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Wednesday, 29 June 1938

Sir HENRY GULLETT (Henty) . - The House should be grateful to the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) for providing an opportunity to discuss this important subject. Like most honorable members, I am attached to Canberra ; I wish to see this city develop along the best and most beautiful lines possible. The discussion to-day appears to have resolved itself into an interesting dispute as to whether the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) or the honorable member for Parkes holds the really authentic plan of the capital city. The contention of the Minister that, according to the plan in his possession, the high school is to be built on vacant land, is unanswerable; but just as clearly does the plan in the possession of the honorable member for Parkes show that the area is reserved for university purposes. That is a most unsatisfactory state of affairs and it is for that reason that I am glad that the matterhas been brought before Parliament. It should not be difficult to clear this matter up; the real facts must be ascertainable somewhere. I did not know until to-day that there were almost as many Griffin plans as cards in a pack, but we have the assurance of the Minister that that is the present position. The whole thing is extremely disconcerting. Whatever the facts are, I do not think that it is right, even presuming that the land is vacant, that the department should be able to say, " We shall erect on this block a high school or some other building ". I go further, and saythat no Minister should have that authority. I have great, respect for the taste of the present Minister for the Interior, but I do not think that in a matter of this kind the decision should be left to the taste of any Minister, or of any group of officials. If it does not go beyond that, we shall have buildings dumped here and there at the whim of any Minister, or set of officials who may be in office. That state of affairs cannot be described as town-planning of the kind contemplated in the original plan for Canberra. Within a few hundred yards of Parliament House itself, there is an awful example of what should not be possible in a well-planned city. I regard it as one of the most hideous buildings erected in Australia since settlement began. I do not blame the present Minister for its erection, but it must have been built under the authority of some occupant of the office which he now holds. Moreover, it must have had the approval of the officials of the department. That building is an example of what may happen under the present extraordinarily loose system of control of the building plan of this capital city.

Mr McEwen - Does the honorable member refer to a government building?

Sir HENRY GULLETT -No; but I submit that all buildings erected in Canberra must first receive official approval. It is clear from the example which I have given that that approval can be obtained for any hideous design that is submitted to the department. I do not say that that is always the case, for I admit that accidents may occur. A mistake was certainly made in connexion with the building referred to. I hope that, as the result of this discussion, there will be strict adherence to the original plan, or, if variations are contemplated, that they will be made only after they have been considered by people capable of making sound recommendations. I shall be perfectly frank in this matter. I am not satisfied with the committee that has been appointed. I am sorry that the Government has sprung its announcement upon the House without first giving to honorable members an opportunity to discuss the kind of committee that should have been placed in control of this most important work. I imagine that it is only an advisory committee, and I take no exception to any of its individual members, but to me it is not in any sense a satisfactory body. What is wanted is greater control over the government and the officials of the day. The committee will have no real authority. I should like to have from the Minister an assurancethat, in future, work which involves a departure from the approved plan will not be commenced nor will any building be erected upon vacant land before the proposal has been tabled in this House.I suggest also that attention to what is proposed should be drawn by other means than a notification in the Commonwealth Gazette. The erection of a building in this territory is not an ordinary undertaking. Honorable members have a special interest in this city; they desire to make it as beautiful and as notable as possible. I should appreciate the opportunity to express my views upon its development from time to time.

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