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Thursday, 8 November 1973
Page: 1688

Senator POYSER (Victoria) - I support the motion moved by Senator Murphy which, in fact, agrees with the message which has been sent to us from another place. I think that far too much emphasis has been placed today on constitutional difficulties. I think that they have been drawn across the track deliberately to try to avoid what I understand would be a meeting without great formality but which would give a clear guidance or indication to the Executive in relation to a site acceptable to the majority of members for the new and permanent parliament house. I am a Capital Hill supporter, but I would accept the position of Camp Hill if such a decision were made because of the great urgency to do something today. I feel that we have to do something of this nature. There are no problems which cannot be overcome according to the very learned discussion we have had from both Senator Cavanagh and Senator Wright in relation to the Standing Orders. I do not believe that the Standing Orders are relevant to the position as we see it and as this message from the House of Representatives has been given to us.

We, in our wisdom in 1969- and this is the emphasis which I want to make- by a majority of the Senate sought such a meeting. It is now 1973 and finally a similiar message has come from the House of Representatives. It virtually agrees to our original proposition. But it could not be done in that form because a new Parliament exists at this time. The matter was left on the notice paper over in the other place for a long time but it was removed before Parliament was prorogued before the last election. It is interesting to have a look at some of the background to the desire of the Australian Government to have a proper place to meet. It goes right back into the early history of federation. I was interested to obtain a copy of a meeting of the Parliamentary

Committee on Public Works held on 22 May 1923. The witness was Walter Burley Griffin, architect. He was sworn and examined. In his opening remarks he stated:

I have not had an opportunity of seeing the draft plans prepared in connection with the provisional Parliament House and administrative offices at Canberra. In my opinion it would be preferable, from every point of view, to proceed with the erection of the nucleus of the permanent building. It would be possible to erect the nucleus of the permanent building within 3 years. The Government called a competition in June 1914, and again in August 1916, requesting the architects of the world to formulate their plans and register their acquiescence in the arrangements.

This was in 1923 which is almost 10 years after the first competition was called and almost 8 years after the second competition was called. That competition was never judged. If honourable senators read through the whole of this document which I have in my hand they will see that the government of that day completely repudiated the competition which it had established. Burley Griffin in the strongest possible terms takes the government to task in the evidence which he submitted to the Public Works Committee. It is interesting to go on a little further and find that 210 architects entered for the previous competitions. I believe that this is relevant. It might not seem to be relevant to the message which we have received from the House of Representatives but section (c) of that message states:

(c)   planning for the new House should commence immediately.

That is part of the message we are being asked to support today. We go on into the report of this meeting and into the history of this matter and we find that we in this parliament are walking around a budding which should never have been built in the first place. Burley Griffin goes on to indicate that it would have cost a maximum of 1 5 per cent more to have built the permanent parliament house then.

Senator Lillico - What site did he favour?

Senator POYSER - He was in favour of Kurrajong Hill- that is Capital Hill- completely because as he stated in his evidence:

It is not beyond the capacity or the brains of the architects to design a building of symmetrical architecture for erection on Kurrajong Hill as a Parliament House . . .

He says this quite clearly, although he had a strong favour for Camp Hill. He did not rule it out. His initial idea was to put on Kurrajong Hill- as it was called then- which is now called Capital Hill, the residence of the GovernorGeneral and the Prime Minister's Lodge. It was found that that was architecturally difficult. Then Burley Griffin wanted to put a monumental building there which would be used for the openings of Parliament and ceremonial occasions. Parliament would then meet in the Parliament House which would be built on Camp Hill. I think that this was a dream and something which he really believed would be very wonderful. But in my view this is impractical on today's standards. We will not build a big monumental, ceremonial building on Capital Hill as long as Australia is Australia. That was an architect's dream which I think could not be achieved at any time because of the cost factor. A monumental building for ceremonial occasions only is something which very few countries can afford. Rome has one and that was built many centuries ago. I think that there are only 2 other major cities in the world which have a monumental building for ceremonial purposes such as Burley Griffin looked at in his dreams.

