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Thursday, 15 August 1968

Mr GORTON (Higgins) (Prime Minister) - I move:

That this Mouse is of the opinion that the new and permanent Parliament House should be situated on the lakeside site.

The purpose of this resolution is to enable each member of this House to express his own individual view and to express his own individual judgment as to where, when it is built, the new Parliament House should be sited. The Government has taken the view that a decision on a matter of this kind is one which should be made by individual members of the Parliament in their capacity as private members. We therefore propose that there should be an entirely free vote and that all members on our side of the House, whether in the Ministry or not, should cast their vote in accordance with their judgment and in accordance with their views as to where would be the best site for a House. Indeed, I understand that this view is shared by the Opposition and that this will be an expression of that kind.

Mr Whitlam - Hear, Hear!

Mr GORTON - Mr Speaker,the resolution whichI bring forward is not brought forward at this time because there is an urgency in starting the construction of a new Parliament House. We still await and will receive a report from the joint select committee which will recommend to the House the facilities and the amenities which a new Parliament House should contain. And even when that is done it will be a matter for decision, this time by the Government, as to when the funds should be made available or can be made available in the light of other requirements for the beginning of construction. So it is not a matter of starting construction. But the resolution is brought foward because there is urgency in deciding where, when it is constructed, the House will be. This is so that other construction work - for example, the construction of the new National Art Gallery - can be begun by the National Capital Development Commission with full knowledge of where a site for Parliament House is to be reserved and where it is not.

At various times three sites have been suggested for the new building. One was Camp Hill, the small rise which is at the back of this House of Parliament and which was the site originally recommended by Burley Griffin but which, this House of Parliament having been built, Burley Griffin, as we would all agree, decided was not a suitable site for the construction of a House. So that left two sites remaining - one, Capital Hill, on which the flagstaff is erected, and which we all Know so welt, and the other the site down by the lake. These, therefore, I suggest are the two sites between which this House needs to make its selection today.

I do not think that at this stage I need to canvass in any detail the merits of the various sites, because most members have already had a chance to study the report brought down by the Senate select committee in 1955 and, indeed, a number of other reports and a number of supporting documents which over the years have been available to members of this House. Not only was there the 1955 Senate select committee report, which recommended that the House be built on Capital Hill, but there was later in 1957 a report by Sir William Holford, now Lord Holford, who visited Canberra and recommended the lakeside site. As a result of that report the National Capital Development Commission brought down a report, which has been available to members of Parliament, expressing and giving reasons for the suggestion that the House should be built on the lakeside. Not only is this, of course, a matter for planners such as those. The members of the House will also remember - indeed, I think remember' is not the right word - will have well in their minds that the Joint Select Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House, drawn from both Houses and from both sides of each House, itself has reported and has given reasons and documents in support of those reasons for where it thinks a Parliament House should be. So that there has been, over a period of years, a great wealth of detail, a great wealth of argument, a great wealth of information placed before members.

For my part, Mr Speaker, speaking as an individual, I am convinced that the lakeside site is the best site on which to build the Parliament House, and I believe that future generations would look back on us as being silly should we choose any other site. That is an individual view, an individual judgment, and we are all entitled to such views. I have come to it because I envisage in this National Capital a national complex with the war museum and Anzac Parade in their present situation, with on Capital Hill a corresponding museum of peace and of peaceful achievements and an art gallery, and in the centre the National Parliament by the lake with the new National Library on its left-hand side and the new High Court buildings on its right. There is the centre of learning and of law, and half-way between the exploits of this nation in war and in peace is, I think, the site for a National Parliament for the future.

There has been some suggestion that there are technical disadvantages in building the House on this particular site. I do not believe, Mr Speaker, that that can be sustained. There has been and there is available to members of this House plenty of information to show that there is no danger of a flooding of the House on the site where I suggest it should be. There is available in that area some 47 acres of land with more available to be added in the future should that be required. On the alternate site at Capital Hill it would be necessary, if 47 acres of land were to be provided, to scrape away the hill, to lower it by some 70 feet, bringing its general skyline down to the level of the roof of the present Parliament House. But these are all matters which each member of this House will make up his mind on according to his own best judgment. Partly because of the technical considerations I have put before the House, partly because I think a national parliament should centre in the various arms of government and the various achievements of a nation and be removed from the through traffic which would not upset a parliament house by the lakeside, and I suppose partly, not only from judgment but from sentiment, 1 am, for myself, thoroughly in favour of the motion which 1 have moved.

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