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Wednesday, 24 October 1973
Page: 2596

Mr ENDERBY (Australian Capital Territory) (Minister for Secondary Industry and Minister for Supply) - It seems to me that in all of the words that are being used and in all of the speeches that are being made we are in grave danger of losing sight of the 2 propositions that we are called upon to consider and to vote on. The motion moved by the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) has 3 parts in its first clause. He has moved:

(1)   That this House is of the opinion that-

And this is the first part of the first clause:

(a)   the site for the new and permanent parliament house should be determined forthwith;

To that the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) has moved an amendment, the first clause of which contains 4 parts. The first part of the first clause in the amendment is, for practical purposes, identical with the first part of the first clause of the motion moved by the honourable member for Corio. The amendment moved by the Minister reads in its first clause:

(a)   action should be taken forthwith to initiate the planning and design of the new and permanent parliament house;

In other words, let us get cracking. Let us start doing something. Let us stop talking. I have been a member in this House for only a little over 3 years. The subject of the new and permanent parliament house comes up all the time and we are no nearer now to resolving the differences than when I first entered this Parliament.

The second feature that the motion moved by the honourable member for Corio has in common with the amendment moved by the Minister is that there be a joint meeting of the House of Representatives and the Senate ultimately to resolve the matter. So, both propositions have those 2 fundamental proposals in common. What are we arguing about other than an expression of opinion on site - Camp Hill or Capital Hill. Let us not lose sight of the common features that both propositions have. Let us get started and let us have a joint meeting of the House of Representatives and the Senate. I think that I must agree with what the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr

Hamer) said. It is at the joint sitting that the decision on the site will be made. Presumably, irrespective of what this House decides today, members of this Parliament will have a free vote at the joint sitting. The honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) has admitted that he has changed his mind once already on this subject. That is to his credit. He might well change his mind again when the joint meeting is held. But let us not waste time by arguing forever the matters which are in difference. There is so much in common in those 2 propositions.

The amendment moved by the Minister for Urban and Regional Development goes on to express a preference for the Camp Hill site because of its obvious advantages. I support him in that regard, but I do not want it to be thought of as a red herring. It is distracting us from what we have in common. Irrespective of which proposition is carried, we hope that a joint sitting of both Houses will be held, that at that sitting the matter will be resolved, and that we will stop talking and do something. Let me put forward, but not as a red herring, the arguments why I believe Camp Hill should be the site ultimately selected. These are the arguments that I would put forward at the joint sitting.

It is estimated that if the Capital Hill site is selected the expenditure on the parliamentary building at the present day value of the Australian dollar would be $80m. I do not really think that any government - a Labor government or a non-Labor government - would be able to find that sort of money in the near future. So, we are faced with the practical proposition that if the Capital Hill site is selected at the joint sitting - I am not referring to what happens here today because I do not think what is decided here today matters - we are saying, in effect, now new parliament house shall be constructed. If a decision is taken - as both propositions agree - that the site should be determined forthwith, and Capital Hill is selected it would mean that no new parliament house would be built because no one could afford to do that with the greater and more important jobs which must be done by a government of any political persuasion.

If a decision for the Capital Hill site is reached, we must bear in mind one factor which the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) ignored, that is, the deplorable conditions under which this place operates at the moment. I am a Minister. I have 2 portfolios. I am Minister for Secondary Industry and Minister for Supply. Formerly, I was Minister for the Capital Territory and Minister for the Northern Territory. I have a total staff of 9 people. We occupy or are forced to work in about 400 square feet of office space. When I was a barrister, I had 400 square feet to myself. Now I share 400 square feet with 9 other people. I do not have a room to myself. My Press secretary and one of my advisers share a room that would not be the size of a lavatory in the average suburban home. It is about 5 feet by 6 feet. My private secretary works in a little room 6 feet by 4 feet. I have 3 steno-secretaries sitting alongside each other, and they work under those conditions from half-past eight in the morning until midnight on days when Parliament sits. They have to work in a room that would not be more than 12 feet by 8 feet, with their typewriters, filing cabinets and all the other necessary things. These conditions are just deplorable.

