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Wednesday, 24 October 1973
Page: 2600

Mr KEOGH (Bowman) - I must say at the outset that the one impression I am sure we in this chamber and the people in the gallery are getting today is that every member speaks in harmony about the urgency of this project for a new and permanent parliament house. But the urgency with which we regard the project is something that appears to have been common among members for many years past. Members of previous Parliaments have regarded the need for a new building with a great sense of urgency, but no government or no parliament has been prepared to take the initial steps towards that accomplishment. I congratulate the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) for producing a feasibility study. I was impressed by it when I received it. At that stage I believed that it offered the only reasonable alternative to proceeding immediately with this important building. But since then, I have had an opportunity to consider the question further and to some extent I have been influenced by the excellence of the display that the Minister has arranged in Kings Hall. I have come back to my original opinion and again confirm that I am a supporter of the Capital Hill site.

The display indicates that should we decide to adopt the method of construction as suggested as the most reasonable alternative by the Minister - that is, to continue using this building while the construction of a new building proceeds - Camp Hill is the appropriate site, but in my opinion it is not the ideal site. If the Camp Hill site is decided on I do not believe that the job will be completed any more than a year or two earlier than if the building were erected on some other site. Therefore, I opt for the Capital Hill site. In returning to that opinion- I must say that I agree with some of the thoughts that were put forward by the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating). I believe that should we not use the Capital Hill site we can never be sure that in the future that site will not be taken and used for some alternative project.

In dwelling on the need for a new building it is important to consider whether, in fact, as was suggested by the Joint Select Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House, the actual planning and construction of the building will take as long as 10 years. I believe that we have architects, engineers, consultants and contractors of high calibre in Australia, who could undertake this project and build it in a maximum time of 8 years. I have spoken to people who are experienced in major construction jobs and from the experience that I have accumulated over the years I will not accept as fact that it is a 10- year project. I think that some of the times suggested in the schedule presented in the report of the Joint Select Committee could be shortened to the extent that we could have a completed building on Capital Hill within 8 years, should we now decide to proceed with it. For that reason and for other reasons that I have enumerated, I believe that the compromise of Camp Hill should not be accepted by honourable members.

It has been suggested that one of the important steps that should be taken is the holding of a competition. Again, I believe that this is something with which we should dispense. We have reached the stage where we cannot afford to waste time. Honourable members have explained the inadequacies of the accommodation in this present temporary building. The stage has been reached where the considerations and concern of members are such that the competition should be dispensed with, and an architect should be selected by the Government. In recent years architects have been selected to prepare plans and designs for some of the future important buildings for Canberra. I do not know why an architect could not be selected to design this building and handle the project adequately, without a time wasting competition.

One final point I make, which I think is important, is that the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Hamer) and others have suggested that this is not the time to be considering alternative sites but that the time for such consideration should be when the future debate takes place. This, we hope, will result from the carrying of this motion today. In supporting the original proposition put forward by the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes), I remind honourable members that the suggestion made by the honourable member for Isaacs and others - namely, that we will have an opportunity to debate this matter during a joint meeting - in fact may not eventuate.

I draw the attention of honourable members to a resolution that was passed by the Senate and transmitted to this House on, according to a notice I received, 6 May 1971. In its principal paragraph that resolution contains the same proposal as has been put forward by the honourable member for Corio; that is, that a joint sitting of the 2 Houses of the Parliament be held. But paragraph 3 of the resolution carried by the Senate goes on to say that at such a joint meeting there should be no debate on the subject matter of the alternative sites and that the question should be decided by a majority of votes. The senators apparently are quite satisfied that they have had ample opportunity to consider the alternatives proposed and have made up their minds that they would like to join with us in determining the opinion of all members of both Houses. The senators also are firm in their opinion that there should be no further debate. I believe that that is a matter which should be considered very closely by you, Mr Speaker, and the President of the Senate during your negotiations. I certainly would not like to see honourable members, on the occasion we meet, as I hope we will, with the Senate, denied the opportunity to debate this important matter of where the new and permanent parliament house will be constructed.

Let me repeat my concern for the situation that exists in this place at present with regard to the accommodation available to honourable members. Let me reiterate that on so many occasions in the past concern about it has been expressed by members of the various parties. It was brought to my attention just a short while ago that possibly the first reference to the construction of a permanent building was made as long ago as 1922. The construction of a permanent building was considered by the Public Works Committee in 1922, before this building was completed. So, even before members of Parliament moved into this building from Melbourne, the subject of the construction of a new and permanent parliament house was being considered. I know that it was suggested in the early stages that the memorial to the nation's wartime achievements that exists on the other side of Lake Burley Griffin should be at one end of the complex and that a memorial to the nation's peacetime achievements should have the dominant position at the other end of the complex. That would be, of course,

Capital Hill. Let me say that there could be no better memorial to the living achievements of the nation than the construction of a building to house the national Parliament on the dominant point of the national capital - that is, Capital Hill.

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