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Tuesday, 23 October 1973
Page: 2571

Mr ARMITAGE (Chifley) - The honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) is as usual looking for Reds under the bed. This is his usual practice. Of course it is true that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has friendly relations with the Premier of China. I am glad that he has, because somebody has to do something about overcoming the damage of the past and endeavour to get some good relations and some understanding between Australia and China. But I think the honourable member for Mackellar should realise that the Prime Minister is also friendly with Mr Nixon, Mr Kissinger and Mr Heath. The honourable member mentioned climbing

Mount Everest. If he wants to climb Mount Everest, I will move in the Caucus that the Government pay the cost for him.

However, I want to deal with the opening of the Sydney Opera House last Saturday. The opening of the Opera House was a gala day not only for Sydney but also for Australia. It is a great building, a wonderful work of art which will give and is already giving Australia a symbol, an identity, throughout the world. However, unfortunately the opening was marred by the introduction of petty party politics by the .Liberal Premier of New South Wales, Sir Robert Askin. The most spectacular election campaign opening ever - that is what it was. It was greatly assisted by help from the Australian Government. This is what we gave to make it such a spectacular day not just for Sydney, not just for New South Wales but for Australia: The assistance of the Navy, helicopters, ships and bands. Most of the operations on the harbour were conducted by the Navy.

Mr Grassby - We gave the Fills.

Mr ARMITAGE - We gave the assistance of the Royal Australian Air Force, as the Minister says, in the form of the Fills.

Mr Cohen - It is the first time they have been able to do anything useful.

Mr ARMITAGE - Yes, and they stayed up. I have been told, although I could stand correction, that we even paid the cost of the fireworks. We gave the New South Wales Government the use of the whole Commonwealth car fleet to operate in the Sydney area to assist in the celebrations. Furthermore we gave them the television landlines, as the television industry had declared the opening to be an event of national importance. As I said, unfortunately petty party politics were introduced. I give an example. The Prime Minister was not allowed to sit on the dais.

Mr Cohen - He was not invited.

Mr ARMITAGE - He was not invited to sit on the dais; that is correct. He was left among the crowd during the official opening. He was also left among the crowd when the Premier and a large number of people accompanied the Queen to inspect the Opera House. I know that this would not worry the Prime Minister. He is a very broad minded man. He is not petty. But it was an insult to this Parliament and to Australia as a whole. Utzon, the original conceiver of the whole architectural proposal, received only a passing reference from the Premier. There was no mention of Labor Premier Cahill, who was responsible for getting the whole project originally accepted by the State Cabinet, the State Parliament and internally within the Australian Labor Party, and who took a great deal of criticism for his actions, particularly from the Liberal Party.

Mr Cohen - The Liberal Party opposed it.

Mr ARMITAGE - That is quite correct. It opposed it and made it very much an issue during the 1965 State election campaign, following which the Government was defeated. There was no mention of Mr Pat Hills, the Leader of the Opposition in the New South Wales Parliament, who was also of great assistance to Joe Cahill, the Premier of New South Wales at the time the Opera House was conceived, by helping Joe Cahill both to get the idea accepted within the Party and to select the site so that the site would be set aside for the Opera House. But it should be kept in mind that when Her Majesty was in Canberra last Thursday the Prime Minister called upon the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) to speak. He had the Leader of the Opposition put at the front table, not down among the crowd, and he made sure the Leader of the Opposition was allowed to speak. Sir Robert Askin made no mention of Mr Bob Heffron, a former Premier of New South Wales, now over 80 years of age, a man who must take great pride in the fact that he helped to continue the project. All that Sir Robert did was done on the excuse of protocol, but he ignored the fact that this was a day for Australia, not just for New South Wales.

Mr SPEAKER - -Order! It being 1 1 o'clock, the House stands adjourned until 11.30 a.m. tomorrow.

House adjourned at II p.m.

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