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Thursday, 22 November 1973
Page: 2078

Senator DEVITT (Tasmania) - I appreciate the opportunity to direct a few remarks to this Bill. I particularly speak in relation to the area available for the provision of a new and permanent parliament house and those other amenities, facilities and appendages, or whatever one likes to call them, that go with a parliament house. Initially I was persuaded and, like Senator Wright, I came to change my mind about the most appropriate site for the new and permanent parliament house. He changed his mind as a result of the persuasion of the Senate. I changed mine as a result of observations I was able to make as a member of a delegation which went overseas and examined the important question of the siting of parliament houses, the appointments which ought to be in them, the range and extent of the activities which ought to be conducted within parliamentary buildings and matters of that kind.

As a consequence of that visit I was persuaded that one of the principal considerations initially in regard to the siting of a parliament house is the adequacy of the area of the site. We are talking about a monumental building, a building that is to stand here and represent this country and the aspirations of its people for centuries into the future. A very important and principal considerationindeed the dominating considerationhas to be the adequacy of the area in which a parliament house is sited so that for hundreds of years into the future, accepting the monumentality concept, there would be an opportunity to extend the facilities of the parliament and the appointments of the parliament to embrace all the activities that would take place in the parliament as contemplated now and as not yet contemplated but which with the passage of time, may well constitute an appropriate function of the parliament. Everywhere we went, and we visited many parliaments throughout the world -

Senator McManus - That must have been a good trip.

Senator DEVITT - It was an excellent trip and it is a darned pity that we have had to wait all this time to give voice to the things which we found in the course of it.

Senator McManus - You should have given the money back.

Senator DEVITT - No. We have the knowledge. It looks as if we are coming to the stage where the knowledge gained then is going to be of some advantage after all. So I do not feel so badly about it. This Bill gives us the opportunity at least of saying what we feel about this matter. The thing which stood out more clearly than any other and which became apparent to us in the course of that overseas visit was the complete and absolute inadequacy of every parliament house we visited. It is a feature of mankind, I suppose, that we have very great difficulty in assessing the needs of the future. Throughout my career in the municipal world- I guess that this would be the experience of most other honourable senators in the course of their occupationsI have had the experience of observing and feeling the detrimental effects of an inadequacy of planning to embrace what would happen in the future. The architect in the great Capitol building in Washington, Mr Stewart, told us of the problems they were having in providing an underground railway to service the parliament and in giving access to areas of the parliamentary complex which had to be visited by members of the parliamentary body and officials. We saw the Lok Sabha, or Rajah Sabha, in India, that great round building the concept of which was such that it had to be either destroyed or have underground passages leading off to a complex 300 feet or so away in order not to destroy its aesthetics. That work had to be undertaken. In Rome the building was inadequate. The House of Commons was completely and hopelessly inadequate. There 200 members of the Mother of Parliaments could not even get a seat in the Parliament. There was nowhere for them to hang their hats.

I have told of the sort of experience that we were looking for and which we found. It became terribly apparent to me and to many members of that committee at least that one of the principal considerations was the adequacy of the area in which the parliament was to be built. Anyone could design a building to meet the needs of the country for 50, 60 or even 100 years into the future. But we are considering the design and construction of a monumental building which will be aesthetically beautiful and acceptable to the people of Australia while being functional for hundreds of years into the future. One could easily design a building for the short term but if we are contemplating the activities of the parliament hundreds of years into the future we must have sufficient land on which to site the building.

It was my understanding that Capital Hill was the only area now available which would provide sufficient space for the parliamentary build- . ing. I appreciate the fact that at least we have come to this sensible stage in our approach to the new and permanent parliament house. It is appropriate that the Parliament should express its opinion on this matter in the manner in which it is before us at present. One could talk at very great length about the problems of inadequacy of planning and the difficulties that are being posed. For instance, I cite the United Nations building in New York which was commissioned in 1958. It had a floor space of 600,000 square feet. Ten years later it was calculated by Mr Van Narm- I think that was his name- the architect at the United Nations building, that there was a shortfall of 400,000 square feet in floor space to accommodate the needs of the United Nations. I refer to the storage of documents and records and all the other functions carried on there. New York was being canvassed for garage space and other storage areas in which to carry on the functions of the United Nations.

Senator McManus - Parkinson 's Law.

Senator DEVITT -Well, it may be Parkinson's Law. We are not going to avoid it here. In this modern day and age, with all the scientific aids available to man to determine things, such as computers and calculators, in this great building in New York, commissioned in 1 958, there was a 400,000 square feet deficiency in space within a matter of a few years. Parkinson's Law or not, that was the experience there. I suggest that we will have the same sort of experience here no matter how far ahead we can see by gazing into the crystal ball and contemplating developments in the future. I think that if we came back here in 50 years time we would be amazed at the range of activities being carried on in and around the Parliament and the parliamentary complex.

It is a sensible proposition to site this building on Capital Hill and the proposition put forward by Senator Wright is a sensible one. It should be very clearly understood that no further buildings should be erected within the area delineated on the plan in the Bill. In fact, when we were deliberating matters of this kind in Committee some few days ago a very similar sentiment was expressed- that under no circumstances should there be any further intrusion into the parliamentary triangle. I think that the proposition is good, sensible and sound. I thought that the red outline on the map indicated the site of the parliamentary building but I cleared this matter with Senator Wright. There is more than one possible ' site within that outline. Senator Wright assured me that this does give expression to the voice of the Senate as indicated in the vote taken a few days ago when the Senate decided that the building should be sited on Capital Hill. I think this Bill is appropriate and I feel very much disposed to support the proposition.

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