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Wednesday, 26 June 2013
Page: 7211

Ms BRODTMANN (Canberra) (11:31): I would like to commend the member for Riverina for his splendid speech and also for paying tribute to those who served in the Old Parliament House and also this wonderful new Parliament House. I am incredibly proud and tickled pink that this wonderful, iconic building that we are celebrating and talking about here today is in my electorate of Canberra because it truly is a most magnificent piece of modern architecture and craftsmanship. It is the centrepiece, as we heard from the Prime Minister on Tuesday, of our democracy. She quoted former Prime Minister Bob Hawke—and I think this is a beautiful quote—who said of his place that it is:

… the forum for our differences and the instrument of our unity.

I think that really does sum up what new Parliament House represents to us as politicians and as representatives of our communities and the Australian nation.

It is a symbol of nation building and forward thinking. This building was designed and built to last for 200 years. I cannot imagine what the electorate of Canberra will be like in another 175 years time, but I cherish the thought that this wonderful Parliament House, which will be a grand old dame by then, will still be standing tall at its centre. Parliament House is the realisation of a magnificent design, a magnificent philosophy and a modern notion of democracy. It has been made possible by Canberra's, Australia's and, indeed, the world's best tradespeople, labourers, managers, administrative staff and professional consultants.

Parliament House was built by a team of some 2,000 people here on site in Canberra, and as many as 8,000 around Australia were involved in the manufacturing of the materials and products. Some 24 nationalities were represented among those working on this project. Anyone who has been lucky enough to spend time in this building for an extended period will know that a full range of craft and trade skills are evident in its design and construction. It is right down to the fantastic carpentry work that is in our offices. It is in the tiny little drawers and shelves that have been developed. It is all high-quality craftsmanship made with great love and great respect for the Australian people and for the actual materials, such as the beautiful woods that have been used, and a great sense of this legacy and the fact that this beautiful craftsmanship and beautiful work is going to be here for a long time. It was built to be enduring. It was built with respect as a result of that.

One particular story that I love is that the building even called for the revival of some skills which at the time were considered quite rare, such as the mixing and application of stucco lustro, a polished plaster wall finish derived from the methods first used in Roman times. I like to think the building has therefore contributed to the preservation of these skills. I know that Aldo, when he was designing it, invoked many of those classic Romanesque architectural themes here, with the pillars and columns and the grandeur. It is just wonderful that not only is the design concept based on those principles and those philosophies but also the actual building and construction of it have drawn on those skills that date right back to Roman times.

I want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the over 10,000 people who were involved in the construction of this project in some way or another. I hope and I know that they are proud of their contribution to this incredible, significant and historic building. I hope and I know that they take satisfaction in the fact that the results of their efforts are so spectacular, are so enduring, are so monumental and are so significant that they make us all proud as a nation. They inspire awe, as we have heard from presidents and other visitors from overseas, from right throughout the world. Most importantly, I hope and I know that they realise that the thousands of people who visit this building every day—from the politicians to the cleaners, from the schoolchildren to the lobbyists, the security guards, the police officers and the advisers—all feel a sense of pride and privilege that they are able to work in this great place. Many people who work in this building have aspired to work here since they were children—perhaps as a politician or an adviser. It is a focal point for the nation and, for many Australians and many who work here, a focal point of their aspirations. I feel that as I work here every day of the week.

I would also like to pay tribute to the people who work in this building today, particularly those who take such good care of it and of us—the cleaners, the gardeners, the tour guides, the library staff, the security guards, the police officers, the journalists, the barristers, the chefs, the waiters, the attendants, the educators, the post office staff, the bank and travel agent employees and the list goes on, including the advisers, of course. Perhaps the most special thing about this building is that it is not just a building; it is a community that it is a privilege to be a part of. It is a community. We spend an awful lot of time here together and we spend an awful lot of time in the wee small hours, when we are quite often very tired and cranky. It is a community where people provide support to one another from both sides of the political divide, and we also get support from the security guards and the other staff around here. We get that sense of support and a sense that we are all working together for the common good, we are all working together to make a difference and we are playing our role in many and varied ways. Even though we have differences in our methods of getting there, we are all here to serve the Australian people. I believe that that is the belief of everyone who works in this building. We want to serve the Australian people. We want to make this nation a better place for all Australians. We want to make a difference. It is an incredible privilege to be working in a community that aspires to that.

