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Monday, 19 September 2011
Page: 10583

Mr HOCKEY (North Sydney) (21:28): Tonight I want to acknowledge the great work of one of the country's most renowned private hospitals, the Mater hospital in Crows Nest in Sydney. As many of you know, having a child is one of the most rewarding and exciting times of our lives. Admittedly it is also one of the most stressful periods—I suspect more for the mum than for the father. I am sure my colleagues in the chamber, both mothers and fathers, would be able to empathise. It is at this stressful and joyous time that we want the best environment for our children to enter the world and for our wives, in my case, to be cared for and looked after in such a way that they will be able to focus on the challenges and to go through the birthing pangs in a compassionate and supportive environment. For me and my wife, Melissa, the Mater hospital in North Sydney provided exactly that throughout the births of our three children: Xavier, Adelaide and Ignatius. I cannot speak highly enough of the quality of care and compassion given to us and so, too, to the parents of some 40,000 babies born at the Mater since the opening of its maternity unit in 1991.

The Mater hospital maternity unit had its 20th reunion celebration last month, on 9 August, at the Crystal Ball venue in Luna Park. I was very privileged to be invited, along with, amongst others, Sarah Murdoch and Karl Stefanovic, as one of the many special guests and as a parent to attend the reunion. Like many of the parents and children who attended the 20th reunion, we were there to acknowledge and thank the staff and people who helped make the Mater hospital the unique place that it is, second to none, for their great work.

Even though I was actually born at that hospital 46 years ago, it was a 20th reunion for the maternity unit. For over 105 years the Mater hospital has worked in partnership with patients and their families. Its holistic approach to health care and its unique patient care have to be commended. They are not just doctors and nurses and staff but care givers, who work together to ensure our safety, our wellbeing and our swift recovery. Once again, I would like to thank all the staff, especially the executive director, Robert Cusack, for his leadership and his commitment to seeing that the Mater excels in its performance.

I would also like to pay tribute to a late friend of mine and an Australian icon, Harry Seidler. The late Harry Seidler is well known to many in this place for his outstanding architectural contribution not just here in Australia but around the world. He was more than an architect to me; he was a mate. Even though I disagreed with him from time to time and even had the odd political disagreement with his wife, Penelope, it is a great honour to have been asked to open Harry's Park, which is a public and cultural park currently under construction that will be a reminder of the significant contribution this man has made to our nation. The park is located in my electorate, on the corner of Glen Street and Dind Street in Milsons Point.

Let me first acknowledge his great architectural skills. Often referred to as one of the greatest and most influential architects ever to work in the Southern Hemisphere, Harry started his architectural study in Canada, before winning a scholarship to Harvard University. Arriving in Australia to commission the Rose Seidler House for his mother, his new and innovative style of architecture, which incorporated open-plan living and natural light, won him instant acclaim. He went on to design iconic buildings in Sydney such as the Australia Square tower, the MLC Centre and, I might add, Blues Point Tower, which I lived in and am very fond of. They changed the Australian landscape. Harry earned a special place in the history of modern architecture.

He was born in Vienna in 1923 and his family left for England, when Harry was just 15, to escape Nazi occupation. Soon after, the English authorities interned his family and sent the Seidlers to Canada as 'enemy aliens'. Harry was eventually permitted to study architecture and structural engineering at the University of Manitoba. He graduated with first-class honours in 1944 and, in the following year, won a scholarship to the Harvard Graduate School of Design, where he studied under architect Walter Gropius, formerly director of the famed Bauhaus in Germany.

For me, part of the honour of being a member of parliament is to have opportunities like this to highlight the work of and pay tribute to people such as Harry Seidler who have helped transform our society and the nation in which we live. I am proud to be able to represent his interests here in this parliament.