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Thursday, 26 November 1936

Senator ARKINS (New South Wales) . - I agree with the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) as to the importance of Australia House; the work undertaken by the officials in our London offices has grown enormously in recent years. There has, however, been a considerable amount of criticism by both members of Parliament and business people generally in regard to the situation of Australia House as the centre of Australian affairs in London. Apparently no prescience was shown by those who decided the location of the building. I understand that the main business quarter of London has largely grown away from Australia House in recent years, and it is now left practically isolated on an island in the Strand ; because of that, for all practical purposes the building, as the centre of the official business of the Commonwealth, is obsolete. This bill contains an amount of £7,250 for municipal rates and taxes in respect of Australia House. That seems a very large sum to provide for that purpose, and it appears to me that it would perhaps be more profitable to relinquish the present building and acquire another in a more suitable quarter.

Senator McLeay - Rates and taxes may be much higher in more suitable quarters.

Senator ARKINS - Nevertheless, £7,250 seems to me to be a large sum to pay for rates and taxes, even in London. If it is decided to sell the building and acquire other premises, I hope that more foresight will be exercised by those responsible for their selection than that which has been shown previously in regard to this matter.

Senator Grant - And their architecture.

Senator ARKINS - When I visited London, Australia House was practically new; but I understand that it has since been criticized from an architectural point of view. Even then it seemed rather gloomy. If a new building were constructed in a more suitable locality the offices of the State Agents-General would probably be located in it, and it would become the centre of the political and financial activities of Australia abroad.

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