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Thursday, 28 August 1980
Page: 959

Mr DOBIE (Cook) - Mr Deputy Speaker,much has been said to commend and applaud all those who have been concerned with the new and permanent parliament house. I join in those remarks with great enthusiasm. I shall talk on the design at a later stage but I would like to open my remarks by congratulating those responsible for setting the timetable and for keeping to it. Members of this House should be made aware that the Parliament House Construction Authority, under the distinguished chairmanship of Sir Bernard Callinan and with his executive director, Mr G. R. Peatey, is keeping to the timetable. I do not merely wish them well in keeping to the set timetable for the next eight years but as a member of the Parliament I believe we should be telling all members of the Authority that it is their national duty to see that the timetable is strictly adhered to and met. As members of Parliament, we should be encouraging them to achieve this goal.

If the Joint Standing Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House, under the joint chairmanship of Mr Speaker Snedden and Mr President Laucke, has its way, I am sure all targets will be met. Under no circumstances can this building, which is one of national and even international significance, be allowed to fall into the mire of construction and administrative confusion surrounding the building of the Sydney Opera House. Already it is obvious that the Authority has learned from the mistakes made in the construction of the Sydney Opera House, in that clear and unambiguous instructions have been issued as to the purposes of the parliament building. We can reflect on the fact that one of the major problems related to the construction of the Opera

House at Bennelong Point concerned not merely forging into new engineering techniques to achieve a magical and inspired architectural design but a\so that those with the responsibility were undecided as to what purpose the finished building should be put.

It is not my intention in this debate to recite the continuing saga of what prevailed in those days - as to whether concerts or operas should have had priority. But, I believe that as members of the client Parliament we should remind ourselves that we must not allow the Parliament House Construction Authority to move away from its fundamental purpose of providing a satisfactory work house for the running of the Federal Parliament of Australia. It is fundamental that the new parliament house does not become merely a national exhibit of architectural brilliance or the showplace of Australian cultural achievement or Australian artisan skills, important as those aspects must be. It has to be a requirement that all future actions and thinking should be primarily concerned with the creation - should I say the maintaining- of a working, efficient parliament house which will be concerned with the democratic government of a free and proud Australian bi-cameral in its form and federal in its purpose.

If we are to achieve a parliament building that provides the setting that the future of such a form of government in Australia rightly requires, we must be certain that the collective voice of all members of Parliament is heard and heeded as the construction proceeds. However, that is not to say that I would advocate there should be any petty interference or superficial commentary by members of this House or the Senate on the ongoing program of construction. We should be protected from a proliferation of interfering committees of quasi-architectural experts. But, I do believe that the fifth report of the Joint Standing Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House put it appropriately when, in paragraph 21 of that report, it stated:

As the representative of the client, in this case the Parliament, the Joint Standing Committee will have a continuing and important role during development of the design.

I would change that to say that the Joint Committee must have this continuing role, for we must take care to see that executive government during the next eight years is not allowed to become the only parliamentary comment which shall be heard and heeded by the Construction Authority. I believe that the attitude of the Fraser Government so far has been most admirable. In expressing my views about the role of the Joint Standing Parliamentary Committee I hasten to add that there has been no indication to date that the Fraser Government has any intention of excluding the role of the Joint Parliamentary Committee in the continuing and ongoing development of the design.

What, then, of the design which was chosen by the assessors- a well chosen group of men who have themselves chosen well? I suppose many people will continue to debate the choice. After all, we all have individual tastes and preferences in such matters as architectural appreciation. For my part, I was attracted to the design of Mr Colin Madigan of Edwards Madigan Torzillo Briggs International Pty Ltd. No doubt, other members have been attracted to other final models and designs. However, when one reads in the assessors' final report that the winning design of Mitchell Giurgola Thorp of New York and their nominated architect, Mr Richard G. Thorp, a 36 year old Australian born and trained architect 'represents a total design accomplishment quite beyond that achieved by other entries in the competition', one must be very happy with the choice of the distinguished panel of assessors. That panel included such internationally renowned and acclaimed architects as 1. M. Pei and John Andrews. It must be a source of great pride to all of us that an Australian architect, himself with distinguished international acknowledgment, is the winner. I am sure the name of Ric Thorp will become a household name in our country for his inspired and imaginative approach to what was a great challenge to all architects.

Whereas I began this speech by saying that I hoped the new parliament house would not become merely a national exhibit of architectural brilliance, I hasten to say that I believe the chosen design ensures that this facet of the national Parliament already has been achieved. I am confident that the quality of Australian workmanship and the skills of our building artisans, the equal of any in the world, will be manifested at every stage of the building's development. What, then, of the Parliament House becoming a showplace of Australian cultural achievement? One has read of the plan to incorporate Australian works of art wherever possible. It is good to know that the exhibition of original Australian paintings shall not now be limited to the walls of ministerial and executive offices alone, as is presently the case. One can only hope that Australian sculpture also will be adequately represented.

I do not believe that we should revert to the tedium of having art competitions to commemorate the new building. I believe we should achieve the representative nature of all art forms by a judicial choice of existing art from all art forms which is geographically representative of all Australia. In this latter regard I would commend to the Authority the example shown in the parliament house in Brasilia, where there has been a most sophisticated representation not only of geographically representative art but also of the flora of that country on a geographical and representative basis. I commend to the Authority the thought that it could well have someone visit that parliament to see what has been achieved so well in this regard. Finally in regard to the area of art representation I hope the public areas of the new building will be equipped so that such cultural activities as the dance and singing can be performed and appreciated within the parliament of the country.

The new building is exciting; it has the beauty of functional efficiency. To quote the assessors, it has 'the requirements of architectural quality, sensitivity to location, symbolic identity, functional efficiency, building feasibility and relative economy which the new parliament house building must satisfy'. In short, it is and will be a good work house for a representative parliament whose role is to protect and develop the rights of each and every Australian. I close by congratulating all those who have developed the scheme so far and wishing strength and purpose to those whose duty will carry them through to a proper conclusion when the building is opened in January 1988.

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