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Thursday, 8 November 1956


Mr CALWELL (.Melbourne) .- 1 wish to add a few words to what the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) has said in support of the proposed establishment of a parliamentary committee on Canberra. The Parliament has sat in Canberra for 28 years now - one year longer than it sat in Melbourne. Unfortunately, the development of Canberra has not proceeded as was originally planned or expected. It has been delayed by two world wars, a depression, and a period, from 1952 to 1954, which was euphemistically described as a " recession ". I have no doubt that many works were held up in those two " recession " years, as well as in quite recent times, and that is unfortunate.

The great secretariat, which is still being erected, was approved by the Chifley Government in 1948. It was to have cost £3,000,000 and the work was to have been spread over five years. Unfortunately, it has not yet been completed, and will not be until next year. Thus, it will have taken nine years, and the cost will probably be £5,000,000, or even more.

Canberra has developed very rapidly in recent times. When World War II. broke out the population was about 1 1 .000. On the occasion of the 1947 census it was 17,000. At the time of the 1954 census it was 30,000, and if the great Commonwealth departments and instrumentalities that are situated in Melbourne and Sydney are brought here it will not be long before Canberra will have a population of 60,000. All of this proves how necessary it is to set up an authority that will oversee the plans of the past, and those that are to be made in the future. 1 have a great respect for engineers and other competent professional men, but very often they lack vision, and it may well be that without the supervision which this committee will be able to give, costly and irreparable mistakes will prevent this national city, this Washington of Australia, from providing for the 100,000 people who will be here in the lifetime of some of the younger members of this Parliament. As

I he committee feels its way the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) may be in dined to give it greater scope to propose schemes that it thinks should be examined, apart from those that he and his departmental officers are prepared to refer to it It is true, as the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory has said, that the committee should hasten slowly to begin with, lt need not examine every project, but it should examine those that matter most. 1 should like to see the King's-avenue bridge erected at the earliest possible moment because whenever there is a flood - and we have often had them this year - only one serviceable, high level bridge is available and at times that is out of operation. Though Canberra's development has proceeded very well, much more could have been done had the times been more propitious, and had other Ministers done as the present Minister is doing.

I commend the Minister upon bringing down this motion, and I commend the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory upon his persistence and continuous advocacy of those things that he believes ought to be done for the welfare of the people of Canberra. I hope that the Minister will be able to refer to the new committee the question of the erection of a new Parliament House. As I have said before, the money could be provided by an annual appropriation of even £500,000 to a trust fund over the next sixteen years.

A new Parliament House is very necessary. Honorable members are handicapped in their work by the inconvenient and crowded conditions of this building. We ought to have at least as modern and as commodious a building, with all the requisites that members in their official capacities require, and, at least, equal to those that exist in the Capitol building, and its adjuncts, in Washington. This is a national parliament, and the sooner we make it a national parliament in fact as well as in name, the better it will be for Australia. I think that all peoples throughout the world love bigness. They are impressed with what governments do to identify themselves with the work of the people and for that reason, if I might digress, 1 think it is most important that the pile of buildings which is being constructed in Melbourne should be completed quickly. I think the Sydney project should also be started.


Mr Chambers - And the one in Adelaide.


Mr CALWELL - I think that all the others, in Adelaide and every other capital city, should be started, so that the State branches of all Commonwealth departments may be gathered together under the one roof. If we have a big Commonwealth building in every State capital, the people will be impressed with the nature of the Commonwealth's work and responsibilities. A big building which impresses the people will ultimately, I hope, impress them with the need to give more powers to the Federal Parliament so that it can fully discharge all its responsibilities to the people. More powers need to be granted to the Commonwealth Parliament, and I hope that the date of their granting is not too far distant. 1 commend the measure. [Quorum formed.]







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