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Thursday, 7 June 1984
Page: 2762


The PRESIDENT —I present reports by the Joint Standing Committee on the New Parliament House relating to proposed works in the parliamentary zone, namely the Provisional Parliament House, Temporary Extensions; the Provisional Parliament House (Temporary Enclosure of Verandahs); and the Australian National Gallery Amphitheatre; and also a report on the future use of the provisional Parliament House, together with minutes of proceedings and the Hansard transcript of evidence.

In connection with the last report, I inform honourable senators that in May 1983 the Senate and the House of Representatives agreed to amend the resolution of appointment of the Joint Standing Committee on the New Parliament House, to enable the committee to consider and report on the use of the provisional Parliament House after it is vacated by the Parliament. The decision to refer this matter to the Committee was made for two reasons: Firstly, in a report in 1982, outlining its plans for the development of the parliamentary zone, the National Capital Development Commission noted that, in the absence of any decision about the future use of the provisional Parliament House after it is vacated by the Parliament in 1988, it has been assumed the building will remain in its present form. Secondly, the detailed planning of the interior of the new Parliament House will be affected by decisions about the future display of artworks and other memorabilia presently housed in the provisional Parliament House. Such decisions depend, to a large extent, upon the future use of the provisional building.

The Committee's principal recommendations are: That the provisional Parliament house should not be demolished; that it should remain basically as it is with modifications to the roof and the southern facade; and that it should be used as a museum related to the Australian Constitution, Federation and the Australian Parliament. In making these recommendations the Committee took account of the fact that a major part of Australia's contemporary political history has been enacted in this building and that it would be an act of desecration either to destroy the scene of that history or to devote the building to a use that did not have strong political or historical connections. It was also recognised that the new Parliament House will not be able to house all the memorabilia and material of historical consequence from this building or to have an educative role in relation to Federal or the political history of this country.

The principal criteria used by the Committee in determining the post-1988 uses of the provisional building were: Only nationally rather than locally oriented uses should be considered; regular use by the public including visitors and tourists should be encouraged, rather than a static use such as general office accommodation or intermittent occupation such as a conference centre; and in view of its history and close relationship with the new Parliament House, future use should have a parliamentary bias. The Committee believes that the provisional building will provide suitable accommodation for such a museum. It has the range of large spaces which would be required for displays, lectures and similar functions with sufficient accommodation for the administration, curatorial, storage, workshop and other activities which are an essential part of a large, active museum.

It is clear that a necessary preliminary to a closer study of the means by which a museum might be accommodated in the provisional House is the completion of a conservation analysis and plan. The aim of this examination would be to facilitate a detailed understanding of the building's structural history, present condition and its architectural and historical significance. This examination would also consider the means by which the proposed uses might be achieved in a way which is consistent with its proper conservation, both of the interior and exterior. The Committee therefore recommends that funds should be provided in the 1984-85 financial year for a conservation analysis and plan to be carried out on the provisional Parliament House. The Committee hopes that this inquiry and report will provide the basis for early decisions by the Parliament and the Government on the future of what is one of Australia's most significant and historic buildings. I commend the Committee's report to the Senate.