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Tuesday, 30 November 1976

Mr BIRNEY (Phillip) - I draw the attention of the House to a palace in Paris or, as it is referred to in common parlance, the Australian Embassy in France. The site of the new embassy and apartments is Quais Bronly

The purchase of the land and the construction of the chancellery and the apartment block were the brainchild of the previous Labor Government when it went on one of its customary and now legendary spending extravaganzas which, allied to other financial excesses, almost bankrupted Australia. The construction cost of the chancellery and the apartment block, again authorised by the previous Labor Government, is set at a staggering and bewildering $ 1 8.4m. The contract was let in May 1975. The architect of the palace was none other than that well known Australian architect, Harry Seidler, a friend, confidant and associate of the hierarchy of the then Government. My inquiries confirm that the architect's fees are in excess of 11 per cent of this astronomical figure, which is equivalent to over $2.5m. Because of Seidler's agreement with the Labor Government- an agreement which I understand was signed, sealed and delivered- the present Government will be forced to pay this exhorbitant fee from the already depleted taxpayers' funds straight into Seidler's pocket.

The chancellery consists of 2 basements for car-parking, a lower ground floor, a ground floor for reception and seven other floors. The Labor Government saw fit that the Embassy abroad should lack no home comforts. In this regard, the apartment block provides 2 basements for parking and includes a swimming-pool, a squashcourt, an auditorium and a library. It rises to 9 floors containing 32 magnificent suites. The total floor area of both offices and apartments is approximately 30 000 square metres. One could be forgiven for firmly believing that this Australian Taj Mahal was earmarked to be used by Labor Ministers, their entourage, fellowtravellers and hangers-on, if honourable members like to call them that, as their haven of luxury on the Continent. No doubt it was designed to keep them in a style to which they were never accustomed.

Mr Baume - Was the architect Ms Evatt 's husband?

Mr BIRNEY -That is spot on. This in one further horrifying example of the despicable waste of taxpayers' money which the people of Australia will never quite forget. How hollow it now sounds when the Labor Opposition accuses this Government of cutting back on expenditure when spending sprees such as I have just mentioned were the order of the day for the previous Administration whose callous regard for the excesses of expenditure will haunt Opposition members for many a long day.

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