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Wednesday, 4 December 1985
Page: 2920


Senator VANSTONE(4.19) —I support the amendment moved by Senator Crichton-Browne. There are many things I would like to say about this but, bearing in mind that other senators also wish to speak, I will be brief. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a letter that I wrote to the President on 16 September 1985 which clearly outlines some of my views on this matter. I have shown the letter to the Minister for Resources and Energy (Senator Gareth Evans), who is at the table.

Leave granted.

The letter read as follows-

My dear President,

Thank you for the opportunity to view the plans and displays relating to the new Parliament House.

There are a few comments that I believe it is appropriate to make.

One of the advisers made the point that it had been deemed appropriate to shift from `Westminster' red and green to `Australian' red and green. The extension of this point was that after considerable research the `appropriate' green had been discovered. I understand this appropriate green is described as `young eucalyptus' and following on from that the appropriate red is the red in the veins of the leaves.

I am not enamoured with these ideas. I would be more than grateful to be given permission to see the research that led to each of these conclusions. I do trust that it will reveal what it is that has occasioned the Australian public to suddenly develop an abhorrence for Bottle-Brush (Senate) red and Bottle (House of Representatives) green. Additionally I will be interested to see whether the said research, in reflecting this desired shift away from Westminster colours also asserts a desired shift away from the Westminster system of Parliament. In my view the `red' carpet sample is more appropriately described as ochre/mud.

The adviser further explained that a fabric would cover the walls of the Chamber and that the colour scheme in the Chamber would extend from the dark colour of the carpet to the lighter covering on the walls in the public gallery. This graduation of colour and the use of a fabric was to achieve three things:

1. Acoustic benefits

2. Focus on the Chamber

3. Visually emphasise the link between Parliament and the people.

I make the following points:

1. Acoustic Requirements-I understand that in other Parliament Houses they have managed to have an acoustically suitable Chamber without using fabric on the walls. May I enquire as to the reason it is regarded as impossible to achieve the desired acoustic standard using timber.

2. From a purely domestic point of view I believe that timber is easier to keep clean and looking good. Fabric on the other hand is not easy to keep clean, it collects dust, shows grubby marks and furthermore deteriorates to a condition that can best be described as tatty.

3. The Press Gallery-If one wanted to truly represent the relationship between the Australian people and their Parliament may I be so bold as to suggest that we alter the plans and put the Press Gallery smack in the middle or rather between the Chamber and the people.

4. Wallaby Mentality-I personally regret that development in Australia of what I choose to refer to as a wallaby mentality. This mentality requires those afflicted with it to feel and believe they are not Australian unless they engage in a consistent and jingoistic rubbishing of aspects of our society that history has been so kind as to pass on to us. This resentment at acquired values is directed particularly to those things British and American. The burning passion to surround ourselves with things `Aussie' and to expel matters seen as being English or American reminds me of the phrase `unless ye see ye do not believe'. Are we soon to be presented with macrame vegemite jars to decorate our office walls? Will America's Cup tea towels be standard issue for each office?

5. The fabric shown to us by the adviser as being an indication of what will go on the walls and which was crafted or worked in some way, showed a distinct resemblance to table cloths I have seen in country hotels and reminded me of one of my late grandmother's shawls.

I further make the point that what an architect or designer believes is appropriate today, may well not be appropriate in five or ten years time. Given the expenditure involved I feel I should be forgiven for believing that it would be more appropriate to adhere to classic and basic requirements of style and function rather than pursuing today's ``flavour of the month'' image. Not to do so is to ignore the deep-seated traditional values within our society. All too frequently tomorrow's projections become yesterday's fad.

As you probably realise John Kennedy said `Civility is not a sign of weakness'. Let me steal his style and say that traditional atmosphere is not necessarily a rejection of challenge, change and reform.

Would you be so kind as to provide me with details of the access to the Chamber that staff will be provided with and the proximity to the Chamber of any areas in which Senators will be able to discuss matters with their staff.

I do hope that a forum will be provided for all Senators to discuss these matters together.

Yours sincerely,

AMANDA VANSTONE

Senator for South Australia


Senator VANSTONE —I thank the Senate. I would like to make a few comments specifically with respect to this report. Page 2 of the report states:

The design of the Chambers endeavours to create a sense of `intimacy' within spaces . . .

I may have a different idea of what is intimate in the archtiectural sense than do the architects and interior designers, but I certainly think they have failed in their endeavours in that respect. When one peruses the answers given at certain Estimates committee hearings one finds that the architects, interior designers or somebody from the Parliament House Construction Authority went to Europe to look at the Volvo factory because it was held to have some sort of similar arrangement with the Senate and House of Representatives chambers. So much for intimacy within the chambers. Also on page 2 of the report the point is made that the chambers are surrounded by lobbies for senators and members at ground level. I raise the point, as I did in my letter to the President, that there should be a space very close to the chambers for senators and members to discuss matters with their staff.

Comment has already been made about the use of symbolic red and green. I think we should stick with the traditional Westminster red and green. I accept that some people would say that we are not in Westminster; but I say that we are not in central Australia. The true analogy to draw is that we are in a parliament that runs on a Westminster-style system and accordingly, we should use Westminster-style colours. The next point I make is with respect to the fabric panels for acoustics. I simply cannot accept that it is not possible for architects to design the surface of wood panelling to achieve the same result they would achieve with the recommended fabric panels. The last point I make is that on page 4 of the report we are told in pagragraph No. 14:

Translation galleries are included in the design of each Chamber to provide facilities required on occasions when the Chambers may be used for mutli-lingual conferences. The translation system will be cabled to all floor level positions in each Chamber.

I register a protest at the Senate and House of Representatives chambers having money spent on them to prepare them to be used as convention centres. It is my view, which I have expressed before in relation to this Government using the chambers of this Parliament as convention centres for the assorted summits it has, that this is totally inappropriate. Each chamber of Parliament should be used for parliamentary business, and parliamentary business alone, in my view. Having made those points, I think it is fair that I not take up the time available to me and give it to other senators who wish to speak.