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Tuesday, 12 June 1984
Page: 2844


Senator REID(5.35) —I am disappointed at the attitude the Australian Democrats have taken to this matter. It is not a question of the Joint Standing Committee on the new Parliament House sitting as a planning authority and determining exactly what should be done. If Senator Macklin had read the dissenting report of the Joint Standing Committee on the new Parliament House he would have found a number of disquieting aspects of the matter that ought to be looked into. One of these is the appearance of Parliament House. I am sure most honourable senators will remember the reaction in this Parliament and in the community last year when alterations were planned for the Australian War Memorial, which now, as a result of views expressed in the Parliament and in the community, have been abandoned because the appearance of the building is regarded as important. I rather suspect that when people find out what is planned for this building there may be a similar reaction of disappointment that the front of the building is to be altered in this way, for what I regard as very little improvement.

Perhaps the most important aspect of the matter, and the real reason for suggesting that it should go back to the Committee for further consideration, is the question of costing. No costings were placed before the Committee giving a breakdown of the $90,000 which it was suggested the work would cost. It is more likely to cost something in the vicinity of $300,000. I think that we will find in time that the $90,000 is considerably less than what will be spent. The renovations will be demolished in the end so the building will be put back to its present state. It may well be more sensible to spend additional funds on the demountable building, which no doubt will also be approved, and which would be of some use in the end and not just be demolished. I think the Committee ought to be asked to look at the matter again from that point of view.

The National Capital Development Commission was not able to tell the Committee what sort of glass would be used for the enclosure. There was some discussion as to the type of glass that might be used so that the lighting outside and the sun would not make the rooms unbearable. NCDC was not able to give that information at that time. I think that alone is one matter that ought to be reconsidered by the Committee. I am not suggesting that the renovations will not go ahead but I think we ought to know whether we are spending money wisely or whether in fact we are spending more than required.

I believe there ought to be a false floor over the concrete to bring the floor level with the existing floors. That is not proposed. I suggest that the heating of those verandahs-with a cement floor merely covered by carpet-would be quite costly. I doubt that the air conditioning as it presently exists in the building -at least in my office-will be adequate to air condition those areas and keep them at an appropriate temperature, given the heat of the sun which will be on the glass, at least in summer. I think the cost of air conditioning required is something that ought to be looked into to balance off whether these enclosures are relevant or whether there ought to be on extension to the demountable building which would serve the purpose most adequately and not be a cost for a building that will have to be demolished in time. I do not think the air conditioning question has been analysed.

At the meeting that took place on 6 June this year we were presented with a plan by the NCDC relating to the temporary enclosure of floor plan which shows the office now inhabited by Senator Martin as a passageway. That gives some indication of how out of date the plan really is. I understand that office was enclosed about 10 years ago. One wonders whether the rest of the plans which were taken into account when $90,000 was determined as the cost are actually accurate. The other very significant factor about this diagram is that it is a floor plan dated 5 June 1984. I am sure that over many years many honourable senators have been on committees with which the NCDC has been involved. I can assure honourable senators that the NCDC does not normally draw up plans on 5 June and present them to a committee on 6 June. I question how the costing of $ 90,000 was arrived at on that basis.

For these reasons it is important that the Committee re-examine the costing to see whether money is being well spent. Cabinet has approved the demountable building. This is something which ought to have been considered at the same time as that, to see whether extensions should have been made to that area. I am told that it is because one Labor Minister wants more office space that this work needs to be done. He may well think that he needs more office space, but I question whether it is appropriate for Ministers to have in their Parliament House Offices as many members of their staff as they have. It is my view that the Parliament House Offices of Ministers ought to be used for servicing parliamentary duties. Ministers should have more staff in their departmental offices. But it seems that there is one Minister who is most anxious to extend-


Senator Crichton-Browne —Who?


Senator REID —I understand it is Mr Dawkins, who has come to an arrangement with the Minister for Territories and Local Government to take this $90,000 out of the NCDC budget. I would like to know, if perchance the extensions cost more than $90,000, where the extra money will come from and whether we will have an opportunity to consider whether that money should be spent.

One of the senators on our side of the building wanted to be sure that, if the extensions went ahead, there would be access to fresh air. It was clear from what the NCDC said that it was intended to glass in the verandah totally. When it was suggested that it perhaps should be done in a way which would enable the windows to be opened, the NCDC said that it thought it could probably accommodate that. But whether that would cost an additional amount, I do not know. It was also suggested that furniture on the verandahs should be sufficiently away from the windows as not to be seen from the outside. We do not have an adequate undertaking that that will be the case. That was merely something that was mentioned. The look of the building could be somewhat distorted and destroyed. It is an important building. To fill in the verandahs and allow offices to be used in the way some offices are used would be a pity, even if it is for only a few years. I am not convinced of the need for it for that Minister's office, any more than for any other office in this building. If the Minister applied himself to his problems perhaps he could reorganise his staff in his office in a way that would give them adequate room here, with some of his staff in his Department office.

I stress the point that I made initially; I believe the costing of this project is most inadequate. I believe the Committee ought to be asked to look at it again from a point of view of cost so that we know that we are spending money wisely. I am disappointed that the Australian Democrats are prepared to go along with this costing, not adequately presented, and are not prepared to refer it back to the Committee for such time as it would take to do the job properly.