We are in a situation again which we were in in 1914, 1916, 1923, 1958, 1968-69. Now we are in a situation again where in 1973 we have not advanced one step. We have not got the site. We have not advanced one step towards replacing a building in which, in some areas, if the carpet were not there we would break our legs because there are no floor boards underneath us. Senator Cavanagh and I were in one of the top levels and we had the experience of being given 2 buckets to keep the water off us and to keep our office dry. We had to wear our overcoats. It took us months to have the repair work done on the roof of our office. I can recall Senator Cavanagh saying with pleasure to the then President that the problem of the Cavanagh-Poyser office had been solved. They had given us 2 plastic buckets. That is exactly what we had received. We had them for a week or so. I am not so concerned about those things because they are repairable. But I am concerned about the lack of facilities that we will have to put up with in the Parliament for at least another 10 years even if we made a decision right now.

I think that most of us in the Senate- indeed, the greatest majority of us- will not be here as members of Parliament in the new parliament house. So we have no axe to grind in relation to our own personal comfort in this matter. But it is absolutely essential that a decision is made that will be a direction, guidance or clear indication to the Executive of the urgency for the planning and construction of a new parliament house. I believe that it is absolutely essential that it be done in the manner that has been suggested. Both Houses of Parliament on separate occasions have decided that a joint sitting should be the method by which a consensus is obtained. I am not very concerned about the precedent that some honourable senators may think will be established. I am not concerned about the situation Senator Cavanagh has indicated in which we will be outnumbered two to one. This will be a meeting of all members of Parliament not on a basis of whether there are 60 or 100 members in the Senate or whether there are 100 or 200 members in the other place. The meeting will be conducted on the basis of individual members making decisions, and not on the basis of one House of Parliament making a decision instead of having a consensus of all members of both Houses.

If John Gorton, when he was Prime Minister, had carried out what was contained in his original statement in relation to the site of the new parliament house on Capital Hill, construction of the building would be well under way now. Initially he said that he would respect the majority decision of the members of the Parliament. An adverse decision was given in the Senate, the voting outnumbered the majority in another place. In other words, the majority of all members, by separate vote of both Houses, indicated quite clearly that Capital Hill was their choice. Then we found that nothing was done. It is true that John Gorton was removed from the office of Prime Minister. Then we had a new Prime Minister who took no action in relation to the matter.

Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson - He resigned as Prime Minister.

Senator POYSER - In my opinion, he was removed. Certainly, the technicalities of the position were that he resigned. But all prime ministers resign, they are not removed by a vote of the Parliament. They are removed in their Party rooms by vote of the members at that level. But I do not think we should get into an argument about this because it has little to do with the present subject. We had a further Prime Minister who took no action in relation to this matter. We now have a new Government that I believe will accept the decision of the majority of members. Certainly, there are differing opinions in relation to how we go about it. Some opinions were expressed- this was defeated in the other placethat we have a stage program in relation to the construction of our new and permanent parliament house. I would not support this. I can see an example of a stage program in my State of Victoria. The first stage of construction was completed some 80 or 90 years ago. The second stage will be started this year. I can see the continuing arguments for many years to come if, for instance, we had a three-stage program. The first stage would be completed and nobody would move for another 20 years before the next stage would be undertaken.

I understand that a similar position prevails in Western Australia in relation to that State's Parliament House in Perth. Its construction was undertaken by one of these stage programs that are never finished. I believe that the Parliament has to grasp the nettle. I think that we have to say that we will have a new and permanent parliament house. I do not know whether we have to go through all the trouble that apparently has been gone through abortively in the past. I refer to the conducting of architectural competitions. I think that we have to get some competent people and say to them: 'Plan us a Parliament House on the designs and the ideas that have been put before us by the committee that was elected by both Houses of the Parliament for this purpose'. We could say that we wanted that building completed in, say, 5 or 6 years. This is the only way in which we will do it. If we have a 2-year competition we may find that it will finish up in the same way as the 2 competitions that were conducted earlier in this century- without result and without examination. The whole thing was a complete waste of time. We have to do something.

I believe that the quickest and most effective way is to have this informal meeting of both groups- not as a meeting of the House of Representatives and a meeting of the Senate, but as a meeting of all parliamentarians meeting together to obtain a consensus which may be given to the Executive as a clear indication of the wishes of all members. The meeting does not necessarily have to be held in this chamber. I take the point made by Senator Wright in relation to privilege. I would think that Kings Hall would be also a place of privilege on this basis. There could be some argument between the 2 Houses on protocol in relation to where -

Senator James McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The meeting could be held in the rose garden.

