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Wednesday, 24 October 1973
Page: 2585

Mr LUCHETTI (Macquarie) - I support the motion moved by the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes). It should be established immediately that there be a joint meeting of this House and the Senate to determine the matter once and for all time. I think it is quite improper for this House immediately to declare where it would site the new Parliament House. I think it is a matter for decision by the joint Houses. We should not thrust our views upon a joint meeting but we should be able to go along and in discussion with honourable senators determine the siting of the Parliament, the manner in which it is to be built and whether we approve of the amendment moved by the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren). I reject his suggestion because I believe that that type of construction- completing the building in stages -would be most undesirable. I ask the honourable members to contemplate what would occur for, if the Camp Hill site named by the Minister is selected, it means not only that this Parliament House will be demolished but, in addition, that East Block and West Block will also be demolished.

It is extraordinary that at the present time we, who are so frugal in our dealings with the people who operate our postal service and such things, should be contemplating building the new and permanent Parliament House on Camp Hill, which would require the demolition of the present Parliament House, which only recently has been extended to provide the Prime Minister's suite - the paint would hardly be dry - and on which some $3m has been spent over the last few years. To demolish this Parliament House would be a brand of national vandalism, and honourable members ought to think carefully as to their attitude on this matter. It may be said that East Block and West Block have served their purpose and that they could well be demolished to make way for the erection of better and more modern office accommodation. But I cannot subscribe to the demolition of this Parliament House on which $3m has been spent recently.

I want honourable members to consider the various inquiries which have taken place in regard to the site for the new and permanent Parliament House in order to try to work out in their own minds just what has occurred in the past. If they do that and if they are called upon to make a decision subsequently I think they would declare for Capital Hill, because Capital Hill is the focal point of the national capital. It is the site on which the Australian flag flutters gaily in the breeze. From Capital Hill one has a commanding view over the whole of the national capital. Those who object to the Capital Hill site have made some extraordinary statements. They have said that it is too high and that Parliament House would look out of proportion up on this high hill. A few members of the Joint Select Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House, of which the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Bryant) was a member, expressed a different view. The Committee was told by the National Capital Development Commission that the Capital Hill site would be unsatisfactory, that too much would be required to be taken from the top of the hill and that subsequently it would not be high enough. What a conflicting story. What an extraordinary statement to be made. One group says that Capital Hill is too high and another group says that something will have to be taken from the top which will make it too low and Parliament House will not be seen.

These arguments in regard to Capital Hill are illogical nonsense. Capital Hill is in a commanding position. A Parliament building could be established on top of it. It is a most desirable site because it would allow for vaults and rooms to be provided well beneath ground level, as they should be in a Parliament House. These rooms would provide storage space for documents and places in which

Ministers may work safely in time of war. All of these matters, in my opinion, offer a compelling argument for the selection of Capital Hill. It is centrally located and it can be seen from any part of Canberra.

The view from Camp Hill, on the other hand, will be obstructed in the first place by this present Parliament House, unless it is demolished, and by other structures.

I want to put to the Parliament the importance of space. Quite frequently our experts who sit in their offices talk about small buildings being thrust side by side with other buildings. The type of building I want to see in this national capital of ours is a building of imagination, a building of architectural grandeur, a building of great scale embodying the great qualities of stone and . marble and the timbers of our country so that we will have something which will be commendable, which will be an attraction, and which the world would like to see. Surely we can plan something of this kind. Having decided on the location of the new and permanent Parliament House, I do not support the view that we should proceed immediately with its construction. I believe that this present building can last for a considerable time, and we ought to be using this building. Having decided on the location of the new building, we should commence to plan it carefully.

Let us consider the area of land available on each site. We are told, of course, that Capital Hill is not a desirable place, but it is of greater acreage than Camp Hill. Capital Hill, which is located inside the ring road which was built since the last inquiry, has 81 acres compared with some 60-odd acres on Camp Hill taking in the whole of the adjacent countryside. Capital Hill, if taken to include the adjoining area outside the ring road, occupies 130 acres. So, I put it to the House that Capital Hill is the most desirable place.

Honourable members ought to recall the selection of capitals in other countries. George Washington selected a site of 130 acres for Washington. To date the Capitol in Washington, the capital of the United States of America, occupies 155 acres. Yet Camp Hill with only 47 acres on the hilltop itself is being put forward seriously to honourable members of our country. Australia is a land of 3 million square miles and we are being asked to accept this petty area of land at Camp Hill as the site for the new and permanent parliament house. The other suggestion made is that we ought to build the parliament house in stages. I remind honourable members that in Melbourns the Parliament House was commenced a long time ago, a further stage was built there some 100 years ago and now the final stages are to be built. With the changes of government that occur and with the fluctuations in economic fortune the building may be commenced by one government and there may be a change of heart by another government, just as there has been in regard to the selection of a site.

The Senate Select Committee on the Development of Canberra found in favour of Capital Hill in 1955. Two years later the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives inspected the areas again, and again came down in favour of the site on Capital Hill. Capital Hill is the obvious place for the location of a new and permanent parliament house. I can only hope and trust that this Parliament will not be niggardly about this matter and will not commit an act of national vandalism by demolishing this building while it is asking other people to economise. We will maintain this building as a meeting place, as a conference place and as an assembly place for the visitors who may come here and for the various departmental meetings which must inevitably occur in a growing national capital. In my opinion the case for Capital Hill is overwhelming, but the motion does not ask honourable members to declare for that today. All the motion asks honourable members to do is to declare for a joint meeting of the Senate and the House of Representatives and to let the senators and representatives in their joint meetings determine the matter.

The Minister for Urban and Regional Development, who has moved the amendment, wants us to prejudge the matter now and to declare for Camp Hill. Whenever the decision is to be made my vote will be recorded for Capital Hill which I believe offers the greatest possible advantages for the building of a parliament house of which we would all be proud.

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