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Wednesday, 24 October 1973
Page: 2603

Mr COHEN (Robertson) - One speaker after another has favoured Capital Hill. It seems to me that the proposal put forward by the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) is eminently suitable. It preserves the present Parliament House. It would be impossible to do that if the new parliament house were erected on Capital Hill. The present Parliament House would completely ruin the view from that site and the only acceptable solution is to build on to this present site. I agree with the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) that any suggestion that this House be done away with would be a tragedy. We have had in excess of 50 years of parliamentary life in this House. Probably by the time the new parliament house is finished it will be 60 years. We have seen Prime Ministers such as Bruce, Scullin, Lyons, Menzies, Curtin, and Chifley, and here have been the great battles of politics over the greatest period of Australia's early history, with the exception of that first 26 years since Federation. In these, I would say - perhaps I am being a little over-sentimental - hallowed halls, have been some of the great political battles.

Future generations of Australians will be very saddened if we desecrate this place by destroying it. The objectionable part about the Capital Hill site as I see it is that the erection of the new parliament house could be 15 or 20 years away, and with the program presented by the Minister this is something that all of us, with rare exceptions, could hope to see in our political lifetime.

Mr Luchetti - His plan means the demolition of this building.

Mr COHEN - It does not mean that at all.

Mr Luchetti - It does. It is in the report.

Mr COHEN - It means that this building can be retained. Ultimately a new parliament house will be built, but this building can be retained as a conference hall or as an historical museum. Even some of the honourable members in this House perhaps would like to be interred here so that people could come and say, for instance: "This is where the honourable member for Macquarie, in full flight, once stood'. Some people already regard it as a place where honourable members are interred.

I will not speak for very long. I think that the proposition put forward by the Minister is acceptable. It can be proceeded with immediately. It will retain all those good features of this House for future history and it will mean that we can get on with the job. All the other things, such as the inadequacy of the rooms, have been said over and over again. The present accommodation is quite hopeless. I bring visitors to my room and show them the little 8 ft by 8 ft room that I used to share with the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby). The mind boggles. Honourable members can imagine what it is like being left in one small room with the Minister for Immigration, who used to turn his radio on full blast, had an 1810 typewriter which he used and would have 3 Italian visitors from his electorate drinking wine while I was supposed to be preparing a speech for the next day. It was like being in a room with a cage full of cougars all going at once.

Now I am in another room on my own which is still only 8 ft by 8ft. When I take visitors there they look at me as though I am joking. They think that this tiny room to which I have taken them is the toilet; and this for a member of Parliament. Any self-respecting person in the business world would not have an office of that size. I have 23 visitors here today who are World War I veterans from the Central Coast. I would like to be able to take them to my office, but of course we could not swing a cat if 5 of us went in, let alone 25.

Mr Erwin - Your speech has converted me.

Mr COHEN - I thought the honourable member said something else, but I am glad that he said 'converted'. I think this is the first time anybody has even been able to convince the honourable member for Ballaarat (Mr Erwin) to change his mind. It shows that he has a great deal of wisdom that previously he has kept well hidden. I think that all those inadequacies have been stated over and over again. I just want to repeat that the Minister has put forward an excellent proposition which I hope honourable members will support.

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