All levels of government – local, state and federal – have the ability to compulsorily acquire property from private owners in certain circumstances.
Section 51(xxxi) of the Constitution gives to the Commonwealth the power to:
“make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth [in relation to] the acquisition of property on just terms from any State or person for any purpose in respect of which the Parliament has power to make laws”
The government has to provide appropriate notice and adequate compensation, but it is not restricted to “last resort”, “extreme” or “critical” situations.
In a story reminiscent of the movie ‘The Castle’, where the Government planned to compulsorily acquire a property to extend the airport, on April 9 2018, former prime minister Tony Abbott suggested the Government may need to compulsorily acquire a power plant in NSW’s Hunter Valley the plant if the operator will not keep it open or sell it to another company that will do so.
Compulsory Acquisition is most often used for infrastructure projects. Western Sydney Airport, for instance, will be on land that was mostly acquired in the late 1980s.
If you have been issued with such a demand, legal advice is essential.