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Wednesday, 27 February 1985
Page: 327

Mrs SULLIVAN(6.33) —It is interesting that the debate on the new Parliament House seems to have attracted more speakers and more lengthy debate than any other subject. I suppose that is because members of the Parliament take a very proprietary interest in the subject of the Parliament, present and future, and also things to do with the Parliament. I will not canvass issues covered by other speakers but there is one aspect I would like to raise for the future consideration of the Leader of the House (Mr Young). Much has been said this afternoon about the role of the Joint Standing Committee on the New Parliament House in relation to certain planning for the new building. When I served in the other place I had the privilege of playing some role on the Committee in that planning.

It was in connection with that that a matter arose last year. The Leader of the House will recall that this Committee had to consider suggestions relating to some modifications to this building. It was required that they go to the Committee for recommendation and report to the Parliament. Of course, any modification to this building required a resolution of both Houses of the Parliament. The motion setting up the Committee refers to section 5 of the Parliament Act 1974 and directs the Committee to consider and report on matters coming before it within the terms of that section that might be referred to it by the Minister responsible for administering the National Capital Development Commission Act 1957 or by resolution of either House of the Parliament.

In that context a matter arose last year that I would like to draw to the attention of the House and the Leader of the House at this stage because in the future thinking-perhaps immediate future thinking-of this Committee there will be a matter that very deeply concerns me in relation to what will be the new Parliament House, the present Parliament House and the Parliamentary Triangle. Unlike the honourable member for Cook (Mr Dobie), I think that there could well be an ongoing role for this Committee and possibly an expanded role at present, although I do not think it would necessarily be very active in an expanded role. However, I do think that the role is important, and that is the matter of the surveillance of activities and suggestions by the National Capital Development Commission in relation to the Parliamentary Triangle. When I was involved in a gathering last year which had nothing to do with this place, I was startled to be informed that a new archives building was to be built next to the National Library, that is, within the Parliamentary Triangle.

Mr Young —That is Burley Griffin's original concept.

Mrs SULLIVAN —I will come to that. I was unaware, and I soon discovered other members of the Parliament who are interested in what happens in these areas were unaware, that an archives building had been approved. On investigation I came across several reports and suggestions from the NCDC, the most recent of which contained quite detailed plans for a very large number of buildings in the Parliamentary Triangle. This Parliament has approved certain buildings in the Parliamentary Triangle-buildings that now exist-but it has approved no others. Nevertheless, when one goes through the history of plans for the Parliamentary Triangle one finds that at different times the NCDC has come up with different schemes. The last time a scheme that included multiple buildings in the Parliamentary Triangle went before the Parliament for debate it was resoundingly rejected. I do not say that decision holds for all time; it is possible that a future parliament might determine otherwise. The Parliamentary Triangle is as relevant to the new House as it is to the present House and I do not think it can be removed from considerations.

I discovered that the present NCDC plan, which has never come before this Parliament, includes multiple buildings and part of the justification is that it was in Burley Griffin's original design. That is interesting and Burley Griffin's reasons for putting those buildings in the Parliamentary Triangle are probably worthy of debate if a future determination is to be made on this matter. But this point is not sufficient justification in itself because the Parliament has from time to time rejected that notion and the NCDC has been required to draw up different plans. On further investigation I was informed that the NCDC recommended to a Fraser Cabinet that the archives building be built in the Parliamentary Triangle in the present proposed position. That Cabinet rejected the recommendation; it did not proceed. I am informed-the Leader of the House can tell me if I am incorrect-that after the election of the present Government the NCDC re-presented that recommendation to the Hawke Cabinet and it was approved.

I am not trying to play any party politics. I am just saying that that is a case where a government had said no and a new government was elected so the NCDC had another go-apparently in this case successfully. I was told that it was because of that Cabinet decision in favour of the proposal that the archives proposal will go ahead. The person who told me that did so in all good faith, believing that that was all that was required. By my understanding, that is not so. My understanding is that no building can go in the Parliamentary Triangle without resolution of the Houses of Parliament. I hope I am correct in that. I believe I am correct; I am afraid time has not allowed me this afternoon to go out and get that Act of Parliament and check it. It occurs, therefore, in that context that neither we as a parliament nor the Government has at the moment any filtering mechanism for any such proposals that would very deeply concern members of this Parliament.

Mr Ruddock —The Australian Capital Territory Committee looked at that.

Mrs SULLIVAN —The honourable member for Dundas indicates that the Joint Standing Committee on the Australian Capital Territory has looked at that. I am aware that that Committee can be active in these things but the point I make is that I do not think that it is the most appropriate committee. The Committee we are discussing now is the most appropriate committee to deal with matters relating to, for example, the Parliamentary Triangle. We now have a committee which is concerned with the issue of Parliament House and its precincts and I believe that it would be useful for all governments to utilise a parliamentary committee as a filtering mechanism, for recommendations such as these that must come before the Parliament for resolution of both Houses, as I am sure it was very useful to the Government last year to put recommended changes to this building to the New Parliament House Committee to get recommendations to the Houses of Parliament for a vote and a resolution. I think that could be a very important future function of the Committee, an important present function too as issues arise, but one that ought to be important for all time. I think this Committee on the New Parliament House has built up a great deal of expertise specifically on this subject. It would be a very good idea to keep that expertise with a committee that had that as a primary responsibility. In all sincerity I make that suggestion to the Minister for his consideration.