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Thursday, 21 August 1980
Page: 661

Mr SINCLAIR (New England) (Leader of the House) (10.8)- I move:

(1)   That, for the purpose of sub-section 8 (2) of the Parliament House Construction Authority Act 1979, the House of Representatives -

(a)   authorizes the commencement of work on the following declared stage in the design of Parliament House, namely, the preparation of a detailed design of Parliament House (including specifications and tender documents); and

(b)   authorizes the commencement of work on the following declared stage in the construction of Parliament House, namely, the preparation and excavation of the site of Parliament House.

(2)   That a message be sent to the Senate acquainting it of the resolution agreed to by the House of Representatives.

I indicate to the House that after the completion of the debate on this item I will be moving:

That, in accordance with section S of the Parliament Act 1974, the House of Representatives approves the proposal contained in the report of the Parliament House Construction

Authority presented to the House on 19 August 1980 for the construction on Capital Hill of a New and Permanent Parliament House.

I suggest that honourable members, in the course of their consideration of the motion which I have just moved, also take into account that this will be the final occasion when they can determine whether we are to have a Parliament House on the hill or by the lake. Those honourable members who have been in this House over the course of time will recall successive occasions when there has been fairly vigorous debate in the chamber concerning three sites - the top of the hill, the shore of the lake, if not the foot of the lake and the Camp Hill site, which is immediately behind the site of the present Parliament House.

I would suggest that when honourable members consider the principal part of the motion they take into account that we are on this occasion finally declaring that Capital Hill is to be it. Almost 80 years ago the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia was constituted. There are a number of opportunities in this chamber when each of us participates in events which are significantly part of the history of this continent. To my mind this is one of those occasions. It has taken nearly that 80 years for the Parliament of Australia, as a nation, to find a permanent home. The motion that I have just moved will, I am sure, be a forerunner to the establishment of that permanent home.

When the Parliament was first convened on 9 May 1901 it met in the Exhibition Building in Melbourne and subsequently in the parliamentary buildings there. It was recognised that that was a temporary arrangement and that the Parliament should meet in its own building in a territory which at that stage was still to be acquired for the purpose of providing the seat of government for the colonies which had amalgamated in their State identities to form the Commonwealth of Australia through the Constitution which was adopted in 1901. In 1921 the Federal Capital Advisory Commission was established with a view to setting up as soon as possible a Federal parliamentary building in Canberra. An international competition for the design of a permanent parliament house was launched in 1914 but it was deferred with the outbreak of war.

Between 1914 and 1916a number of attempts were made to re-establish the competition. It was during this period that a Mr J. S. Murdoch was appointed Chief Commonwealth Architect and it is to Mr Murdoch that credit is given for the design of the provisional Parliament House, the building of course in which we are now in this chamber presently sitting. The original building was largely completed by 1927. Its opening marked 26 years to the day the opening of the first Commonwealth Parliament in Melbourne and the first occasion in the provisional Parliament House. The task of building a permanent parliament house was still left to posterity. The provisional building has required numerous extensions to fulfil the objective of housing the Federal Parliament.

In 1965 a joint select committee of Parliament was appointed to consider the need for a new parliament house. In its report to Parliament in 1970 the committee recommended that the project should proceed. Over eighteen months ago by a unanimous vote of this House a Parliament House Construction Authority was created. The principal function of the Authority is to control the design and construction of a new parliament house. This House also agreed that at each major stage in the design and construction of the new building the Parliament itself would be the authority to approve successive works - and that is the purpose of this motion today. The design competition for the new and permanent parliament house was the focus of the international architectural community; 961 architects from 28 countries registered for the competition; 329 of them submitted entries. It was recognised by the competition organisers that the design of the new Parliament House on Capital Hill is one of the most challenging and complex design tasks to have confronted architects in Australia in recent times. The use of the competitive process as a means of selecting a design or designer is, of course, not new to Australia and the Australian Capital Territory. Canberra itself was the subject of a design competition in the early 1900s.

In consultation with the Joint Standing Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House, the Construction Authority appointed a panel of six assessors under the chairmanship of Sir John Overall to advise on the conduct of the competition and ultimately to select the competition winner. This Parliament is indebted to all of those groups and individuals for the fine work and dedication shown in the performance of their task, particularly the two parliamentary representatives, the Labor senator for Victoria, Senator Gareth Evans, and the honourable member for McMillan, Mr Simon, the Liberal member, who were members of the panel of assessors. The assessors chose as the winning design the entry submitted by Mitchell, Guirgola and Thorp. Mr Thorp, the nominated architect, is an Australian who, following his graduation as an architect from the University of Melbourne, has had extensive architectural experience in both Europe and

North America. It is pleasing to see that an Australian has had such a large part to play in this particular design project.

