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Thursday, 24 October 1974
Page: 1993

Senator POYSER (Victoria) -in reply- I have listened with a great deal of interest to this debate tonight. At one stage I thought we were dealing with the Superior Court Bill when all of the lawyers were using language that we laymen do not understand. Senator John Button gave us a great argument in relation to the history of the situation and told us in Latin, in London cockney and in several other ways why Camp Hill should be the site. He obviously has done little study on the subject. I thought Senator James McClelland knew more about it than he proved to know. I forgive Senator Grimes for his remarks. The position is that if we decide here tonight that the site should be changed once more even the youngest of us- I refer to people such as Senator Button- will be grandfathers before construction is commenced.

Let us have a look at the history of the present Parliament House building. Australia became a federation in 1901. In 1923 the Public Works Committee held an inquiry into Parliament House. If one looks at the history of that inquiry one finds that Burley Griffin gave very important evidence which indicates how silly and stupid the members of Parliament were on that occasion. He operated on the basis that we should at that time build a permanent Parliament House, and had his proposal been accepted we would have had a permanent Parliament House at a cost of £250,000.

Senator Grimes - On Camp Hill.

Senator POYSER -On Camp Hill; that is correct. Senator Button would have been delighted with the fact that Burley Griffin proposed to put a museum on Capital Hill. All of his old history books could have gone in there and he could have jogged up there every morning and read to his great delight all of the Latin and Shakespeare that he could get hold of. So, had Burley Griffin 's proposal been accepted, we would have had a big museum on Capital Hill. Senator Grimes probably would have been happy about that as well.

Senator McAuliffe - Among the bones.

Senator POYSER - That is right. If, after debating this matter on 6 previous occasions, we change our minds again tonight, our grandchildren will be taking part in the same sorts of debates in this Parliament year after year, Parliament after Parliament, and the present building will be falling down around their ears. There was one famous occasion on which Senator Cavanagh and I were sharing an office in the present building. Every time it rained the roof leaked and we had to put on our raincoats when we sat at our desks. After a while it got a little bit too much for Senator Cavanagh and he mentioned the fact to the then President, Senator Sir Alister McMullen. He got up in the Senate and said to the President: 'We are delighted that the roof of our office has been fixed; they have given us 2 plastic buckets'. That is exactly what they did in our old accommodation, and the position is not much better now.

Senator McAuliffe - What happened when the bucket filled?

Senator POYSER - The bucket dropped a little later and the roof was mended. But in all seriousness, in the 8 years that I have spent in this place we have been arguing about the site of Parliament House. We have been arguing about the urgency of building a permanent parliament house. The arguments have gone backwards and forwards from House to House until at last both Houses were completely in agreement. Then it was suggested that because we have 15 new senators, the 1 5 new senators might not like what we propose to do. But if the matter is not resolved during this Parliament we might have 15 new senators again next time and the Senate might change its mind. The practicalities of this operation are that we have to have a new Parliament House so that our grandchildren can come and see it. I know that I will not be here when it is completed because I will be retiring in 2 years time, and I will not live long enough to see it being opened.

Senator Chaney - You still want to have the original mistake.

Senator POYSER - The mistake will be if the building is put on Camp Hill, as I will explain in a moment. Senator Grimes mentioned the fact that the Capital Hill site leaves no room for expansion. If the honourable senator did his homework he would find out that the Capital Hill site has a much bigger area than the Camp Hill site. Senator Button spoke of the historical aspects and the aesthetic beauties of the Camp Hill area. He knows that if the Camp Hill site is chosen the present building will have to be destroyedbulldozed down- and so will East Block and West Block. If the present building is allowed to remain we will have an historical building which can be used for convention work. With a little money spent on it it can be converted so that it can be used for conventions. If the new Parliament House is built on Capital Hill we will have the situation of it being positioned where it was always meant to be.

I come now to the proposition that the new Parliament House could be built by means of a staged program; we could start building on Camp Hill and build a little bit more at a time. The Melbourne Parliament House had a staged program. The first stage was built 100 years ago. The second stage is being commenced this year. If the new Parliament House is built on a staged program it will take 50 years at least to complete.

Senator Chaney - You will be able to do it by using the unemployed.

Senator POYSER -It could be done by that means when the honourable senator's party becomes the government again. I appeal to the Senate to bring the matter to a vote tonight. We have only 30 minutes left in the debate. I want to see the matter finalised so that planning can go ahead. I have some reservations about the amendments that are proposed, although I have some sympathy as regards what Senator Withers has said in relation to this matter. I also am not very trusting as far as the National Capital Development Commission is concerned. I shall not be supporting the amendments because I believe they provide for a further delay in our reaching our final goal of having a new and permanent parliament house. However, I think that at some future stage there will have to be some legislation to curb the activities of any organisation which may have the power to move into this area and build a lot of office blocks on it. As I understand it, an interdepartmental committee report has been prepared in relation to the powers of the Public Works Committee being extended over some of the statutory authorities. I believe that that is a decision which eventually will be taken by this Parliament. If that happens organisations such as the NCDC will come within the ambit of the scrutiny of the Public Works Committee. If this becomes the case it would be within the power of the Committee of this Parliament to ensure that there is no ravage or rape of the area in front of Parliament House. I commend the Bill to the Senate.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In Committee

The Bill.

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