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Wednesday, 24 October 1973
Page: 2604

Mr McKenzie (Diamond Valley) - If nothing else, this debate is a practical example of how this Parliament can work, with honourable members from both sides of the House representing all parties expressing opposing points of view. Together with the development of the committee system in this place, I think it is something that we ought to look to with a great deal of appreciation. I think it is undoubted that we need a new building. We need room for expansion, and to some extent what has gone on today is pretty much an academic argument. But I draw the attention of the House to the 2 motions that are before it, namely the motion moved by the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) and the amendment moved by the Minister for Urban and Regional Developoment (Mr Uren). The amendment asks us to make a prejudgment concerning where we ought to have the new and permanent parliament house. I have my opinion, which is that on balance it ought to be on Capital Hill. But I again draw the attention of the House to the fact that the motion before us asks merely for a meeting with the Senate. I think that this is the right and proper way to approach the question.

Mr Uren - I wish you would tell the history before that and of the manoeuvring that went on.

Mr McKenzie (Diamond Valley) - I think one of the ways to overcome the manoeuvring is to make sure that we all sit down together and discuss it on a reasoned and rational basis. What can be done about getting a new and permanent parliament house? We have heard, I think from the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt), that it will be the year 2000 before we have a new parliament house if we do not make a decision to put a new and permanent parliament house on Camp Hill. I draw the attention of the House to the report which was brought down in March 1970 concerning the new and permanent parliament house and the time schedule which it gives, with no relation to site - I stress this - for the completion of the building, which is 9 years and 6 months; say 10 years. That is fair enough.

If we accept the situation that it will take 10 years to complete and if we also take into account that a building of this type will cost $100m on present day values, that would mean an expenditure of $ 10m a year. We are already spending a great deal of money on this place. I have been told that it is about $3m per annum but perhaps in that figure there are all sorts of other expenditure. Nevertheless, $10m a year is not too much to expect. I have been associated with the building of municipal offices - a much smaller venture than the one under consideration today. If we had left the construction of those offices until this year instead of commencing 3 years ago the cost would have been at least another $100,000 added to an original cost of less than $500,000, which is a considerable rise. If we accept that the rise in costs will be something like 5 per cent per annum that means a rise of more than 100 per cent over a period of 20 years.

If we are to make a decision on the construction of a new and permanent parliament house we ought to make the decision now and appropriate the money which would be required. If we can arrive at a bipartisan decision - and I believe that this debate would lead one to believe that such a decision could be achieved - then we will be able to get the support of the public by letting the public know what is going on and by asking for their advice and opinions. It is my experience that when the public are brought into consideration, the public do give their support.

I do not think we ought to approach this matter with a defeatist attitude. I believe that the proposal to erect the new building in stages need not prevent it from being built on Capital Hill. There are all sorts of adjuncts to a parliament house which can be placed a considerable distance away from the chambers. My view is that it is practicable to have some of the buildings located 200 yards away from the chamber or even half a mile away. It seems to me that we could well put some new buildings on Capital Hill as a first stage. Some parts of the building could be used for certain purposes.

I would like to refer to the original design put forward by Burley Griffin. If honourable members care to go out into King's Hall and have a look at the display there they will see, as the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) mentioned, that according to the original design there was to be a building of considerable size on Capital Hill. It was going to be used for all sorts of purposes but not as a meeting place for the Parliament. Burley Griffin originally envisaged 2 separate Houses of Parliament - the Senate and the House of

Representatives. He felt that 2 buildings on Capital Hill would not contribute to the overall design of the national capital. I think we have come a long way since that time. I believe that we can achieve a satisfactory design for one building which will have some sort of central authority. I think that the original decision taken in 1921 to build a temporary building on the present site has, to a large degree, pre-empted the decision.

There have been arguments as to whether we should pull this building down or not. Whether we accept that this building has to come down altogether or only part of it is to come down, if a substantial building is placed on Camp Hill then the present building has either to come down or be substantially modified or we accept the alternative that the design for the new building from this aspect will not be as good as might otherwise have been the case. I suggest that we ought to consider this fact because it is central to the whole situation. If we decide to retain the present building we will prejudice the overall design. If we destroy this building I, like the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti), believe that we will have committed an act of national vandalism. There are plenty of uses to which this building can be put. I would hate to see this building taken down. This building in its own way is worthy of this nation. It is worthy of our ideals and aspirations. It enshrines our history. This is of particular importance because this country does not have a long history of parliamentary democracy. I believe that this building means something to the people of Australia. I would hate to see it go.

Again, like the honourable member for Macquarie, I believe that the Capital Hill site would enable us to do much more than we would otherwise be able to do. We have to consider whether we need a parliament house or an office block. I suggest to honourable members that we need a building which is worthy of this nation. I suggest that we should, first of all, decide to meet with the Senate, which is what the motion seeks. Having taken that step we should then decide the question of the merits of the case in conjunction with our colleagues in the other place. I ask the House not to make a decisive and irrevocable decision today but merely to decide that we ought to have a new and permanent parliament house which is worthy of this nation and that we ought to meet with our colleagues in another place to determine this matter.

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