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Wednesday, 26 June 2013
Page: 7203

Mrs ANDREWS (McPherson) (10:55): Australia has several iconic buildings. It has the Sydney Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the War Memorial and, of course, Gold Coast's Q1. They are just some of the iconic buildings and structures that come to mind. But perhaps the most iconic building that has come to represent our nation as a whole is the building in which we stand today, the new Parliament House. Although the Commonwealth parliament has sat since 1901, it was not until 1988 that the parliament was able to sit in this location. The opening of the first parliament in 1901 was in the Exhibition Building in Melbourne but from Federation up until 1927 the Commonwealth parliament sat in the Victorian Parliament House, while the state parliament sat in the Exhibition Building until the construction of a provisional parliament house. When that building, now known as Old Parliament House, was opened by the then Duke of York, later King George VI, no-one would have expected that it would house the parliament for 61 years.

As time progressed, Old Parliament House became cramped and could not cater for the 3,000 or so people working in it rather than the 300 it was planned for. In 1975 the parliament appointed the Joint Standing Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House to facilitate the construction of a new parliament building. The parliament approved construction on 28 August 1980 and the committee recommended that the new parliament house be opened by Australia's centenary of European settlement. So, ready on time, Her Majesty the Queen opened the new Parliament House on 9 May 1988, 61 years since her father had opened Old Parliament House, and the first sitting of the Commonwealth parliament in the new building took place on 22 August 1988.

Parliament House now occupies a floor area of 250,000 square metres with 4,500 rooms, and over 5,000 people work here during a parliamentary sitting, plus all the visitors that come throughout the year. Ninety per cent of the building is made of Australian materials and each part of the building's design has a meaning behind it. For instance, as many would know, the colours of the House of Representatives and the Senate reflect the respective colours of the House of Commons and the House of Lords in the United Kingdom; however the shade of green in the House of Representatives reflects the colours of eucalyptus and acacia trees while the red hue of the Senate reminds us of the rich soils and the redgums.

One of the great things about Parliament House is that much of it is open to the public, with Australians and other international visitors being able to come here and see the parliamentary system in action. I think there is many a schoolchild who remembers their trip to Parliament House and to Canberra, and I look forward to seeing many more come into this place and learn about our system of government, our democracy and what their part is in it.

I, like many of my colleagues, speak to many community groups and I have spoken with quite a lot during the last couple of years. We are often asked to speak and we are usually asked about anything other than politics. One of the things that I take the opportunity to speak about is this magnificent building, and I speak about it because I guess, as an engineer, I look at this building through engineering and construction eyes. But for the people that I speak to, they get to hear about a building that is so iconic, that is so important to this nation, and I try and remember as many statistics and as many different things as I possibly can about this building.

Often people come up to me after I have spoken about this building and congratulate me on giving such an interesting speech—and it will have been interesting because this building is interesting. It is fascinating. I talk to them about what it was like when I first walked into this building as a newly elected member of the House of Representatives—how there is so much whiteness, so much glass—and it is probably a little bit like the starship Enterprise, to be perfectly honest, where because of the nature of this parliament, when we come in we are here for the entire day and there is so much whiteness and there is so much glass here as well. I talk to them about standing on the ground floor of parliament directly under where the flag is, looking upwards and seeing the size of the flag from up so close, and how you are surrounded by so much beauty and structure in the building itself. I talk to them about a statistic that I am confident is correct, because I heard it on one of my trips around Parliament House with a guide—that is, there are about 23 kilometres of corridor in this building. I am sure that I, along with many others, have walked through many of those 23 kilometres of corridor.

When I first arrived in this place and found myself having to move from one part of the building to the other, I was confronted with what many other people here are confronted with and that is that the corridors are so similar. Even now, as you are moving, perhaps from a committee hearing back to your office, you can easily look up and wonder whether you are in the inner corridor, the outer corridor or on the first floor or the second floor because the corridors, particularly in the office part of the building, are so similar.

When I was finding it difficult to work out where I needed to be, as an engineer I acquainted myself with one of the many diagrams that are on the walls here so I could see a plan view of what Parliament House looked like. I have been very confident of finding my way around since looking at the plan view of it. It demonstrates the symmetry of this building. The building is exceptionally well laid out and, when you are conscious of what the layout of the building is, it is exceptionally easy to move quickly from one place to another. It is so symmetrical. It is a truly wonderful building. It is a landmark building and it is so important that we preserve it and respect it. Twenty-five years is a fantastic milestone. I am sure that there will be many more to come and I certainly join my colleagues in wishing the building a happy 25th birthday.