire a working asset such as the Liddell Power Station. Over recent times, governments of all persuasions have to varying degrees sought to privatise infrastructure and essential services, not buy them. It is unsurprising that a conservative member of parliament, holding a core ideological belief in the private sector, would be hesitant to acquire an asset unless doing so was "the last resort". But there is nothing in Commonwealth or state legislation that requires compulsory acquisition to be used only as a last resort or in extreme situations. The Government could choose to immediately start the process to compulsorily acquire Liddell. And putting aside the specific case of Liddell, governments of both political persuasions regularly use compulsory acquisition powers for road and other infrastructure projects that are not critical and when other options may be available.
Verdict: Overreach
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