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Thursday, 26 September 1963

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Mr DUTHIE (WILMOT, TASMANIA) - I know that, but I also have a secretary.

Mr Leslie - What disease have you?

Mr DUTHIE - I have the Whip's disease. Some Labour members are in offices in the far western coiner of the Senate section.

Mr Nixon - Upstairs, too.

Mr DUTHIE - Yes, they are upstairs. As the honorable member for Macarthur said, they are in Siberia. They have to keep in constant training because they would never reach this chamber before the division bells stopped ringing if they were not in good physical condition. When the bells commence to ring, they have to make a mad dash of many hundreds of yards. It is not right that they should be compelled to live in that kind of isolation. That is another of the difficulties members are experiencing.

Committee work was mentioned by the honorable member for Hindmarsh. This is a feature which has come into prominence within the last five or six years. The Government parties have seven or nine committees and the Opposition has ten committees. They are operating constantly, so meeting places are required constantly. My own office is often used twice and occasionally three times a day for committee meetings. This means that my work is interrupted. If I am not a member of the committees which are to meet, I am put out of my office several times in a week, but I leave gladly because I know the difficulties facing our committees. They must hold their meetings somewhere. The members of the committee are not very happy about turning the Whip out of his office when he is trying to work, but that is the only way in which they can have a place to meet. We have far too few committee rooms. In fact, the number available is hopelessly inadequate. These committees do very important work. Many on our side suggest Labour Party policy.

Visitors to the Parliament are put to great inconvenience when trying to enter the galleries. On occasions we have seen queues extending even outside the building. Never have 1 seen so many visitors to Canberra waiting to enter the galleries to hear the debates. Every year 500,000 people visit Canberra, and I suppose at least onehalf of them come to Parliament House while the Parliament is in session. They should have better facilities for listening to the debates than they have now. Only a few dozen people can be seated at the one time in the two galleries in this chamber, and the unlucky ones must wait for up to an hour before being admitted. Many groups of school children from all over Australia now visit Canberra. That is very good for them. They come with their teachers, often at very great expense to their parents. They deserve every consideration, but sometimes they are allowed to remain in the galleries for only ten or fifteen minutes. They must leave then to allow other school children to enter who have been waiting in King's Hall.

We will never solve our problems merely by adding a wing to the present Parliament House. The growth of Canberra has been so great and so fast that everywhere I go in my electorate people are talking about Canberra - and not disparagingly. People want to come here. We should encourage them to come here. Canberra is becoming truly the National Capital. I am proud of it. I think all of us ought to be proud of it. When I was first elected to this House in 1946 Canberra had 14,000 people. Today it has 71,000. The whole skyline has changed in those seventeen years, and it will change still further in the next seventeen years. To-day more people are airminded; more people are nationally-minded; more people are parliamentarily-minded; and more people are politically-minded. So we will have more and more visitors to Canberra and Parliament House. We should cater for them in the best possible way. This building is just hopeless in regard to catering for the 500,000 people who each year come to see Canberra and Parliament House and to listen to the debates.

The cost of keeping this building in any degree of order, including the cost of keeping the water out of it, is enormous. Recently - I think it was last year - a new roof was put on this building at a cost of about £48,000, because it was leaking everywhere. It is still not satisfactory, as the maintenance men will tell you. Why should we go on spending good money year after year on patching up a building that has had it? Why should we not start to plan for a new Parliament House? We on this side of the chamber believe that that is the only real solution to the problems with which we are faced - the over-crowding and the lack of facilities. We are trying to operate a 1963 parliament with 1943 facilities. In my opinion, that is the position in a nutshell.

I hope that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth), when he follows me in this debate, will give us some encouragement. I hope that this select committee of seven members will be formed and will be charged with a great and very necessary national responsibility. I hope that it will have the courage to say what it wants done. If it wants a new Parliament House, I hope it will say so clearly. Then the Government will be able to start planning the new Parliament House. Even the planning on the architectural side will take twelve months. Then money will have to be allocated for the foundations of the building. If £4,000,000 was spent each year for five years, we would have a new Parliament House.

Mr Coutts - The Government could run a lottery to raise the money for it!

Mr DUTHIE - No, I definitely would not agree to that! I am sorry that the Deputy» «Whip and I disagree on that point. I believe that the new site selected is excellent. I disagree with my colleague, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), if he referred to the Camp Hill site. I do not think it is suitable at all. It might have been suitable 40 years ago, when a permanent Parliament House was first envisaged. But the site on the edge of the lake is really ideal. Westminster is on the banks of the Thames. Washington is on the banks of the Potomac River. The site on the edge of the lake is ideal from every point of view.

This is a very serious and difficult problem. The provision of a new wing on this building is not the answer. Therefore, I suggest that this select committee should start working on the proposition of a new

Parliament House from the very beginning. It should not mess around with any pimples on the left wing, the south wing, the east wing or any other part of this building.

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