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Thursday, 24 October 1974
Page: 1983


Senator WITHERS (Western AustraliaLeader of the Opposition) - I indicate, firstly, that, as on previous occasions, Opposition senators will have a free vote on this matter. This has always been the custom adopted on both sides of the Senate in relation to this matter. We are indebted to Senator Poyser for being prepared to sponsor his colleague's Bill in the Senate tonight. It is a matter of regret in some ways that we were not able to proceed with Senator Wright's Bill in the Senate. It had been passed in the previous Parliament and he had brought it down in this Parliament. Senator Poyser, quite generously, acknowledged that Senator Wright initiated legislation to this effect. I know that Senator Wright would have been delighted to be here tonight to speak to this Bill. In fact, his very good friend and colleague, Senator Wood, received a note from him the other day saying that he hoped that at last he would see some of his dreams come to fruition.

All sorts of various, almost hare-brained, schemes have been suggested for determining the site of the new and permanent parliament house. Senator Wright advocated from very early in the proceedings that the proper way to determine the site of the new and permanent parliament house was by the proper parliamentary process, namely, by a Bill for an Act being passed by both Houses of Parliament. I am delighted that we have moved away from the nonsense we heard about holding joint sittings of the Parliament, joint conventions or joint somethings and about counting heads and dividing the number by 3 or by 2. 1 am delighted that we are now conducting things in the proper parliamentary sense.

I indicate to the Senate that during the Committee stage I will be moving some amendments. In effect, this is what the amendments will be doing: For the benefit of those honourable senators who are familiar with Senator Wright's original Bill, I state that I will be inviting the Committee to substitute some clauses in his Bill for some in the present Bill. I do this not in any sense of pique or in order to play party politics but because, since reading what might be termed the Johnson-Poyser Bill, if I may use the American expression- it was introduced by Mr Keith Johnson, the honourable member for Burke, was it not?


Senator Poyser - Yes.


Senator WITHERS -Since reading the JohnsonPoyser Bill I have had the quite interesting experience of reading a document entitled: Report by the National Capital Development Commission on the Siting, Planning and Design of the Houses of Parliament, Canberra'. I do not see any date of issue on the report. It came to me under cover of a letter dated 16 October from Mr Tom Uren, the Minister for Urban and Regional Development. So I assume that the report would bear a date somewhere about that time. Without wishing to be unduly provocative about the National Capital Development Commission, let me say that I read this report with some keenness. I have always been somewhat suspicious of where the NCDC has tried to place the new and permanent parliament house. The NCDC originally tried to put us down by the waters.


Senator Devitt - At the bottom of the lake.


Senator WITHERS -At the bottom of the lake, and having lost that round it tried to put us on Camp Hill. It lost that round. I do not know how many honourable senators have read this report but I think the 2 key comments are on pages 27 and 29. At the top of page 27 the Commission talks about public access to the summit and says:

It would be possible to design a building on Capital Hill in such a way that members of the public could have free access to a roof viewing platform.

I take no exception to that.

This would be one way in which Griffin's desire to allow the People access to the highest point could be realised and at the same time allay fears that Parliament had retreated to a remote and dominant position.

I accept that. We all acknowledge that we are in the service of the people and the people should be able to view Canberra from Parliament House. The report goes on, and I think these are very interesting words:

The complex of Parliamentary and other functions could be grouped below this viewing platform.

I underlined the following words in the report as I continued reading it:

Alternatively, the permanent House could be planned as a complex of buildings covering the site more extensively and with a low profile to match the topography and the overall landscape.

At the side there is an illustration. I must say this for the Commission: The illustration is in red, blue and green and even I could follow it. It is interesting to see that the red part- Senate red I take it, and not Government red- is called 'observation deck, halls, entry'. That is a fair sort of illustration. To the left of it appears 'executive, chambers'. That is basically what Parliament is about at the moment and I have no exception to that. On the right, occupying the same space in illustrative form only, I admit, is an interesting notation- 'departments, offices'. Each wing has arrows showing the direction of expansion. That rather shook me as I was reading this report halfway across the Nullarbor last Friday and I thought: 'Hello, what are these characters up to? They are trying to horn in on our site of Capital Hill'.

