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Thursday, 24 October 1974
Page: 1989

Senator James McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Having been a senator for a little bit longer than Senator Button I realise that when the notice paper reaches a certain stage somebody suggests that we have a little fun and indulge ourselves in the fantasy that one of these days we will have a new parliament house. So I was rather touched when Senator Button came to me this afternoon and actually lobbied me. He approached me rather tentatively as though he thought that he might be treading on some cherished illusions. I was rather touched when he expressed some surprise when I told him that as far as the choice of sites was concerned I have always been 'Camp' and opposed to presumptuous erections. I said to him- I repeat to the Senate- that I think all members of Parliament should beware of the sins of hubris, which is a Greek word meaning the pride which cometh before a fall. Not every politician falls as quickly as every other politician. Some have more luck than others. One politician whose name is writ large in the history of our country has been mentioned here tonight- Sir Robert

Menzies. I suppose he was a classic example of a politician who got away with hubris. I understand that he was a firm advocate of a parliament house down by the lake. It is said that his advocacy of that site was based on the desire that he should arrive at Parliament House by barge.

Senator Withers - Rowed by the 6 Premiers.

Senator James McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I thank Senator Withers for that illustration of a practical example of co-operative federalism. I wonder whom he would nominate for the role of cox. Having mentioned the subject of hubris, I think that the same spirit is disclosed in those who want us to have a temple of democracy in the clouds somewhere on Capital Hill where the masses will gaze up to their masters, bow down to them, worship them and perpetuate the old notion of British democracy at its height, of God bless the Queen and all her relations and keep us all in our proper stations.

Senator McAuliffe - Why not put a church there?

Senator James McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) -That is a very good suggestion by Senator McAuliffe. I have a feeling that this notion of a building in the clouds has been reinforced by certain ecclesiastical attitudes that could be expressed by the phrase: 'Nearer my God to Thee'. But as Senator Button pointed out the Senate has changed in composition since we had a lobby for the proposition that the closer we were to God physically the better our deliberations and the wiser our conclusions.

I suggest that in this day and age we must beware of what I could call the Cassius Clay syndrome. The constant suggestion that one is the greatest is something that politicians should try to avoid. Quite seriously, I think that a certain amount of humility is becoming in politicians. It may be said that it comes more naturally to me than it does to our Leader because I suppose I could be said to have more to be humble about.

Senator Poyser - You want it on the lake so you can walk across it?

Senator James McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) -As a matter of fact, it has been suggested that Kirribilli House is very nicely placed in relation to the Opera House because it enables some people who are constant visitors to the Opera House when they are in Sydney to avoid the rigours of public transport and walk across the water. I seriously suggest to everybody here that we should cultivate certain humility. We should not attempt to indulge in megalomaniacal tendencies that are all too easily developed by the adulation that we get from our supporters. One of the reinforcing elements for this megalomania is to get up there in the clouds. I agree wholeheartedly with the proposition advanced by my wise friend, Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, when he makes the suggestion to politicians that they should try to keep their feet on the ground and not to get their heads in the clouds. For that reason I succumb to the lobbying that I have had from my friend Senator Button and eagerly espouse Camp Hill.

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