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Thursday, 15 August 1968

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -If the honourable member wishes to move an amendment 1 ask him to do so now.

Mr BRYANT - I move:

Omit 'the lakeside site', insert 'Capital Hill'.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - I rule that the amendment is relevant to the subject before the House inasmuch as the discussion at the moment is on the site for the new and permanent Parliament House. If the motion moved by the Prime Minister were negatived, there would be no site. To this degree I rule that the amendment moved by the honourable member for Wills offers an alternative site for the new and permanent Parliament House, which is the subject matter now under discussion.

Mr Gorton - Mr Deputy Speaker, speaking to your ruling, do I now understand that the amendment moved by the honourable member for Wills, should it be defeated, would result in the motion moved by myself being immediately put to this House?

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - I suggest that in those circumstances the position would be exactly the same as it would be when any other amendment was defeated. Once the amendment moved by the honourable member was defeated the subject matter before the House would be the terms of the original motion. It would then be open for the debate to continue and for any other honourable member to move an amendment to the Prime Minister's motion.

Mr Daly -I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. In the event of the amendment proposed by the honourable member for Wills being defeated and the Prime Minister's motion being defeated also would it be in order for the House to carry a motion without provision for any site?

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order! There is no substance in the honourable member's point of order.

Mr BRYANT - I take it that the time occupied by that discussion will come out of the 20 minutes allowed to me, Mr Deputy Speaker.


Mr BRYANT - Firstly, I commend the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) for allowing the subject of the site of the proposed new Parliament House to be debated in this way. I think that this is a unique parliamentary occasion. I am glad that we are all able to take the opportunity to discuss the subject and cast a free vote on the motion in accordance with our own views, although we have limited time to put those views. There are some aspects of this project which are as yet unresolved and upon which we do not have adequate evidence. The House has been placed in a difficult position by the concentration on absolutes. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) said that the new Parliament House should be located down with the people. Most of the people of Canberra live above the level of Lake Burley Griffin. If that kind of symbolism is to be relied on, we should get out our contour maps and all the rest of the material available and examine the position very carefully.

I feel that before any decision on a site is made the House should have before it the full report of the Joint Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House. In a way I am saddened by the fact that this requirement has not been observed. I think that those members of that Committee who went overseas as a sub-committee - I. hope with some profit to the community - learned a good deal about problems of siting and constructing parliament buildings that so far no-one has resolved. The members of that subcommittee found that no parliament house has adequate space. We found that there hud been no planning for the large numbers of people who visit such buildings as well as for those who work in them.I believe that the Committee has in a way been treated discourteously.

I have some other points that I wish to put to honourable members. What evidence is before the House concerning the flow of traffic and the potential traffic in this area? It is now approaching 5 p.m. What is the traffic position in the region of this building at this moment, with streams of people making their way homeby car from the National Library, the Treasury building and other buildings in thearea? What evidence is before the House of the climatic conditions at the respective sites? This morning there was a layer of log about parts of Canberra. How often does this occur and how extensive are the fogs? I place these comments before the House to indicate my thoughts on the matter. I am not like the Prime Minister. I do not think that somebody who disagrees with me is silly. I believe that it is rational! and logical to place the new Parliament House on Capital Hill.

What do we know of the demands for the future. Members of the Committee found that increasing numbers of people were visiting all of the parliament buildings examined. Parliament has now become the symbol of nationhood. I believe that more people now visit Westminister than visit Buckingham Palace. About 7 million people visited the United States Congress last year. What do honourable members know of the size of the building that the Committee wants to have built? The House has not before it the full details of the Committee's decisions on matters such as these. How big should the new building be? Does anybody know whether it has been decided that it should be as big as or bigger than the National Library building? The Leader of the Opposition mentioned the Palais Des Nations in Geneva. It has been decided to extend that building to a length of 1,600 feet. Would a building of that size fit on the lakeside site? The Palais Des Nations was built only 30 years ago; yet it is being enlarged. Has anybody measured the length of the buildings at Westminster and Washington? Both of them are becoming greatly congested. Have we before us details of a feasibility study of the engineering and other factors involved? I do not think that such a study has been made. The House should have more evidence to consider before it decides on the site. lt may be argued that the Committee heard evidence from experts on these matters. So it did. But in my view they were experts who were dedicated to the lakeside site. The Committee heard very little evidence on any alternative site. Who are the experts in this issue? This is a parliamentary matter and I believe it is up to the Parliament to decide. Parliamentarians are the experts. The new Parliament House will be the home of the legislature; it will be the workshop for 500 to 1,000 people; it will be a national architectural symbol; and it will be a place of pilgrimage and visitation for hundreds of thousands of people every year. Were these factors taken into consideration when the lakeside site was chosen?

What has been the experience in other countries? At Westminister the number of visitors is increasing year by year and the crowds cannot be coped with. At Ottawa, buildings have had to be erected for members of Parliament away from the existing parliament buildings. The same sort of thing has happened in Washington. About 30,000 people a day visit the Capital there. Will that be the position in Canberra in 100 years time? The logic of much of our own development indicates that it will parallel that of the United States of America. But what we must remember always is that no matter what symbolic value Parliament House may have in site and in the nature of the building, it has become a special symbol of people's aspiration for self government. Only 6 or 7 countries have achieved the kind of stability, reasonable political equality, wealth and general development that this country has attained. For that reason we have to give the nation a parliament house that is symbolic, nationally and internationally. Therefore, we cannot rest on decisions which, I believe, will result in the future in overcrowding of our Parliament House.

