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Thursday, 21 August 1980
Page: 663


Mr Keith Johnson (BURKE, VICTORIA) -.! wish to support strongly the motion which has been moved by the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) and to follow up the remarks he has made. Whenever a building is planned, the first thing which must be determined, of course, is the need for it. In this case the need has been very carefully canvassed. The Leader of the House spoke about parliamentarians having difficulty working in this place. After 1 1 years experience, I agree with that. But even more important than that is the fact that there are a large number of people who work in this place who are not parliamentarians. They are required by parliamentarians to be here to provide them with the services they need. I refer to people who supply information from libraries, typists, people who print papers and who supply all the services which support parliamentarians. Also a very large group of people is needed to support the Parliament and its committees. As far as I can determine, about 1,200 people work in this place, apart from the 200-odd parliamentarians who work here. Those people deserve consideration.

This building is quite inadequate because the people who support the Parliament, its committees and all those things that go with the Parliament are not all housed in this building. They are scattered across the countryside, some to the Hotel Canberra and some to the Hotel Kurrajong. As a consequence, the whole operation is starting to become fragmented. I think it is important that all the staff members associated with the Parliament be housed, as far as practicable, in the building where the Parliament meets so that we can have ready access to them. That in itself is one of the real needs for the building.

As one of the foundation members of the Joint Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House the thought that exercised my mind throughout the long debates the Committee had was whether we should make provision for a very large chamber to accommodate a large number of parliamentarians. I held the view that that would be unwise. I very much doubted whether the members of the Australian community would ever reverse the view they expressed very forcibly some years ago that they did not want the parliamentary nexus broken. It seems to me that we will have to live for ever with the number of members of the House of Representatives being, as nearly as practical, twice that of the Senate. If that situation were to be changed and if there were any significant increase in the number of members of this House, this would necessitate an increase in the number of honourable senators. If we care to think about that, we will realise that we are talking about a 50 per cent increase in the number of Federal parliamentarians in Australia. I do not think the Australian community is so tolerant that it would cheerfully accept a 50 per cent increase in the number of parliamentarians.

I do not think our population will decline; I think it will increase, principally from immigration. So putting those two things togetheraccepting that there will not be any significant increase in the number of parliamentarians and acknowledging that there will be an increase in the population - the obvious solution is that each parliamentarian - will need to represent more people. At the moment the quota per electorate is between 67,000 and 70,000 people. It will probably go higher than that, possibly to 100,000 or 1 50,000 people. To service the electors, those very important people whom this Parliament is supposed to serve, and not just once every three years, parliamentarians will probably require some assistance other than the pool service that exists now. The staff will require adequate accommodation and working conditions.

All in all, the need can be readily established. This place is a fire trap. God help the people who work in it if it ever catches fire. It is an old building. The Leader of the House pointed out that it was designed in a fairly stereotyped way. It is a difficult building to modify and its facade always reminds me of something out of Gone with the Wind. That aside, the building is not capable of extension to make it what it ought to be - a functional building. The people who inhabit it perform a very important task and are being impeded in the performance of that task by the impracticability of the building. The obvious answer is a new building. That has been determined by this Parliament and by the Committee, and I think it has been generally accepted by the community. There has been no adverse reaction from the community. In fact, there has been only commendation for the design which was finally chosen.

I would like to deal with that design now. Before I do so I would like to express my gratitude to the Leader of the House. Everybody knows that he has always been a man of some wisdom. He has finally displayed the ultimate wisdom and settled for the appropriate site for Parliament House, where it always should have been - the top of Capital Hill. The Leader of the House talked about the Burley Griffin concept - the parliamentary triangle concept. I had occasion to do some research in this respect. In 1922 there was a Public Works Committee meeting in Melbourne concerning this Parliament House. One of the witnesses before that Committee was Mr Walter Burley Griffin. When he was asked about this building he strongly urged the Committee to reject the proposal and not to build it. He said that it was not in the proper place and that his concept was for the Parliament House to be located on Camp Hill, the small knoll behind this building. He said that there were sufficient materials and workmen in Canberra at that time, that they should take their time and that they should build the nucleus of a Parliament House and not a provisional Parliament House. He said that if a provisional Parliament House were to be proceeded with it ought to be placed somewhere else and that this area, which he saw as the land axis of his concept of Canberra, should not be defiled.

He went a step further and said that Parliament House should be a building that is prominent but not dominant. He did not want Parliament House to overshadow the people who elected representatives to come to it. That is why he chose Camp Hill. He said that on top of Capital Hill - he called it Kurrajong Hill - there should be a capitol building, a ceremonial building. He said that that building should occupy the top of that hill to show that the Parliament, the Executive and everything that goes with them are not dominant and that there are people above even the Parliament itself. They can be physically elevated above it.

Debate interrupted.







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