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Thursday, 21 August 1980
Page: 665


Mr Keith Johnson (BURKE, VICTORIA) - Walter Burley Griffin wanted the Governor-General's house and the Prime Minister's house located on either side of the hill. That indicates the way he wanted to use the land mass and the symbolism he envisaged. Once the decision was made to erect the building on its present site, Camp Hill was immediately ruled out. That is why Walter Burley Griffin did not want the House sited where it is now. As the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) pointed out, the debate on the site ranged back and forth, from the bottom of the lake to the shores of the lake and to Capital Hill. I still hold the view that everything is in the wrong place and that Parliament House would have been better situated either in Sydney or Melbourne. That argument was lost 80 or 90 years ago so I will not resurrect it.

Let us look at what this bright young Australian architect, Mr Richard Thorp, has given us. If honourable members have taken note of what I have been saying they will realise that, in effect, he has given us what Burley Griffin wanted. The design of the new building shows that it is extraordinarily practical and that it will work very well. There is no doubt in my mind about that. There will be none of the impedance to people working in that building that exists in this building, lt also has within its curved walls a fairly large public area. Public cafeterias and lecture theatres will be located in the building. The public will have very good access to it. The building also has great ceremonial symbolism. I do not profess to be a conservative but I recognise the importance of buildings providing this symbolism on occasions. The building will provide the two things that Burley Griffin wanted. Firstly, it will be a functional Parliament House, and secondly, it will be a ceremonial building of which the people of Australia can be proud.

I turn now to the construction of the building. No technique that is not already known will be used. No material that is not already available will be used. People who would decry this project by comparing it, for example, with the Sydney Opera House or the cultural centre in Melbourne are quite wrong. The problems that arose with the parabolic curves on the roof of the Opera House in Sydney will not arise in this building. Previously unknown techniques were required to construct the roof of the Sydney Opera House. They had to be devised, and that became extraordinarily costly. This building will use conventional construction techniques, and will be constructed of steel, concrete and glass. No exotic materials or unknown techniques will be used. Traditional construction methods and materials which are all readily available will be used.

Some people will say that the estimated cost of $220m will multiply by 10 per cent each year, and then another 10 per cent will be added,.and that will go on for 8 years. Anybody who tries to pull that one is being completely and utterly dishonest. Money will be spent on the project from the moment it starts. Every dollar a day or million dollars a week that is spent on the project now will not incur that 10 per cent increase for eight years. Expenditure will follow the usual 'S' graph, and in five years about three-quarters of the money will have been spent. Escalating building costs are not incurred on money already spent.

All sorts of tricks will be pulled out of the box to try to denigrate the new building, but that will be done by a small minority of people. I think the bulk of people in Australia recognise the need for Australia to have a prestigious Parliament House. In my view, nothing could suit the Australian atmosphere better than the proposed building. It will be what Burley Griffin wanted. It will be impressive but not dominant. Rather than having a great heap of buildings on top of the hill, the whole area will be landscaped. The top of the hill will be removed, the building erected, and the hill reinstated. It is an extraordinarily good concept.

In the closing moments of my speech I should like to pay some tributes. One must go to the advisers to the Joint Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House who assisted in the preparation of the brief. In all my years of experience with the building industry I have never seen a brief as comprehensive or as well-researched as the brief made available to the architects for the design of the building. Honourable members will have seen the brief; I believe that every member received a copy. It was not the sort of thing to take away for a weekend of light reading. It contained thousands of pages and, on the advice only of the proposed users, it described in minute detail what was required. Areas, doorways, natural light, ventilation, and so on were included in the brief. Because a competition was being held, the brief did not presume to suggest any shape, but it said in so many words what was required. Mr Richard Thorp, the architect, followed it fairly faithfully. Nobody could have followed that brief precisely and come up with anything other than a Weeties' box. We did not want something that looked like a Weeties box. We wanted a building that would be distinctive and unique, and we have got it. The design also stands very strongly with the brief. It does not deviate in any great degree from the brief, but it is unique. I commend the motion to the House. The Senate has agreed to it and I trust that this House will agree to it unanimously. I do not know who will have the task of driving the bulldozer onto the site. I hope that by the middle of next week fuel will be available for the bulldozer and it will be on top of the hill.







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