I suppose that there are a number of sites in Canberra upon which the new building could be erected, but we are at present considering two sites. Both are beautiful in different ways. If the new building is erected on the lakeside it will be in an attractively secluded setting, and if it is erected on Capital Hill it will be splendidly prominent. An area of 47 acres is available at the lakeside site, whereas the area of Capital Hill inside the perimeter of State Circle is 130 acres. I believe that the most important factor to be considered is space. Every other parliament that we visited is constricted by some past decision that has limited or reduced its space. I have no doubt that the new building would be a beautiful sight if it were constructed on the lakeside. As a member of the National Library Council I saw the lakeside site in the first instance when I inspected the adjacent site for the National Library. I then considered that the new Parliament House should be on the lakeside, but after considering all the evidence, inspecting the Capital Hill site and visiting other places I am fortified in my resolve that Capital Hill is the appropriate site, as much for its symbolic value as for any other reason. There is plenty of space on Capital Hill; and Australia is a country of space.

As one of my colleagues has observed, every prospect pleases. However, if the new building is erected on the lakeside will it be visible from behind the National Library? What will be the effect on the National Library? An area of 130 acres is available on Capital Hill inside State Circle, of which 85 acres will be inside the proposed ring road. I believe that work on the ring road should be postponed until some decision is arrived at concerning the proposed site for the new Parliament House. On 4th August I wrote to the Prime Minister regarding work on the ring road at Capital Hill. This is the reply that I received:

I am assured by the National Capital Development Commission that the construction of the ring road will not prejudice the use of Capital Hill for whatever purposes may later be decided, including, if it were so resolved, the permanent Parliament House.

That is not true. The construction of the ring road will reduce by 45 acres the space available on Capital Hill. As I said earlier, the most important factors are access and space. T can think of no particular reason why a ring road on Capital Hill should be constructed.I do not think that people should have to drive through Canberra if they wish to bypass the city. The natural thing is for people proceeding from, say, Hall to Queanbeyan to go round the outskirts of the city in some way. This is a consideration to which we have given little thought so far.

With the resources at my disposal, all I could do was put down a few thoughts on paper. I had the document photostated and it was distributed the other day. The contours of the Capital Hill area range from about 1,600 feet to some 1,900 feet elevation, which is about 75 feet above State Circle. I do not think that there will be any engineering difficulties on that site. A country that has constructed a scheme such as the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme can do whatever is required on this site. I believe that Capital Hill will be the focal point of Canberra, although people do not drive up to the top of it much now. At present it is simply another piece of Australian countryside, of which we have about 3 million square miles.

All roads lead to it. lt would seem to me a simple engineering matter to go under State Circle and have underground parking to an almost unlimited extent inside the hill. From what 1 know of Australian engineering faculties, T can see no technical problems there. Of course, somebody has said that from the hill you see backyards. It might be worthwhile the legislature considering the fact that it is people, not lakes, that we are dealing with. In fact, the area within about 15 degrees of the arc there is what one might call suburbia. The area occupied by some 130 to 140 degrees of the arc - I did not measure it accurately - is taken up by the lake. The rest of it is taken up by the city. But then there is a great sweep of at least 1000 square miles of beautful Australia, of rugged and blue mountains, of the country for which we are making our laws, and the country to which people will come.

I believe there is some symbolic value in this site. I believe there is a great deal of symbolic value in the Parliament of this country. ButI do not think it needs so much to dominate as to be there for all to sec, as to conduct its operations in public view. This is a unique country. It is a country of light and space.It is a country which is still asking for an architect to produce in architecture those things which our artists and our literary people have produced in art and literature. Australian architecture has yet to produce this kind of spirit and light and space which are the unique factors and qualities in Australian life.

I would hope, therefore, that in considering this matter we will examine first of all the simple question of the kind of access we have to the site on the lake. ls it in fact going to be easy to visit, especially if one happens to be one of the thousands of people who drive to Canberra and want to park one's cars somewhere nearby? T presume that until somebody designs a transport system better than anybody else has yet designed, we will still have to use motor car. One wants to be able to park one's car somewhere when visiting Parliament House. I presume that there will be no technical difficulties in placing parking stations underneath the ground there. I do not know what might happen with relation to seepage and so on. I have no competence in that field.

ButI do believe that this offers us an opportunity. I suppose we are faced with what the psychologists call the difficulties of choice. I do not know the technical term for it. We have before us two very desirable sites. Not many people have had this chance. I do not suppose the choice of either of them would be a fundamental error but, for my part, I believe that the hill is the better of the two because of its space. There are 1 30 acres inside the ring of State Circle. That is an area much larger than anything else that is available. It is the centre or focal point of Canberra. After all, Parliament is the reason why Canberra is here. I favour the hill because I believe there are no technical difficulties in the way of making road access into the hill, under the hill or across the hill. There will be no difficulty whatsoever in making it available and accessible to everybody. Therefore, on all my evaluations, from the way 1 look at it, the hill is the logical choice.

But whatever site is chosen, we shall be offering Australian architects unique opportunities for space, for light and for something in architecture as clearly as Australian as Waltzing Matilda or the gum trees, and I hope we will not make the decision known unless we have evaluated all the factors that I have tried to put before the House and thatI know other honourable members on both sides of the House have to place before us.

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