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Wednesday, 20 August 1980
Page: 547

Mr ELLICOTT (Wentworth) (Minister for Home Affairs) - in reply - Very shortly, I want to thank honourable members on both sides of the House for their contributions to the debate. It is always very satisfying to participate in a debate in which both sides of the House are in agreement. This is a subject on which members on both sides of the House have made a contribution. The report of the Committee of Inquiry on Museums and National Collections- the Pigott report - and the decision behind that inquiry are well known, and the report contributed significantly to this project. The present Government has now taken it up. During the debate a question was raised as to whether the Government was involved in some way in a public relations exercise. I assure all honourable members that the Government is not involved in such an exercise.

As I said in my second reading speech, the Museum of Australia Bill has been drafted to encourage the Interim Council, which will be appointed following the proclamation of the Act, to develop the concept and bring it to fruition. That is the purpose of the Bill and the purpose of setting up the Interim Council. It will be established as soon as practicable and will be given a charter to put together the propositions that are necessary to establish the Museum and also to bring to the Government more concrete suggestions as to how the collection should be put together, how it will be financed and, of course, how it will be housed. One of the basic questions to be determined is the site. Honourable members opposite have referred to the 90 hectares of land that currently exist on the other side of Black Mountain. I assure honourable members that those 90 hectares are still there and that the National Capital Development Commission has them in mind for reservation for the Museum. On the other hand, the Interim Council will have to make a decision in relation to the site. The Government has not predetermined the site, and one issue that has to be considered is whether the Museum will go there or whether it will go, for instance, in the Parliamentary Triangle.

I know that honourable members will have differing views as to where the Museum should be located, but the question needs to be asked and it needs to be answered by the Government. The Pigott report has favoured one site, which I trust will be preserved. However, others may look to the Parliamentary Triangle. I have referred publicly to the fact that the Government has changed a basic policy that no further buildings should be built in the Parliamentary Triangle, which was the Government's policy up until recent months. The Government has decided that it is appropriate to build other buildings on either side of this temporary Parliament House and right down to the lake so as to give a mall effect, as provided for in the original Burley Griffin plan. One of the issues to which the Interim Council will need to turn its attention is whether the Museum, or parts of the Museum, should be a part of that Parliamentary Triangle construction. I do not say that to place in jeopardy the other site. I simply indicate that it is an issue that has to be looked into and determined.

The Interim Council will be a very significant body. It will comprise people of considerable expertise, and a great deal of that expertise is located in the national capital. It will have to interrelate with the situation in the States. There is no point in duplication. Of course, there are many people around Australia who have a great interest in this Museum but who, like the States, do not exactly represent the Commonwealth. They would like to make representations to the Council about the development of the Museum. For my own part, I do not see the aviation and maritime museums as something with which the Museum of Australia will be concerned. I suspect that the maritime museum will be located in some harbour site in Australia. Alternatively, the aviation museum will be located at some airport. Those matters are being considered at the moment and are the subject of separate consideration.

Mr Cohen - What about the possibility of its being completed by 1988?

Mr ELLICOTT - Needless to say, the question of when it will be constructed will depend on the difficulties of timing, if any, and I expect some difficulties, in relation to getting together the planning and design of the Museum. It is one thing to indicate the themes; it is yet another thing to indicate the nature of the buildings, particularly in relation to the site. Those buildings need a permanent character about them. They need to be great public buildings. One hopes that they will have the aspect of the great museums in Mexico City, that they will delight not only the eye but also the spirit and the soul as one moves through them. The Museum of Australia needs to be such a building and, one hopes, on an appropriate site. Those things need to be tackled carefully, lt is much more important to do the job properly than to rush it. On the other hand, if time allows one would hope that, subject to budgetary requirements, this project will proceed well before 1988. No doubt those interested in the development of the national capital will be pressing for that. I have no doubt that the Interim Council will be doing likewise.

Debate interrupted.

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