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Tuesday, 2 November 1971
Page: 2824

Mr Lionel Bowen (KINGSFORD-SMITH, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I want to make the point quite forcibly that in the opinion of the Opposition and, I would say, in the opinion of all the people of Sydney, this building should never have been built. The location is wrong and the methods of construction and removal of soil are only adding to the original mistake. Let us deal quickly with the turn-about of the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Bury), who today has said there is nothing wrong with the proposal but last week was raising the matter in this House on the basis that there could well be damage to the ecology. It is recognised that there will be damage to the ecology and the question is: Should that have been tolerated? In regard to the question of defence the honourable member gave gratuitous insults to two of my colleagues, the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) and the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren), who both fought for this country. That should be recognised and placed on record. I wish to quote several things in answer to the argument that this building is a defence necessity. Mr Ashton, the Chairman of the State Planning Authority, when giving evidence to the Public Works Committee, is reported to have said at page 31 of the minutes of evidence:

The siting has nothing to do with the defence purpose. They could be sited elsewhere and the defence of the Commonwealth be done just as effectively.

That is the point I am making. Dr McMichael, who is the Director of National Parks and Wildlife in New South Wales said:

May I add that I also was not at any meeting between the Ministers. No evidence has been placed before us that is convincing that there is a need to stay here for defence purposes, lt has been vaguely suggested. . . .

Let me place on record that he went on to say that if the Commonwealth required for defence any lands which are under State control at any time the Commonwealth would be able to acquire them immediately. He said that in that sense there is no irrevocable removal of defence establishments. So let us decry that suggestion. What are we left with? We are left with the proposition that it is essential and the fact that no evidence was given that it was essential. But more importantly, let us have a look at it from the State Government point of view. Despite the politics of the present New South Wales Government some of the decisions it makes are sometimes right, and on this occasion, as honourable members will see at page 27 of the evidence, none other than the Minister for Local Government and the Minister for Lands are saying that in their view the Commonwealth should site this structure elsewhere and that it was not acceptable to suggest that it must remain there. But if it was the only site the Commonwealth could use, let it use one of the vacated buildings and not erect this monstrosity of a structure which has 3 floors and contains 40,000 square feet of building per floor and which, because of its size, has required excavation to some 80 feet. It is because of the excavation that this secondary problem develops. So we see Ministers of the Crown saying that they do not welcome it and asking whether the Commonwealth would please put it elsewhere. Never at any stage did they agree with the Commonwealth. That is the first point.

Secondly, let us place on record also that there was never any application for approval to the Woollahra Council, which happens to be the local government authority in that area. It was merely advised of the situation. There was never any formal application, and if it had been made it would not have been approved. One is a little disappointed to think that the Council did not take a more active interest in the evidence that was given before the Committee, or to lead evidence. It came in in an indirect fashion in the letter from the Under-Secretary of the Premier's Department to the effect that it was objecting, in a fashion, to both the building and the dumping. I come now to this question of the dumping of the soil. It has been said by my colleague, the honourable member for Hughes, that there is some evidence as to the danger it will do to the ecology. This is on record from Dr Crook. He said:

The immediate effects are that all the organisms living on the sea floor will immediately suffocate.

This is obvious with 70,000 tons of soil to be excavated from this site - a quite substantial quantity - and dumped into the harbour on these living organisms. They must perish. On what basis is that justified - the basis of saving $50,000, when as Dr Crook says, they will never be replaced. Perhaps they might come back in 100 years, but 100 years is more than the lifetime of this structure we are putting up.

Let us come to the fundamental issue of what we are arguing here. Firstly, the Commonwealth should set an example. We have established that it is not essential for defence purposes. Secondly, we have established that there has been no local government approval. Thirdly, we see when we look at it that there could have been alternatives for the removal of this soil to some other more suitable area. I am not necessarily saying that it should be Maroubra - which is part of my electorate - but I would say that many parts of my area would welcome the 70,000 tons of soil. We could make a playing field out of it. Randwick council has never been consulted. Of course, the problem is that it will go through the streets of Rose Bay and Vaucluse. The honourable member for Wentworth lives a mile away from this route and he does not want the trucks to be run ning past his home. The people in my electorate who are perhaps a bit more mundane are used to trucks running past their homes day and night They would welcome and in fact they want playing fields. Perhaps that should have been given consideration because it appears in evidence that it is a tragedy to dump this soil in the ocean. Yet this is what was decided. Why was something not done about investigating alternative proposals in line with what was suggested by Mr Ashton? It is futile to get up here and say that this is the only site and this is the only thing we could have done. The evidence is clear-cut.

