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Wednesday, 20 August 1980
Page: 536

Mr COHEN (Robertson) - It was my intention to commence this speech by saying that the Australian Labor Party strongly supports the Museum of Australia Bill and commends the Government for its action in implementing recommendation 2.1 1 of the Pigott report.

Mr Bourchier - Have you changed your mind?

Mr COHEN - Do not get excited. The honourable member will find out. I listened to the second reading speech of the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr Ellicott). I was not fooled but like many other people I did not read the Bill perhaps as carefully as I might, because I was of the view that this Bill made provision for the Museum of Australia to be constructed now. It does not in fact do that at all. The Bill is for an Act to make provision for the establishment of a Museum of Australia, but neither the Minister's second reading speech nor the Bill provides answers to a number of questions that need to be answered before the people of Australia and of the Australian Capital Territory in particular can be assured that this magnificent concept is to proceed.

The passage of this Bill will not ensure that the construction of the Museum of Australia will proceed within a specified time frame. That is what concerns us. In other words, when will it be commenced and when will it be finished? How and when will decisions about the design and cost of the Museum be decided? Does the Government propose to stick to the recommendations of the Committee of Inquiry on Museums and National Collections that an area of 90 hectares west of Black Mountain be allocated for the Museum? If so, has that area of land been acquired? The questions are vital. I do not wish to sound cynical but we need to be assured that this Museum of Australia Bill is not just a public relations exercise aimed at boosting the Government's stocks in the Australian Capital Territory. We would like an assurance that the passage of the Bill will not just allow a great fanfare of publicity about a major new attraction for Canberra followed, after the election, by the project's being quietly shelved or postponed to some distant date in the future. I hope that my scepticism is unfounded- I say this in the best spirit; it is not an attempt at point scoring on our part- and that the Minister will provide details as to the likely commencement and completion. Those are really the only serious doubts we raise about this Bill.

Let me start again in the sense that I would like to say that the Australian Labor Party does support the concept incorporated in this Bill. What we want some assurance about is when the Museum of Australia is likely to be a reality. Honourable members will be aware that the Committee of Inquiry on Museums and National Collections was announced on 10 April 1974 by the Whitlam Government and that one of its terms of reference was to:

Institute new developments. and institutions, with particular attention to the establishment of a national museum of history in Canberra.

Does the honourable member for Diamond Valley have something to say?

Mr N A Brown (DIAMOND VALLEY, VICTORIA) - No, please go on.

Mr COHEN - We would like to hear from him occasionally. I suppose that he will be making the occasional speech now that an election is coming up.

Mr Bourchier - When he speaks he talks sense.

Mr COHEN - It would be nice to hear from him now and again.

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