Senator POYSER - The rose garden would be perfect because it is delightful at the moment. I am sure that Senator Wright would be very amenable if he was amongst those roses to any subject that was discussed. I could see the point of view of Senator Murphy when he said that the meeting should be conducted without debate. I do not think that this was in any way supposed to mean that this would be done to stifle discussion. I firmly believe that the reason this was indicated in the previous resolution was that at that time both Houses had discussed the matter very recently. It was a very hot question at that time.

Decisions were made and I believe that his position then was that we did not require another full scale debate at that stage for members to vote on the question. They would have been able to cast their vote and the outcome would have been decided by the numbers. But that was not acceptable. I do not think that Senator Murphy would be hard and fast in relation to that aspect of the matter. I do not know. I cannot speak for him personally. A free vote has been given on this. But there would be no hard and fast attitude that there should not be a debate. Certainly, we should meet, certainly we should be able to give an indication to the Executive of where the building should be sited and certainly the Executive, after that indication had been given, should take very clear cognisance of paragraph (c) in the message the Senate received which states:

Planning for the new parliament house should commence immediately. This is the major factor. Anything that I can do or anything that I can say that will convince this Government, the Parliament or any members of it that we have to start this year I will do or say. I will not do this for my own comfort because I may not be here to see the new parliament. I may not live long enough to see it open. Certainly, I will not be sitting as a member of it. I hope that the decision will be that we accept the message from the House of Representatives which is similar to that which we ourselves sent to that House some 4 years ago.

Senator Sir KENNETHANDERSON (New South Wales) (5.49)-I think that I will need about 5 minutes to say what I have to say. This is not a discussion on whether we will have the new parliament house on Capital Hill or on Camp Hill. Quite frankly and clearly, I state that this is a discussion on proposals for procedures. I must say that I will not support the motion moved by Senator Murphy. I have listened very carefully to the argument advanced by Senator Cavanagh and, to a lesser extent that advanced by Senator Wright, and I completely agree with the points that are made. Whether we like it or not, ultimately the construction of a new parliament house will have to be proposed in the form of legislation. It has been suggested, quite extraordinarily, that the members of both Houses of Parliament could get their heads together in a park. But whether we met there, in Kings Hall or at the Lakeside Hotel and take a vote by putting up our hands, the fact of the matter is that for the expenditure involved in building a parliament house there must be an appropriation. But how can the government appropriate money if there is no legislation backing for the appropriation? Whether we like it or not, ultimately we will be confined with a piece of legislation. I do not necessarily accept the Bill that Senator Wright has brought forward; I reserve my options. However, I believe that ultimately, either here or in the other place the Government or a private member will present a Bill. At least that will be legislation and we as parliamentarians will deal with it in a parliamentary way.

It has been said that in 1969 there was a vote on this matter. At that time there were certain numbers in this chamber and certain numbers in the other House. But the fact is, as Senator Withers said, that something like 40 per cent of the people who took part in the vote in the other House at that time are not members any more and about 15 per cent of the then senators are not here any more. If we have a Senate election next April, or whenever it might be, perhaps 30 people now in this place will not be here after it. That sort of argument is, in my opinion, a superficial argument.

Senator Murphyhas put forward a proposition which suggests that the Parliament should abrogate its function. It is suggested that, because there is an element of difference of view within the various parties, there should be a system whereby we have what could almost be called a kangaroo court vote on this issue. To me that is quite wrong. I believe that the Senate has a responsibility to act as a Senate. If we have legislation before us and there is disputation between the 2 Houses, the Constitution lays down what should be done. That seems to me to be the issue. I do not necessarily accept Senator Wright 's proposals. I accept the concept that there should be a large area as a parliamentary triangle, or whatever it is called; but, as for the site, I reserve my options. I did not have a free vote when we dealt with this matter the last time because I was the guinea pig who had to move the motion on behalf of the then Government. I reserve my options, but I say that we should deal with this matter by way of a piece of legislation and the provisions of the Constitution on the one hand and our Standing Orders on the other hand, because they set out what the function of the Senate should be, and not by means of some resolution by which we abrogate our authority and responsibility as members of the Senate.

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