I am a little disappointed that the New South Wales Minister for Conservation, Mr Beale, now appears to consider that nothing else could have been done. Originally he was opposed to the construction on South Head. Mr Beale was quoted in the 'Sydney Morning Herald' of Friday last saying so. I thought that he would be more or less on side with his Cabinet colleagues. As I told honourable members, the Minister for Local Government and the Minister for Lands in the State Parliament are opposed to this construction. Secondly, the Minister for Conservation was opposed to the dumping of the soil in the harbour because of the damage that it will do. That is a good, sound principle. But now the Minister for Conservation says that perhaps nothing else can be done. Perhaps the only reason that nothing else has been done is attributable to the unsightly factor - that some trucks will run by for some JO weeks.

I would think that this matter was never given the appropriate consideration except the silent political tip-off of 'do not have me embarrassed for some of my constituents will be complaining about the noise and the dust'. I suggest that it was nothing more than that. We recognise that the carriage of this material does present a problem but surely to goodness this would be a temporary expedient compared with the fact that we will have a monstrosity of a structure and an excavation which will destroy the local ecology that cannot be replaced.

There was the alternative evidence that the soil could have been used. There is the fact that the Government never asked for local government approval, and that cannot be denied. Although the Council gave the impression that it did not want to upset the Navy and to get off-side to the extent of saying that it disapproved of the Government's action, no formal action was ever made by the Council. The Eastern Suburbs councils, which incorporate Woollahra Council and others, were advised of this problem. The councils were prepared to back Woollahra Council if something had been done on a tangible basis but a request for assistance was silently withdrawn on the precept I have just mentioned - that it was better not to upset the Government on this issue. The position is that the people of the area are upset, and so they should be.

But let us put the clear principle on the line. There is a State Planning Authority which controls the development of the State, and that includes the preservation of parks and reserves and the ecology. The Authority is entitled to give evidence, as it did. No evidence has been given by the Government to contradict evidence given by the Authority. More importantly, I was advised today that Sir Robert Menzies put on record an undertaking from the National Parliament that it would abide by all decisions of the State Planning Authority so far as it was able to do so. The Authority has in its files a letter from the then Prime Minister saying that he accepted the principles of town planning as they applied in Sydney and elsewhere and as far as practicable the Commonwealth would abide by them. Why has this not been done?

Dr Mackay - We still will.

Mr Lionel Bowen (KINGSFORD-SMITH, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Government will not. It has given no evidence to support that statement. The evidence is against the Government. The Minister for the Navy gets up here and talks about defence. However, 2 persons who are not politicians and who are experts in the field have said that no evidence to support the Government's case was given. They suggested that the Department might use one of the derelict buildings on the site. We are well aware that in Sydney we all face the problem that the Army and the Navy must have every headland and that we have to assume that every invader will come through every headland. This is a ridiculous argument from the standpoint of defence.

Let us have a look at the ecology. Look at what happened recently to Botany Bay - there was oil everywhere. Botany Bay, which has the greatest number of oil tanks in the Sydney area, would be a prize defence target and overnight would become a fire furnace if anyone wanted to-

Dr Mackay - Can you quote one defence expert to back you up?

Mr Lionel Bowen (KINGSFORD-SMITH, NEW SOUTH WALES) -I say that, as a responsible Minister, the Minister for the Navy should have got a defence expert to back him up. The Minister should have been able to give evidence. He should not come here and make off the cuff accusations. The fact is that the Minister is on the defensive at the moment and he has put forward nothing to support his case. As I have said, 2 State experts have stated that there was no defence evidence in support of this proposal and also Ministers in the New South Wales Government were opposed to it. Who is in favour of this proposal? Apparently a Mr Fraser, or someone in the Department who thinks it is all right, is in favour of it. Is that good enough? Why would the Government not consult with the 2 State experts?

Let us have a select committee now - a quick one - to test the evidence and to see whether the Department is right and what it did not do. Let us see why the Department did not conform to the requirements for development applications, as did everyone else, and why it ducked away from the problem of having its proposal rejected by a council? I believe that the council would have rejected the proposal and the Department, if it had proceeded, would not have been able to sustain public opinion in that area. The Department is negligent in that sense. It has not obeyed the law in that sense and to that extent it must deserve castigation. (Quorum formed).

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock - Order! A quorum is present. I call the honourable member for Warringah.

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