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Monday, 1 December 2008
Page: 11875


Mr RUDD (Prime Minister) (2:15 PM) —Mr Speaker, on indulgence: today we honour a great man who designed a great building and through that great building made an extraordinary contribution to the great city that is Sydney. It is with sadness that all Australians reflect on the passing of Jorn Utzon. Any of us who visit Sydney and stay there from time to time—though I am not a son of Sydney’s shores—and are confronted once again, of a morning, by the sun dancing on the sails of the Opera House are reminded of what an extraordinary contribution this is. What Jorn Utzon did way back in 1957, 50 years ago, to come forth with a design like that was truly path-breaking. He was out there ahead of the game, ahead of the rest. He had an extraordinary sense of design and an extraordinary sense of innovation.

To Australia he has given a great gift. It is not just our view of the significance of the building. Last year the Opera House was inscribed on the World Heritage List and was described by UNESCO as a ‘masterpiece of human creative genius’. If you travel around the world and ask anyone whom you see, ‘What is your image of Australia?’ there will be a range of answers. But the one unifying visual image is the sails of the Opera House. We owe that to someone from a distant land, who came here in response to an international competition and had the flair to win and the perseverance to prevail despite the difficulties he encountered in so doing.

I think that it is fair and appropriate that the Australian parliament today honours the contribution of this great man. He gave Sydney a great gift, but in so doing he gave Australia a great gift. We honour him as a son of Denmark but, as I said yesterday, his spirit lives with us. We honour him too, in that sense, as a son of Australia.