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Tuesday, 27 February 2001
Page: 24505


Mr McGAURAN (Minister for the Arts and the Centenary of Federation) (5:19 PM) —I move:

That, pursuant to the acceptance by the House on 26 June 2000 of the invitation of 10 May 2000 of the Houses of the Parliament of Victoria to meet in Melbourne on 9 and 10 May 2001 to mark the centenary of the first meetings of the Houses of the Commonwealth Parliament in 1901:

(1) the House of Representatives meet with the Senate at 2 p.m. on 9 May 2001 in the Royal Exhibition Buildings, Melbourne;

(2) the only business transacted at that meeting be:

(a) introductory address by the President of the Senate;

(b) address by the Governor-General;

(c) addresses by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition; and

(d) concluding address by the Speaker of the House of Representatives;

(3) at the conclusion of that business, the House stand adjourned until 10 a.m. on 10 May 2001;

(4) the House meet at 10 a.m. on 10 May 2001 in the Legislative Assembly Chamber, Parliament House, Melbourne;

(5) the only business transacted at that meeting be:

(a) motion moved by the Prime Minister, seconded by the Leader of the Opposition and followed by the Leader of the National Party of Australia; and

(b) concluding address by the Speaker; and

(6) at the conclusion of that business, the House stand adjourned until 2 p.m. on 22 May 2001.

This motion has the full concurrence and support of the opposition as it relates to the parliament's participation in the Centenary of Federation celebrations in Melbourne on 9 and 10 May. As most, if not all, members will have read in the Notice Paper, the House of Representatives shall meet with the Senate at 2 p.m. on 9 May at the Royal Exhibition Buildings in Melbourne. There is, of course, some business to be transacted, involving an introductory address by the President of the Senate, an address by the Governor-General, addresses by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition and a concluding address by the Speaker of the House of Representatives. That, of course, does replicate—not in every exact detail naturally—the first meeting of the parliament on 9 May 1901 in the Royal Exhibition Buildings in Melbourne.

The next day on 10 May in the Legislative Assembly chamber of the Victorian parliament the House will sit again with the business to be transacted at that meeting being a motion to be moved by the Prime Minister, seconded by the Leader of the Opposition and followed by the Leader of the National Party of Australia. That also is a symbolic recreation of the sitting of the Commonwealth parliament in its temporary home at Parliament House, Melbourne.

The Centenary of Federation year is off to an exciting start. As history dictated, there was a need for a federation parade on 1 January through Sydney, with due deference made to the Centennial Park declaration of the Commonwealth. However, the national spotlight has since moved to the Northern Territory where a commemoration of the 19 February bombing by the Japanese of Darwin 59 years ago—1942—was the highlight of their Centenary of Federation commemorations.

There is no doubt that, for both of those events, the committees in New South Wales and the Northern Territory did a superb job in organising lasting memories of very important events particular to that state and territory. It will be here in Canberra that the national spotlight will next shine when on 11 March the National Museum of Australia will open. The museum is the flagship of the Federation Fund. On the next day, 12 March, the ACT will have a number of Centenary of Federation events. Then of course it will be Melbourne's turn. But, in all of this, it is not a year for national events only, let alone in our capital cities—instead, right across the length and breadth of Australia, communities have a large number of Centenary of Federation events or programs well under way. In fact, the web site now has several thousand such events posted on it.

It is a year that belongs to all Australians, wherever they live. It is a year when Australians can take great pride in 100 years of achievement, not least that Australia has been one of only five continuing democracies over that time. It is a chance to take stock of where we are as a society, and of what our hopes and ambitions are for our fellow citizens in the years and decades to come. It is a year of historical importance. It is also important for contemporary Australia and for future Australia. Australians are deeply patriotic, even if they do not show it overtly or nationalistically or even chauvinistically, as do some others around the world. I do not mean this in any derogatory way but the Americans seem to be the exemplar of displaying patriotism. But, scratch the surface, as the Olympics and many of our other great national, sporting and cultural events show, and you will see that Australians love their country and will take any excuse to display it. The Centenary of Federation certainly gives numerous opportunities for Australians to declare afresh their love of Australia.

The government has worked with the opposition at all levels and with the states and territories to make sure this is a year of bipartisan involvement so that Australians can feel part of it and take pride in our communities, even as we strive to improve them. We have an independent judiciary, a free media, and a democratically representative democracy. Despite those strengths, which are the envy of many countries throughout the world, we seek always to improve our society so that it is fairer and more just for all. It gives me a great deal of pride, as minister for the Centenary of Federation, to move this motion which will see the Commonwealth parliament play a very important and rightful role in the Centenary of Federation celebrations in Melbourne.