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Tuesday, 12 December 1911

The PRESIDENT - Is it the pleasure of the Senate that the Vice-President of the Executive Council have leave to move a motion now ?

Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear !

The PRESIDENT - Leave granted.

Senator McGREGOR - I move-

That the Senate concurs in the following resolution transmitted by message No. 24 of the House of Representatives : - " That this House approves of the purchase of the following site, and the erection of a permanent building thereon for Commonwealth Offices, viz. : - That part of the London County Council's property included within the Strand, Aldwych, and Melbourne-place, London."

It will be remembered by honorable senators that some years ago a proposition was placed before the Senate for the purchase of a site at Charing Cross, and defeated. Ever since then the feeling has been growing, not only amongst members of this Parliament, but also amongst the general public, that some step ought to be taken to secure in London offices in keeping with the importance of Australia. Nearly all honorable senators know that Canada, through her offices m London, advertises to a very great extent her great Dominion. We ought to endeavour to place the Commonwealth, sooner or later, in a similar position. I might also mention that New Zealand and Victoria are doing good work in that direction in London. All those who were delegated by this Parliament to go to London at the time of the Coronation, and had the privilege of seeing the site which is covered by this motion returned almost unanimously of the opinion that it is the most suitable site in London for our purpose. It is situated at the eastern end of a peculiarly shaped piece of city property. Aldwych goes in almost what might be termed a semicircle from the Strand in the east to a point farther west. At the eastern extremity of this semicircular area there is a piece of land cut off by Melbourne-place, forming what, if the lines were straight, would practically be an equilateral triangle, but as Aldwych forms a section of a circle of course it cannot be a straight line. Then coming down Melbourne-place there is a rectangular turn towards the southwest, and a straight line in the Strand, whilst at the eastern extremity the block is cutoff by a straight line about 40 feet in length. So that really this block of land is contained by four straight lines and one curve. It comprises an area of 24,326 superficial feet, or thereabouts. Of course, honorable senators will recognise that in London the value of land is not measured by the acre or rood or yard, or by the number of feet frontage which it possesses, but by the superficial foot. At what is regarded as a reasonable valuation, namely, 14s. per superficial foot, this block is worth £364,000. Upon a portion of it the Victorian offices have already been erected, and if this motion be carried the Government propose to erect upon the site a building valued at ,£223,000, thus making a total outlay of some £587,000. It will be recognised, therefore, that this proposal, if adopted, will involve a considerable expenditure. But everybody who has inspected the site will admit that it is one of the most central which could be obtained. It is only about a mile from the great Parliament Houses of England, whilst in an opposite direction it is about the same distance from the Bank of England. It is also in reasonable proximity to several railway stations. Without any further attempt to elaborate the great part which the offices we propose to erect will play in the future development of the Commonwealth, I submit the resolution.

Senator VARDON(South Australia) [9.5J. - I have very great pleasure in supporting this proposal. When, some little time ago, it was proposed to purchase a site in Northumberland-avenue, I opposed it, not because I objected to that site, which was a very good one, but because I objected to the buildings which were upon it, and to the price which was asked for it. But the site which it is now proposed to purchase was personally inspected by most honorable senators who were present at the Coronation festivities.

Senator Long - All of us inspected it, I think.

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