Then one comes to pages 28 and 29. 1 do not know whether the NCDC thinks that members of Parliament read only the first pages and not the fine print, but the report contains an interesting page of architectural comparisons. The first is Washington, the second is Ottawa, the third is

Westminster, the fourth is Brasilia, but the fifth is the building group and here the report says:

The design for Canberra need not be monumental. It may be more appropriate to have a group of buildings of deliberately human scale -

I do not know what that means- which invite public involvement and participation. Oxford University is an example of a building group of this kind.

There is a photograph of Oxford University. Right at the bottom in fairly bold print are the words:

The design for the new and permanent Parliament House should respond to the climate and landscape of Australia and to its social forms and procedures rather than copy historical forms and convention from other places.

In other words, the report is saying: 'Whatever you do, do not put just a Parliament House on Capital Hill. It really ought to be surrounded by the NCDC, Treasury, Department of Trade and the Attorney-General's Department and all the rest of the bureaucracy'. Now that Parliament House is to go on Capital Hill the Commission wants to get into the act too. I state quite categorically that I am for a monumental type building and I am for Capital Hill for Parliament House. Perhaps it is a funny view to express in Canberra but I have always been quite convinced that if it were not for the fact that Parliament House came to Canberra this area would still be 2 sheep stations and most likely growing wool in a productive sense instead of living off the taxpayers. Therefore I could not think of a better objective for a Parliament House here.

Every time I stay at the Windsor Hotel in Melbourne and look out at where our fore-runners in the Senate used to be, I note that they used to delight in the fleshpots of Melbourne across the road and I often wonder why we came to Canberra. I would be much more comfortably housed at the Windsor Hotel walking across to the State Parliament House, but that is beyond us now. There is good football and terrible weather there but, that is all in the past. It is for that and not for any other reason that I think the Bill before us needs to be in a more definitive form. My amendments have just arrived and I ask that they be distributed. I shall talk in more detail about them when we get to the Committee stage. I assure honourable senators that the purpose of these amendments is my belief that Parliament should have control over the whole of the parliamentary zone. The Johnson-Poyser Bill, in effect, is asking for Parliament to assume control over Capital Hill and Camp Hill. I do not believe that is sufficient. I am wedded to the proposal put forward by Senator Wright that it should include not only those parts but also should run down King's Avenue and Commonwealth Avenue and include the lakeside. Quite frankly, I do not trust a lot of people in life and I am not talking in a party political sense. No matter what government is in power people will get under Parliament's guard if Parliament is not very watchful of these things. I believe that the 2 Houses of the Parliament should have an oversight and control of whatever buildings are built in what might be termed the parliamentary triangle. To limit this area to Camp Hill and Capital Hill is insufficient for our own interests. I shall return to that aspect later in the Committee stage.

I am delighted that the Bill is before the Parliament. I just forewarned senators- perhaps I am unduly suspicious and I hope not too unkind to the NCDC- that its words on pages 27,28 and 29 of its report fill me with a great deal of suspicion and I would like Camp Hill, Capital Hill and the whole parliamentary triangle put under the control and authority of Parliament beyond all doubt so that one morning- it will not be in my lifetime and I do not think there are any younger than I- Senator Poyser does not wake up at the new and permanent Parliament House and find that this building has been bulldozed down without Parliament's consent. Whether this building ought to remain is a matter for debate at a future time. I believe that the Parliament has a responsibility to protect the interests of Parliament irrespective of politics and irrespective of personalities. As I said earlier, Canberra is here because Parliament is here and Parliament ought to make certain that it at least controls the parliamentary triangle. I warmly support the second reading of this Bill.







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