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Thursday, 8 November 1973

Senator WOOD (Queensland) - I believe that I should enter into the debate because I think I can fairly claim to have been associated with town planning in Australia for longer than anybody else here. I had the great privilege and honour of bringing in the first town plan for the city of Mackay which initiated, I understand, town planning in Australia. I have continued to be associated with local government for a period of years, and I have also had the pleasure of taking part in the preparation of an amended town plan for the city of Mackay. This is a subject that requires a lot of thinking and imagination. When a plan is drawn for a place it is important to do the very best job in order to present the best qualities of a particular area.

There has been quite a bit of discussion about the Canberra town plan. Some years ago I was a member of a parliamentary committee which dealt with the Canberra town plan. My aim, like the aim of all senators and members, is to do the best for this city and, as a consequence, for the nation. So we have arrived at a situation today as to how we will reach a decision on where the new parliament house will be sited. I came into this chamber with the intention of supporting a joint meeting of the 2 Houses of Parliament. I had talked to various senators about the debate that had taken place and I had listened to some speeches before I came back to the chamber. As one who has always stood very strongly for the Senate as a chamber, I feel that I must change the opinion which I had and come down on the side of this chamber as a House expressing its view. I feel that the case for the joint sitting, as presented now, has some weaknesses. To me, it seemed a simple solution at first. Having heard some of the views which have been expressed, I feel that it is probably not as effective as it might be.

I was reminded by Senator Webster of an occasion in my Party when a decision was made by the 2 chambers as to where the parliament house should be sited. At that time the 2 Houses had a different view. I remember that the then Prime Minister, Mr Gorton, told parliamentarians of the joint parties that, as far as he was concerned, as they could not make up their minds, it was to be Camp Hill. I thought that that was a very autocratic attitude to adopt. Remembering that, it seems to me that if a decision is made jointly by parliamentarians, without the power of a parliamentary enactment, it cannot have any real force. That struck a point in my mind which indicated that there is a weakness in the case for a joint sitting, more particularly if it is held outside the parliamentary chambers. Senator Wright has on the notice paper a Bill relating to this issue at the moment I am not in favour of his Bill as it stands because it presents a point of view that the new parliament house should be on Camp Hill. I am in favour of Capital Hill. In view of what I have been reminded of by Senator Webster, the very fact of there being a Bill will give it more of an authority, something which must be conveyed, and will give it some parliamentary strength. If we have a legislative enactment, it gives the Senate a voice as the Senate. It also gives us the support and backing of legislative enactment. So, under those circumstances, I am compelled to come down on the side of the Senate making a separate decision.

I am quite convinced that Capital Hill is the correct choice for the site. Let me state my reasons. Firstly, the city of Canberra is a parliamentary city. Parliament will always be the dominant feature for its existence and its site. Therefore, as people come into this city, the building which should stand out clearly in their vision is the parliament house. As a result, it needs to be given some eminence. I believe that the way in which that can be done is by placing it on Capital Hill. Certain difficulties were suggested to me by the National Capital Development Commission. I refer to the parking of motor cars on the top of the hill. One eminent planner and architect said: 'It is a very simple matter. All you do is have car parking space at the base and put in a tunnel. People walk in and ride to the top in an elevator'. The solution is very simple when one has the right type of people to advise. I feel that that position would give the new parliament house an eminence, and I believe that it would fulfil all that any town planner would desire- the eminence of parliament house would make Canberra appear to be a parliamentary city.

Let us consider the alternatives before us: A joint sitting and Senator Wright's Bill which would be a parliamentary enactment. I am not in favour of Senator Wright's Bill as it stands but I think his purpose in introducing it has more merit than I conceded a first. As a consequence, I feel that we should reject the joint meeting until his Bill can be discussed. We should plump for a legislative enactment. When his Bill is discussed those of us who are in favour of Capital Hill can move an amendment saying that we favour Capital Hill. Under those circumstances I have changed my mind on the issue. I now come down on the side of the Senate expressing its opinion as a House.

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