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Tuesday, 18 October 1983
Page: 1857

Mr DOBIE(8.10) —Mr Speaker, I rise to speak on the Appropriation ( Parliamentary Departments) Bill basically because we have the appropriations for parliamentary departments before the House. I pay tribute to your predecessor in the chair, the Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden, for having fought for so long, along with other Presiding Officers, to see that such appropriations came about. I also congratulate you, Mr Speaker, on having maintained a firm hand as the Presiding Officer on this side of the Parliament. It is because of that that I speak tonight.

I wish to comment upon one or two matters in relation to this Bill. One relates to the Joint Committee on the New Parliament House of which you, Mr Speaker, are one of the Chairmen. While it is not my intention at this stage to talk on a matter which I have already given notice I wish to raise in the Committee, I hope that we will be able to extend the area under the control of the Parliament House Construction Authority. I believe that the boundary, presently at Capital Circle, should be extended to State Circle. I do not wish to abuse the time of the House at this time by giving the reasons; suffice it to say that evidence has come before me privately, as a member of the Committee and on other occasions which suggests that it would be much wiser if the building authority which is in charge of this massive building and of which for its purposes you, Mr Speaker, and Mr President-the two Presiding Officers-are the virtual clients, were given more responsibility. I believe that now is the appropriate time to mention this matter in this House. It would be wrong if another planning authority continued to have control over the area between State Circle and Capital Circle.

My alarm arises from a casual comment by someone from the National Capital Development Commission-the NCDC-that the Commission just happened to have plans drawn up for a car park for 1,000 cars. I am concerned that if this sort of procedure is allowed to go on we will finish up with the new Parliament House, which is being given an immense amount of detailed study-practical, detailed, continuous study on a working day by day basis-being completely ruined, if not in immediate terms in the next two or three decades. I believe that if the area between the two circles I have mentioned-Capital Circle and State Circle-is not under the control of the Parliament or the authority that will probably succeed the Parliament House Construction Authority but control remains with the NCDC, particularly in light of the new suggestions and recommendations that the NCDC be even less answerable to this Parliament, we should act accordingly. As I mentioned earlier, I will be mentioning these details to the Committee but I felt they should be mentioned within the Parliament at this time because we are debating the appropriations to which they are related.

I think this Bill is a tremendous gesture. I wonder whether all the new members of Parliament realise the real significance of the Parliament now having its own appropriations which you, Mr Speaker, and Mr President determine and which go before governments in the normal way. That previously was not the case. I believe that this Parliament must continue increasingly to control its own financial destiny and must not be reliant upon the Executive of governments from time to time. I think these appropriations are the result of a progressive move and I congratulate the present Government for continuing the policy of the previous Government in this regard.

I pay tribute, as did the honourable member for Lowe (Mr Maher), who spoke before me, to the officers of the Parliament. I extend to Mr Blake, the Clerk of the House, and all of his staff a special thanks for what they do for all sides of this Parliament. If ever anyone was totally non-political in his approach it is the Clerk and his staff. I think the public should be made aware of this a little more. Not only are the clerks advisers to you and your deputies, Mr Speaker, but also they are great advisers to the executives, both real and shadow, and to those on the back benchers. A tribute should be paid to them at this time and I gladly and happily do so. The honourable member for Lowe has touched on the other areas of concern. I support him in his tributes to the staff of the Parliamentary Library and, of course, the Parliamentary Reporting Staff.

I am sorry that more honourable members are not talking about aspects of parliamentary involvement in the new Parliament House. I hope that in future years we will see a stronger debate because the new Parliament House is now at a stage where it cannot be changed structurally. So many people in Canberra saw the stage of development it has reached last Sunday when it was open to the public for the first time. I just say 'Well done' to those involved. I use this occasion to thank you, Mr Speaker, as one of the chairmen of the Committee, which is doing such a great job. I congratulate you once more. Thank you.