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Wednesday, 13 September 1972
Page: 800

Senator WRIGHT (Tasmania) (Minister for Works) - Tt will be remembered that Senator McAuIiffe in the adjournment debate on 15th August raised some criticism of the Hotel Kurrajong and advanced some suggestions for improvement in this utility. I told him that I would refer the matter and that after I had received advice from the Department I would respond to his suggestions. I want briefly to indicate that the history of the Kurrajong goes back to 1926, when four 2-storey accommodation pavilions were erected, together with the necessary kitchen amenities and staff accommodation. Four further pavilions were added in 1936. At that time the Hotel Kurrajong was regarded as comparing more than favourably with other accommodation in Canberra. The purpose of this establishment was specifically to provide accommodation for members of Parliament, their wives and staff. At that time conditions gave members little option but to stay there, as honourable senators will recall, but different circumstances which have developed since 1950 have given members a much wider choice of accommodation, as is well known to us.

During the 1950s it was thought that the Hotel Kurrajong had few competitors, but the present position is that other accommodation houses have grown in Canberra and there are many competitors. The company incurs deficits, despite the fact that it has expended more than $500,000 progressively on improvement to modernise the hotel. Centra] heating, wall to wall carpeting of rooms and corridors, en-suite shower and toilet facilities in more than 100 guest rooms, installation of telephones in rooms, air-conditioning of dining room and the refurnishing of the main lounge room are the improvements that I refer to. But they have failed to arrest the drift from the hotel by the beneficiaries for whom it was intended - members of Parliament and their wives. For example, members and their staffs used the hotel for a total of 12,410 accommodation days in 1961-62 and for a total of only 6,200 accommodation days in 1969-70. In that period the patronage dropped by half.

I do not wish to detain the Senate long tonight, but I make the comment that Senator McAuliffe's suggestions are very appropriate, if the hotel is regarded as a tourist trade unit; but that is not the conception of its function or purpose. What is to be the future use of this establishment? That is the critical decision to be made. Is it to remain a special accommodation centre offering certain advantages for parliamentarians? Is it to be put to other possible government uses? Is it to serve the dual purpose of providing accommodation without special privileges or advantages to parliamentarians? This, of course, would involve booking-in in competition with the general public every time we arrive here, and there would be no concessions such as those given now of allowing one's wardrobe to remain in his suite over the weekend.

I have mentioned those matters so that they will provoke some interest. I hope that Senator McAuliffe will give the responsible authority at the Kurrajong Hotel the full advantage of his experience. The Minister has arranged for a pilot survey to be put in hand immediately to provide preliminary answers to the questions I have posed. A decision on whether to engage a consultant will be made after the pilot survey is concluded.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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