The design itself has been enthusiastically received throughout the Australian community. I believe it will have a very wide acceptance, if not unanimous support, of members and senators in this Parliament. The Government is also of the view that the design represents an excellent solution to a most difficult architectural problem, although we recognise that there will be some modifications made as the final sketch work proceeds. The external appearance of the building will make it a fitting Australian landmark in the national capital. Internally it provides accommodation not only for Ministers, members and senators and all the others who help make this Parliament work, but also just as importantly, provides a number of facilities for the public to come and see their Parliament in operation.

The Government believes that it would be most appropriate for both Houses of the Parliament to agree to proceed with the construction of this particular design. In fact in the Appropriation Bill for this financial year the Government is seeking $7. 7m to enable the Construction Authority to commence work on the project. Parliamentary approval today of the design will enable work to proceed immediately on the construction of this most significant building. Before I conclude there are two personal comments that I would like to make. The first is that as I intimated a moment ago in foreshadowing a motion that will be moved at the conclusion of the debate on this motion, there have been a number of us over the years who have looked at various sites and favoured one or other of them. During the time that I have been in the Parliament I have seen the parliamentary mood move from each one of those three sites. Of course, on each occasion there have been strong groups of members who have particularly favoured one or other sites.

To a very large degree I think that we need to recognise that once the Parliamentary Triangle was established and once a number of the sites on the foreshores of Lake Burley Griffin were determined for construction and subsequent occupation by other authorities and significant bodies within the Commonwealth, the opportunities of deciding where this new Parliament should be have largely and successively been determined for us although in part we have had a say in the siting of those successive buildings. In my view, if we envisage the Burley Griffin concept and look at the development of the Parliament, the lakeside setting is no longer a goer. I do not believe that it would be possible, without significantly prejudicing the concept of the Burley Griffin Parliamentary Triangle, to consider any longer the construction of the Parliament beside the lake. Of course it is possible that we could demolish this building.

Mr Scholes - I had a lot of trouble with you.

Mr SINCLAIR - Well, you did. I was very much in favour of it and that is one of the reasons why I speak on it now. Sir Robert Menzies was one of those in the past who was also very much in favour of the lakeside site. I suspect that was because as much as anything he could see the House of Commons there with the Thames flowing by and he could see some similarity between the lake and the River Thames, and between the House of Commons and the prospective new Parliament site. In my view there are still two sites that are favourable. One is Camp Hill, which is immediately behind this building and which extends down to this building. The other is Capital Hill. To my mind the design that has been submitted to the Parliament and which we are now considering consolidates the prospects of the final determination of this Parliament on Capital Hill. As one of those who on successive occasions voted for other sites I would now like to say that I very strongly support both the design and siting on Capital Hill. The second thing I mention is that there are many people in the community who look at our Parliament and wonder whether the facilities that are about to be constructed are really necessary. Anybody who has worked in this Parliament, particularly as a parliamentarian, would know how extraordinarily difficult it is to function effectively with the added responsibilities that members in this place now are expected to deal with in the circumstances under which we now profess to practice our political art.

I think, importantly, people are now recognising Canberra as a national capital. Groups of people, constituents and others, come to Canberra and to this Parliament to discuss matters of significance to them and to this country. Unless there is adequate opportunity, not just for the Ministry but also for every member of this Parliament, to entertain, discuss and determine matters of importance to those people in circumstances adequate for the purposes, I do not believe members can adequately fulfil the responsibility with which they are charged. I trust that members of the community will recognise that we are not constructing a building to last just for the next few years. To my mind this new building is of tremendous importance to this country, lt is important not for the bricks, for the mortar, for the concrete or for whatever are its surrounds, but for the ability of members of all political persuasions to function more effectively in circumstances which will enable them to consider adequately the representations that undoubtedly will be made to them over the next few centuries. The new parliament house will undoubtedly serve as the principal site for the consideration of matters political in this nation.

Therefore, I very sincerely endorse the proposition that has been submitted to us for consideration tonight. I believe it is important and that it is supported not only by members of this Parliament but also by the people of Australia. I believe the design is imaginative and practical. I believe that, in its concept, it is able to fulfil those objectives which each of us holds dear, albeit in our different political persuasions, and the degree to which we can capably perform the tasks with which, when elected, we are charged. Therefore, I commend this motion to this House.

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