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Wednesday, 4 December 1985
Page: 2919

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE(4.09) —I move the following amendment to the motion that the Senate take note of the report, which is in the terms of notice of motion No. 83 given by me on 14 November, when the report of the Joint Standing Committee on the New Parliament House was tabled:

Leave out all words after `that', and insert

`The Senate-

(a) accepts the necessity for the interior finish of the Senate chamber in the new Parliament House to maintain in suitable form the dignity and atmosphere of the present chamber;

(b) considers that it is appropriate for the new chamber to have a basically wood-panelled appearance, taking advantage of, and making use of the wide range of timbers to be found throughout Australia; and

(c) rejects the proposal, recently revealed to senators, for the walls of the new chamber to be lined with fabric of varying colours, not consistent with the traditional red colour common to Westminster-style Upper Houses.

In my view this is a debate of very considerable importance to this chamber. As I suspect is the case with many honourable senators, it was only recently that I had an opportunity to become interested in the design and the layout of the new chamber. I am indebted, as I am sure are all senators, to the President for providing a display model in his office which gave us all an opportunity to form judgments. I must say that for my part I was pretty much astounded and certainly very disappointed with the concept that had been put forward. One has to ask oneself where the architects got their ideas from.

Without being too critical in a general sense of architects, it seems symptomatic of architects that they have their own ideas of what is good for the rest of the world. One gets the impression that the concept of these architects was not drawn from a viewing of the operations of this chamber. I am seeking to be objective and I do not want to single out anybody in particular for the concept. One might be inclined to criticise the architects or the Parliament House Construction Authority. I make no judgment on where the responsibility up to this point rests. However, I have to say that I get the clear impression that the interior design of the Senate chamber in no way reflects or fully appreciates the functioning or operational systems of the Westminster tradition. If one were to accept the break away from the traditional Westminster red and the substitution of `Australian Pilbara reds', I can only say that the salmon pink shades that I have seen are not the colour of the Pilbara. I do not say that without some authority. I lived in the Pilbara for six years. Having looked at the design and the colours, I see no comparison between the stark basic red of the Pilbara and the anaemic--

Senator Vanstone —Balmain colours?

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —One might say Balmain, but certainly the anaemic, modest, pale pinks that we have seen in the design. There is certainly no relationship between the two. Of course, the great tragedy is that in Australia we are going through a euphoric phase of wanting everything to be Australiana. Naturally, that will date everything that we do. Once we get over this inferiority complex we will find that the chamber in the new Parliament House and the Parliament generally will be dated. With regard to the reality and the intent of the chamber, I quote from the report:

In each Chamber the symbolic colour is maintained to present a unified interior, yet it is gradually lightened as it rises toward the light entering from the clerestories and skylight at the ceiling thereby unifying the whole space.

To me that gives a clear impression of the esoteric judgment of the architects.

Senator Jessop —You wouldn't call it Utopia.

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —One certainly would not call it Utopia. One realises from that extract what was intended by the architect. But having viewed the proposals for the chamber, they certainly give me an impression of being an absolute mish-mash of misunderstanding as to the purpose of the chamber.

I wished to raise other matters but there are other senators who wish to speak briefly this afternoon. I am very anxious that this matter be put to the vote. On that basis, I will decline to speak further. I hope that those contributing to the debate will do so in a constructive way and will support my proposition, and that following that we will have a quick vote.