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Thursday, 24 October 1974
Page: 1992

Senator WOOD (Queensland) -As has been pointed out, this issue has been thrashed out on a number of occasions. It has been rather interesting to hear the discussion. Senator Button dealt with the architectural features. I have been associated with town planning for many years. Because I brought in a town plan for the city of Mackay town planning legislation was introduced.

Senator McAuliffe - You have had plenty of practical experience. You built Mackay.

Senator WOOD - That is right. The first town planning legislation in Australia came about because of Mackay. It brought about the introduction of town planning legislation in Australia. Throughout the years I have been very interested in town planning and architecture. Over the years I searched for the best people in town planning and in that way I met a very eminent town planner, the late Dr Karl Langer, who lived in Brisbane. Senator McAuliffe would remember his name. He escaped from Vienna at the time of the Nazi occupation and that is the only reason we got the services of such an eminent town planner in Australia. The late Mr Charles Chuter, who was head of the Local Government Department in Queensland, said that Dr Karl Langer's misfortune was our great fortune. Some years ago a parliamentary committee inquired into the siting of the new and permanent parliament house and brought in a report. Dr Karl Langer came down to Canberra during that inquiry. Senator Button said that he has been up on Capital Hill to look at the proposed site. Whilst Dr Langer was here he walked up Capital Hill, examined the site and came to the definite conclusion that that was the place on which to build the new and permanent parliament house.

References have been made to dominance. It is not a matter of dominating from a democratic point of view. It is a matter of standing out as the House of Parliament. Dr Langer pointed out to me that the central feature of the city of Canberra is that it is a parliamentary city. When people come into Canberra they say: 'Where is Parliament House?' Therefore it should have an eminence so that people may readily be able to say: 'That is Parliament House'. On my first visit to Canberra I came with a party in a car. We raced from building to building. I was always keen on the political scene and I thought I would know Parliament House when I saw it but there seemed to be so many buildings of the squat type. Unexpectedly we arrived at Parliament House.

Senator Poyser - And you have been here ever since.

Senator WOOD - This was not when I entered Parliament. I was on a visit. I was indicating that the present building has no eminence. Dr Langer's suggestion was that it should be on an eminence so that when people came to Canberra they would recognise it immediately by its architecture and position. Senator Button spoke about different types of architecture. We should remember that the architecture which stands the test of time is that with simplicity of design and the right proportions. Those are the 2 cardinal principles in good architecture and they will never go out of date. If we were to place a building of such a design on Capital Hill we could not go wrong.

In discussing this question a very prominent member of the National Capital Development Commission said to me: 'Where would you put the cars that turn up at Parliament House?' Mr Langer said: 'You do not take the cars to the top. You leave them at the bottom and build a walkway tunnel in which people can catch a lift to Parliament House.' He was a world authority. It is as simple as that. These are small problems that can easily be overcome by the right type of thinking. In choosing the site for the new and permanent parliament house we should keep in mind that the whole atmosphere of this place rests with its being a parliamentary city. Therefore everything should merge towards Parliament House, not in the spirit of dominance but simply merging. Senator Button spoke about castles and churches on hills. Does he know that the type of architecture reflected in those structures developed from the wish to carry the sweep of the hill on into the design of the building?

Senator Button - How would you get a pushbike up there?

Senator WOOD - I will get over that. I do not have to go up on a pushbike. I will catch a lift in a tunnel. The more that we know about it the better decision we will arrive at. I have given it a lot of consideration over the years. I have talked with authorities such as Dr Karl Langer and it is quite clear in my mind that Capital Hill is the proper site. If more eminence is required than the hill supplies there is nothing wrong with building a tall structure. There would be nothing wrong in erecting a building tall enough to include accommodation for parliamentarians in its highest section so that at the end of the sitting at night we would just get in a lift and go up to our accommodation. The greater number of storeys the building has, the greater eminence it will achieve.

It requires the very best of thinking to arrive at the best design for our new and permanent parliament house so that when it is built it will reflect simplicity and the right proportions, fitting in with the character of the city. It should be a building of which we can all be proud. Over the years the majority of honourable senators of this chamber has consistently voted for the Capital Hill site, even when honourable members in the other chamber have not thought that that should be the site. Now the people in the other chamber have come around to our way of thinking. I hope that the majority of honourable senators will still think that Capital Hill is the right place for the siting of Parliament House in this city of Canberra so that it might breathe the right atmosphere in an elevated position and with an eminence in the true spirit of the Australian people.

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