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Monday, 23 May 2011
Page: 4239


Mr SIMPKINS (Cowan) (18:42): On 12 March 1913 the wife of the then Governor-General of Australia, Lady Denman, announced that the new capital would be called Canberra. With just two years to go before the 100th anniversary of the foundation of our national capital, it is right that we should now mark the significance of some of the key dates that were involved with the establishment of the capital. As the Deputy Chair of the Joint Committee on the National Capital and External Territories, I am very pleased to join and second, with the member for Menzies, the Hon. Kevin Andrews, this motion, which highlights the great importance and significance of the international competition to design the Australian capital, the winning design, the winning architects, and as part of this motion to call upon the National Capital Authority to work with the parliament to arrange an appropriate commemoration. Tomorrow, 24 May 2011, marks the 100th anniversary of the launch of the design competition that began the journey towards the establishment of our truly unique and magnificent capital city of our country.

When you look at the development of our state capitals and other major cities, there was always the potential that the national capital would in some way replicate some aspects of either Sydney or Melbourne, the dominant cities at the time. Yet the vision to have such a design competition really did ensure that a unique capital would be created. In May 1912 the winner of the competition was announced as Walter Burley Griffin, an architect who worked with his wife, Marion Mahony Griffin, to create the design and fundamentally influence the city's design and future. So when you look at the winning design, although it is not exactly the way the city subsequently developed, it is absolutely true to say that the major aspects of the city are evident in the Griffin design. As someone who has lived in this city for over six years of my life, thanks to the Army and the Federal Police before that, I can say that I do appreciate the beauty and functionality of Canberra, and this city that serves our nation well is highly appropriate. Although I am rarely in Canberra these days, apart from being here in Parliament House, when I speak of those places that visitors should come and see, I appreciate the beautiful parts of the city. I think of the lake that bears Griffin's name and I think of the layout of the streets and the monuments and the views that were evident as part of the original design. These are the aspects I recall most fondly, and they are the things that we owe to Griffin. What he planned for the capital and what was achieved are the parts of Canberra that I see as the key parts, and many people share my view. I know that many Australians that have not lived in Canberra or visited Canberra can be dismissive of the capital. However, when they do come here, one thing they will always take home with them and appreciate is the parts of the city that Griffin was responsible for.

It is true to say that there was friction between Griffin and the government after the competition had been won. At the time that the implementation of the design was being attempted, the government was obviously focusing on the First World War. As I said before, there are aspects of the plan that were compromised. The key elements and the fundamental design that was implemented nevertheless reflects the tenets of his work. When you look at the final drawings, you see the east, the west and the central basins of the lake itself, which took until 1964 to be completed. The design of many of the roads and the layout of the city are evident. There is no doubt that this city, this capital, is fundamentally the work of its maker, its designer, and we should pay tribute to Walter Burley Griffin for what he achieved. It is somewhat tragic that it took until 1964, when Prime Minister Menzies decided to name the lake after Walter Burley Griffin, before he actually got some credit for the work that he did. Certainly he has became more appreciated with the establishment in 1988 of the Walter Burley Griffin Society.

Given the influence and the importance of the architectural competition and given the fact that we are now moving quickly towards the centenary of Canberra, it seems right and appropriate that as part of that celebration we properly reflect the contribution that Griffin made and the importance of that architectural competition. With the CAPITheticAL design competition that is being undertaken as part of the 100th birthday celebrations for Canberra, it does seem like an appropriate opportunity and location to make a contribution and to commemorate Griffin and the original competition.