In my early years as a Canberran, I watched this building emerge out of what looked like a giant pit. It was a giant pit for what seemed a very long time, and now it has emerged into this thing of beauty. At the time, I could never have dreamed that, one day, I would not only work at New Parliament House—as we used to call it—but that I would be doing so as the person elected to represent the people of Canberra. It is fitting that by now, its 25th year, we have all but dropped the word 'New' when we refer to Parliament House, although we still abbreviate its name as NPH.

I remember working on the 20th anniversary of Parliament House. I was doing some consulting—I had my own communication business before coming here. I was doing some work with the CFMEU at the time, and they were working in conjunction with a number of the architects and the engineers who worked on the construction of the building, to celebrate the workers who built this Parliament House. That was very much the focal point for the 20th anniversary program. It was just wonderful to meet, and hear all the stories of, the people who came here from all over the world to build this. There were plenty of funny stories and there were plenty of sad stories. There was a reunion lunch for all the workers. There was a reunion event here at Parliament House for all the engineers and the architects and the builders, and it was a great celebration of their efforts.

To celebrate the 25th anniversary and to coincide with Canberra's centenary, we had the beautiful ballet that was performed recently by the Australian Ballet company, called 'Monument'. The building was celebrated through dance, and everyone who saw that, including me, was amazed at how the ABC managed to convert the built form into life, into dance, into movement. It was a challenging brief, but they did a fantastic job. I understand that Aldo Giurgola, the architect of Parliament House, attended that and was incredibly moved by what he saw.

Aldo is a very prominent figure in this building. He comes here every week to check up on his baby. He makes sure that everything is in its place. Whenever I see him wandering the corridors—he is 90-plus now—I reflect on a story that I was told when I was in Foreign Affairs and Trade about Harry Seidler, who designed the Australian Embassy in Paris. The story shows how protective architects are of their creations. It happened at the time when Gough Whitlam was ambassador. Harry was invited around to have a drink, or dinner, with Gough and Margaret. They were in the ambassador's residence, this beautiful Harry Seidler creation, and Harry spent most of the time arranging the furniture. Like all great architects, he had designed the furniture as well, and he was most unimpressed with the way Gough and Margaret had disrespected his vision for the furniture arrangements and other general arrangements—the ambience of the Australian ambassador's residence in Paris. Harry spent most of his time wandering around rearranging the furniture, literally, and chastising Gough and Margaret for not realising the true sense of the Harry Seidler vision. I do not know whether that is myth, but it is a good story. It does underscore the fact that architects are incredibly protective and possessive of their work, and we definitely have that with Aldo. I can see Aldo being carried out from here in a pine coffin. He is so attached to the place that it will probably be here where he will move on. He is a great inspiration.

Another thing I find inspiring in this wonderful building are the gardens. Even at the moment, when we are in the grip of winter, we still have beautiful azaleas and camellias. I wish my garden looked this good in winter, but unfortunately I do not have the fantastic team that they have here. In spring it comes into its own. There is a magical Japanese garden, a cherry blossom garden, which is just divine. I love wandering the gardens here every day and seeing the art and sculptures. It is not just the building that is so magnificent; it is also the gardens and the art that is in the gardens. It is wonderful seeing so many Canberrans and Australians come up during Floriade, in spring, to see the true joy of the beautiful design of these gardens.

As the member for Riverina has mentioned, the children who come here also get great joy not just from seeing the House of Representatives and the Senate and working out what is red and what is green, and from the hospitality, but also from doing the role-play in the education room and screaming at each other. They also get great joy from seeing this iconic building, which they watch on television during the week from far-flung parts of Australia. They all come here to celebrate democracy and their nation.

It is this purpose-built home of democracy which we are celebrating the 25th anniversary of this year. It is a symbol of freedom and hope. It is a symbol of democracy. It is a symbol of unity. It is a symbol of nationhood. It has served us well over the last 25 years and it will continue to serve us for the next 175 years. Happy birthday, Parliament House!

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms Hall ): I call the member for Wide Bay.