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Wednesday, 29 June 1938

Mr BRENNAN (Batman) . - The honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) has directed criticism of a serious character against the Government in regard to the development of the Territory for the Seat of Government. The basis of this criticism is " the erection of the high school buildings on the university site at Canberra, the flouting of Parliament by the Department of the Interior through accepting a tender for the erection of those buildings prior to the statutory alteration of the Griffin plan being approved or rejected by Parliament, and the lack of policy with regard to the building of Australia's national capital ". Some honorable members have suggested that the honorable member for Parkes has, in moving this motion, earned the thanks of Parliament. Whether or not the thanks of honorable members are due to the mover of the motion depends on whether the charges he has made are substantiated. If they are mere, ill-informed criticism, and turn out upon examination to be unsupported allegations and innuendoes involving reflections upon the responsible Minister, and on departmental officials, then he docs no service in moving his motion, and is not deserving of thanks. If, however, the charges can be substantiated, the honorable member deserves the gratitude of honorable members, and his statements merit the serious attention of this House.

The Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen), in replying to the charges of the honorable member for Parkes, did not rise to the occasion as well as he might have done. His reply amounted to a bald denial of the allegations, and there followed a somewhat childish competition between him and the honorable member for Parkes in regard to the contents of certain plans, which honorable members have not before them, and in regard to which they have no opportunity to form a judgment. The Minister said : " This is the plan," while the honorable member for Parkes replied : " No, this is the plan," and between the two there was no way of knowing who was right. I have no desire to criticize the Minister unfairly, but I believe that he might very well have taken this opportunity to unfold the history of the changes which have admittedly taken place in respect of the plan of Canberra city. Owing to the wide vision of the responsible Minister at the time, Mr. King O'Malley, the Commonwealth obtained the services of a very eminent architect in the person of Mr. Burley Griffin, and an elaborate and ambitious plan - in my opinion, a wise and magnificent one, on the whole - was designed. Later, it was found that modifications were necessary, and they were effected by the designer himself at the request, and under the direction, of the Government. The allegation of the honorable member for Parkes is that the local governing authority at Canberra has trespassed on the site allocated for a university, and proposes to build a high school on that site. That is denied by the Minister, who mentioned that all changes had been made under statutory authority. Would it have been too much for the Minister to tell us to what statute he was referring? What section of the act had he in mind, and what is the date of it? Had he given this information, we should have had before us a coherent and understandable story of what has really occurred. I confess that I am not impressed by mere generalities as to the impressions gathered by critical people in this city. Very often, people gather impressions, and form pontifical judgments, on the flimsiest of material, and it is for that reason that the Minister does himself less than justice in not setting out his reply in catechetical form, so that honorable members would be able to refer to the statutes, and to the dates and times of the occurrences which he mentioned. As the honorable member for

Bass (Mr. Barnard) pointed out, the plans themselves, in the form in which they are presented, depict the alterations in such minute form that it is almost impossible for honorable members to understand them. I suggest that a chart should be supplied, setting out the position clearly, so that honorable members would have no difficulty in understanding just what has been done, and what it is proposed to do. This Territory has no political representative in Parliament, and we should, for that reason, be all the more careful regarding these matters. Personally, I am jealous of the reputation of this, our Australian capital. I set my face most strongly against those who would deride it and bring it into contempt. I do not expect to live to see it happen, but I look forward hopefully to the time when Canberra will be a Mecca for world tourists; when it will be a centre of art and literature, and an attraction, not only to Australian visitors, but also to visitors from other countries. We should keep in mind, above all things, the essential permanency of everything that is to be done here. We should, as the a rchitect himself did, remember that we are building for future generations. There is a strong tendency on the part of some people to take the short and narrow view, to talk, as did the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker), of the lunacy of spending money on this federal city. Ill-considered criticism of that kind by persons who do not appreciate the design of the city in its entirety, and who lack the vision of those who founded it, is most deplorable.

I think the Minister might have an- swered a question which I asked by way of interjection, namely, whether the university site was still intact. Is the Minister of opinion that there still remains in a suitable locality a site adequate for the purpose of a national university? We should be doing a great wrong to the people of the Territory, and of Australia as a whole, if we were to encroach on the university ground for the purpose of a high school, without regard to the fact that, in later years, a national university must unquestionably be established here. I should like a more detailed explanation from the Minister in regard, to these matters.

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