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Tuesday, 12 June 1984
Page: 2845

Senator TEAGUE(5.44) —The Joint Standing Committee on the New Parliament House, when it met on 6 June, had great difficulty with the discussion of this third matter on which we were to report to the Senate. The other two references of the Committee have already been fully reported to the Senate and to the House of Representatives. Briefly, I support very fully the remarks of my colleague Senator Reid. Senator Reid, Mr Ruddock from the other place and I put in a dissenting report on this matter of the enclosure of the verandahs at the front of Parliament House. We are opposed to that enclosure. We gave six reasons for not being able to agree with the recommendation that the verandahs be enclosed. Senator Reid has already gone over them. They relate to the hasty and inadequate way in which this proposal was brought before the Committee. It was referred to the National Capital Development Commission only one day before the NCDC came before the parliamentary Committee. No detail was given.

It is not just a matter of the haste and inadequacy of this; my understanding is that when the greater extension in the House of Representatives garden was put before Cabinet for approval it was at a cost of more than $1.3m-

Senator Crichton-Browne —$1.7m.

Senator TEAGUE —I understand that Cabinet did not approve of that amount of $1. 7m and cut it back to $1.3m. In this chamber we are not privy to precise matters discussed in Cabinet, but one Minister present at the meeting, the Minister for Territories and Local Government, Mr Uren, and another Minister present, the Minister for Finance, Mr Dawkins, felt that they could find a way around that reduction, decided by the Cabinet on sound grounds-sound enough grounds to convince the Committee. They found a way around it by saying that it was within the power of the Minister for Territories and Local Government unilaterally to fund out of his Department's budget this $90,000 of expenditure on the front verandahs in order to help Mr Dawkins extend his offices on to the verandah. Then, on 5 June, Mr Uren hastily and inadequately proposed this enclosure of the verandahs to help out a fellow Cabinet Minister.

Senator Crichton-Browne —$90,000 for one Minister.

Senator TEAGUE —The amount of $90,000 was always put as assisting that Minister, Mr Dawkins. But, obviously, if we were to do that, we would need to have some sense of aesthetics and mess up not just one side of Parliament House. It would need to look symmetrical. If one half of Parliament House was to have the balconies glazed in to destroy the traditional view of the front of Parliament House for all our visitors, we would need to mess up the other half as well, so that there would be increased accommodation for the three Ministers on the Senate side of the building. The proposal was then hastily and inadequately presented to a joint committee of this Parliament. That was the reason for its being so hastily and inadequately prepared. I am not a senator who will take lightly a top of the head decision of a Minister. I felt it was my proper duty to speak frankly at that joint Committee and then to explain to the Senate as a whole why we put in that dissenting report.

I appeal to the Australian Democrats in this chamber-Senator Jack Evans and Senator Macklin are here listening to this debate-to support the amendment before us, moved by the Opposition. With their support we will be able to retain the traditional aesthetic design of the verandahs at the front of Parliament House. I say to the Democrats: Is it not the case that for decades visitors coming to Parliament House have grown used to a certain traditional presentation of the front of Parliament House? Is that to be destroyed by glazing in the front of those verandahs? In what colour will it be done? Nobody knows whether it will be red, pink or blue, or how it will be presented. More seriously, we do not know whether a glass can be found which will handle the heating effects of full sunlight without curtains and blinds-the view is not to be messed up by curtains or blinds; in fact, even desks will not be able to be close to those proposed glass walls. So I appeal to the Democrats to agree with the Opposition that this kind of hasty, inadequate proposal, off the top of the head of one Minister, ought not to have the conscientious confirmation of this Parliament.

If the public, upon seeing a spoiled Parliament, is critical of it, it will be the fault of the majority who approve this proposal in the chamber today. It certainly will not be the fault of members of the Opposition who have clearly set out the reasons why we believe this to be a matter which requires much more planning and detail before approval can even be contemplated. I genuinely appeal to the Democrats to support the Opposition in not agreeing to this recommendation.