The building that we occupy looks pleasant from the outside. People come to this city of Canberra, in their millions, to admire their national Parliament. Nearly 2 million tourists a year come here. They go through King's Hall and say: 'How nice'. They sit in the galleries and look down and see us doing What ever they think we are doing. But they do not see the conditions under which the 1,200-odd people who work in this building work. The Parliamentary Library research people go up to and down from the mezzanine-type platforms almost by rope ladders. Members of the public should be taken in there to see the conditions under which they work. No business or group of professional people such as dentists, doctors, lawyers and accountants - no one anywhere - would work under the conditions under which these 1,200-odd people work in this place. Yet we hear people saying: 'That does not matter. Let us carry on with it'. It does affect the quality of the decisions that come out of this place, and something must be done to put it right.

If honourable members press for the Capital Hill site at the joint sitting - it does not matter here now - it seems to me that, given the practicalities of it, there will not be a new parliament house. No matter how often honourable members say 'We need one', we will not get one because it will always be too hard and something else will always be more important. Political parties must take care of what the public demands they take care of. I refer to the needs of such things as education, housing, the cities that the Minister for Urban and Regional Development fights so hard to improve, law reform, combatting inflation and foreign affairs where this Government's interests are affected overseas. These things have to be taken care of first. The whole experience of this place since 1927 surely has proved over and over again that, no matter how deplorable the conditions here are, we will put up with them because there are no votes in it - if that is the cynical view honourable members take - and we will do the things for which people outside will applaud us or the things that need to be done.

Let me stress again the advantages of moving to Camp Hill. Everyone agrees that both sites are good. Capital Hill is a good site. Of course it is a good site. So is Camp Hill. Burley Griffin, the original architect and designer of Canberra, opted for Camp Hill. I am not saying that we are tied to what a dead man - a great architect but now a dead man - once said should be done. We can change that decision. But it is some evidence that Camp Hill was deemed suitable at the time - and it is suitable. If honourable members look behind this place they will see that very pleasant hill - Camp Hill - and they will see the vista which is presented across to the War Memorial. Surely, as a -practical proposition, taking into account all the difficulties, no one will ever appropriate $80m or $10Om for a parliament house on Capital Hill. No one will ever build a parliament house which will involve an Opera House type expenditure and will take 5, 10, 15 or 20 years to build. It will just be put in the 'too hard' basket all the time.

Mr Bryant - Oh, go on!

Mr ENDERBY - Since 1927 and since the Minister came to the Parliament, no one has done it. And so the arguments go on. The proposition put forward by the Minister for Urban and Regional Development is imaginative and practical. It allows us to continue working here while we build another complex around us and up on the originally conceived Camp Hill site.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Have you had a look at the site?

Mr ENDERBY - Yes. It is a magnificent site. The people who naturally indulge in hyperbole or exaggeration say in support of their proposition that this place will be razed to the ground and the memories of Curtin, (Evatt,

Fadden, Ward, Calwell, Barwick, McMahon, Gorton, Whitlam, Bruce, Page and so on will be lost. I say that that will not happen. This place can be maintained. It can serve all sorts of other useful purposes. Indeed, the Minister for Urban and Regional Development has virtually given an assurance to that effect. We could turn Kings Hall into a great place for naturalisation ceremonies and all manner of public gatherings. This chamber could be a central gathering place for groups that come from all round Australia, whether they be national groups, employers' groups, industrial groups, trade union groups, professional groups or what-have-you. We could make this place into a piece of living history such as those the Minister for Labour described when he called on examples from overseas. He said that when overseas countries preserved their national memorials and national monuments they did not make them dead places. They did not leave them empty. They put them to good use so that the people of the country could go and use them. This place can be maintained, but it has surely outlived its use as a parliament house.

When I came into this place I shared a room with 2 other members. Three of us were in a room 15 feet by 8 feet. It was Jim Fraser's old room. Three members of Parliament sat there. The telephones rang continuously. The proceedings in this chamber, which we know are relayed into our rooms, were broadcast on 3 different systems in that room. What chance was there to do any work? I repeat that the level, the standard of decision making in this place will decline, will be lowered and will fall away while we continue to put up with the conditions that exist here.

If we decide to have a new parliament house - and we are all agreed on that - let us press for a proposition that is realisable, that is practicable and that we can move toward. I have said all those things not as a red herring, although it seems to me that some honourable members who have spoken, perhaps not intending to do so, have introduced a red herring. The real expression of opinion on whether the site should be Capital Hill or Camp Hill does not matter in this place today. I personally believe that Camp Hill is the right site. But it does not matter because both the original proposition and the amendment call for an immediate start and they call for a joint sitting of both Houses. It seems to me that we should stop talking and get on with the business.

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