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Friday, 24 August 1923

Mr BRUCE (Flinders) (Prime Minister) (11:15 AM) . - The Senate has amended clause 4 by reducing by £1 the amount of £6,124,426. mentioned therein, and has made a similar amendment in the schedule. The reason for these amendments, I understand, was to register the objection by the Senate to the proposed erection of a provisional Parliament House, instead of the nucleus of the permanent parliamentary buildings at Canberra. This question was fully debated in this House on the report and recommendation of the Public Works Committee, and after full discussion it was decided that the better course to pursue would be to proceed with the provisional building, leaving the erection of the permanent structure to be undertaken at a future date. The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) advanced adequate reasons why, from every point of view, and particularly from the standpoint of economy, this course was preferable to the recommendation made by the Public Works Committee. As a result of the debate, honorable members came to the conclusion that the provisional building should be erected, lt was pointed out that the erection of the nucleus of the permanent buildings would have the effect of delaying, for at least four or five years, if not longer, the removal of the seat of Government from its present location to Canberra. There is also another side to this question. If Parliament decides to proceed with the erection of the permanent Parliamentary buildings, it will be necessary to suspend all operations in the Capital territory, and immediately to take steps for a world-wide competition for the design of a monumental building, and the House has, however, already decided that the Capital shall be removed at the earliest possible date. There is also the question of finance, which I do not propose to go into at length now, but we have to .remember that a commencement of the nucleus of the permanent structure would place upon the people of Australia very heavy financial obligations. It is obvious that we could not be content with the nucleus of the building; we should have to continue with the building programme, and, consequently, the Commonwealth would be involved in the- expenditure of a very large sum of money which, in the present state of the finances, should, if possible, be avoided. We have to remember also, that in the design for the permanent, Parliamentary building, accommodation may have to be provided for a much larger number of members than we have at the present time. For these reasons, I move -

That the amendments be disagreed to.

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