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Thursday, 3 February 1994
Page: 297

Mr HALVERSON (11.50 a.m.) —I move:

  That this House:

(1)notes that on 1 January 2001 it will be one hundred years since the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia took effect and the people of Australia were united in a federal commonwealth under the name of the Commonwealth of Australia;

(2)recognises that such a significant occasion is worthy of national observance and commemoration;

(3)agrees that an appropriate permanent national memorial, designed by an Australian and made in Australia, should be erected in a suitable position of prominence in the national capital to mark the centenary of the Commonwealth of Australia;

(4)suggests that such a permanent national memorial should be known as The Spirit of Australia and should represent and reflect the role and contribution of Australian men and women in the development of this great nation, so far as is possible including, but not necessarily confined to, our indigenous peoples, pioneers, explorers, scientists, defence forces, migrants, the rural community and the arts; and

(5)calls upon the government to organise and sponsor a competition for the design of the national memorial and that (a) such a competition carry a significant monetary prize and (b) entry to the competition be open to all Australian citizens.

In bringing this matter before the House, I am conscious of the fact that other proposals have already been made as to how we may appropriately recognise and celebrate a significant event in the history of this nation. Unlike some of these other suggestions, the proposition outlined in this motion is based on creating a new symbol and expression of our nationhood, rather than replacing or changing existing symbols or institutions.

  These other changes may or may not eventuate at some time in the future, but their introduction should not be influenced by the need to meet an inflexible and rapidly approaching deadline. Neither should they be contemplated without informed and widespread community debate resulting in unequivocal and spontaneous indications of acceptance and support by a substantial majority of the Australian people. The commemoration of our first 100 years as a federal commonwealth should not be seen as an opportunity, or used as an excuse, to impose unwanted or unwarranted changes. It is neither appropriate nor acceptable to celebrate the coming together of a nation by dividing it.

  There is no doubt that we will, as we should, organise various official and formal events, activities or projects to recognise this national milestone and that taxpayers' money will be used to underwrite at least some of the costs associated with our celebrations. The proposal we are considering in this debate would not only allow us to commemorate the occasion in a positive and constructive way but from a purely materialistic point of view it would be a lot cheaper than some of the other options that have been floated so far.

  In the few minutes available to me this morning, it is impossible to fully explain or examine the various elements of this proposal, for example, to specify the actual form the memorial should take, whether it should be utilitarian or contemplative in nature, its exact location, the amount of the prize, or the composition of the judging panel. It is, however, important to emphasise that this suggested permanent national memorial would be truly Australian in character, in design and in construction—of Australians, by Australians and for Australians. Obviously there are already many magnificent monuments, memorials and shrines, statues, fountains, sculptures, paintings, hospitals, halls and other buildings, even swimming pools, clock towers and gardens, that commemorate particular achievements, events or people from the pages of our history books. But the memorial proposed in this motion differs from these others in that it aims to represent and reflect the combined efforts, deeds and contributions of Australia's sons and daughters not just over the last 100 or 200 years but for the past 40,000 years.

  It would therefore be just as relevant and meaningful to, and enriching and inspiring for, all our citizens, irrespective of age or occupation, social, cultural or economic background, whether they be of Aboriginal or European or Asian descent or are Australian by birth or by choice. Although in some ways we are a very ancient civilisation, in other ways we are a very young nation. From this rich and diverse background and its combination of old and new have emerged a very special national identity and distinct and identifiable national characteristics, one of which is a uniquely Australian spirit that is manifested and reflected in what we know and value as the Australian way of life.

  This spirit of Australia was derived and has developed from the Australian commitment to the ideals of freedom, democracy, security and a fair go. It is the result of a well-founded and sincerely held belief that the greatness of a nation does not depend on the size of its population but on the capacity of its citizens to do their best, and their preparedness and willingness to make necessary sacrifices gladly for the advancement of the common good or to protect the ideals they value and the things they hold dear. It encompasses such qualities and characteristics as determination, hope, optimism, courage, initiative, resourcefulness, perseverance, compassion and concern for the underdog. It is perhaps one of the most important elements of our Australian heritage.

  This unique Australian spirit was evident at Gallipoli, Flanders, Tobruk, the Kokoda Trail and Long Tan—but it is not restricted to brave deeds on battlefields. It is obvious at the Olympic Games, in the America's Cup challenges, and on the cricket grounds and football fields at home and abroad—but it is not limited to sporting arenas and events. It can be seen on the walls of our galleries, the shelves of our libraries and on the stages and screens of our theatres—but it is not confined to the arts. It is apparent in the achievements of our inventors, scientists and technologists—but it is not only found in laboratories, workshops or research institutes. It is reflected in the fortitude and endurance of those who have suffered as a result of fires, floods or droughts, and the dedication and courage of those who rally to their assistance—but it is not only witnessed during times of national crisis or disaster.  It is to be found in the cities, or the outback, suburbia or the bush, and on the floors of factories and woolsheds.

  The spirit of Australia is an intangible, intuitive, innate feeling of national pride and belonging—of mateship—that binds us together and causes us to help and support each other when there are challenges to be met, and which allows us to acknowledge, share in and celebrate the endeavours and successes of our fellow Australians. It enables ordinary people to do extraordinary things, to overcome adversity, to perform remarkable deeds and to realise exceptional achievements.

  Our Australian heritage, and the heroes and heroines who have helped forge it, include many so-called `ordinary' people as well as those whose exploits, accomplishments or talents have resulted in national and international recognition and fame. That is why this proposal does not call for a national memorial which is designed to honour the contribution of any one person or group of persons, but one that will pay tribute to, and therefore provide inspiration for, all Australians.

  In representing a wide cross-section of our community, it will hopefully capture the essence of, and also represent and reflect, the pride, loyalty and love that past and present generations have felt and future generations will feel towards this nation and its people, and the achievements that have been and will be realised as a result. I commend this motion to the House.

  Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Nehl)—Is the motion seconded?

Mr Andrew —I second the motion.