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Thursday, 24 October 1974
Page: 1990

Senator MISSEN (Victoria) - I enter this debate with much the same experience of this matter as Senator Button. I only say to the 2 wise men who have just spoken and who are no doubt somewhat fixed in their views: So far as Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson is concerned 1 just want immediately to disabuse his arithmetic and to assure him I am one person who has long felt that there is only one place for the new and permanent parliament house, and that is Capital Hill. But I think that we should look back at the arguments of the leader, if 1 may call him so, or the first follower who has set out in front to try out the ground, Senator Button. His arguments, if I may dignify them in that way, fell into 2 categories. The first might be roughly described as theory, and the second as practice. Senator Button at all times claimed to want to identify with the people. I think that he really identified with small men, small aspirations and small vision when he saw the new and permanent parliament house sitting on some low place on the same line as other buildings.

Senator Grimes - Is that Sir Robert Menzies' view?

Senator MISSEN - I am not here to represent Sir Robert Menzies. He is now one of my constituents, but I have about 3 million others.

Senator Devitt - Did he give you his vote?

Senator MISSEN - Who knows what would be revealed but for the secrecy of the ballot? If Senator Button wants the new and permanent parliament house to be situated so low, there is an excellent site for him, and that is the airport which, because of fogs, is obviously unsatisfactory as an airport in every way throughout most periods of the year. He can be assured that the site could be much better used for a new and permanent parliament house. It obviously is of no use whatsoever as an airport. He comes before us with the idea that we must not have a mediaeval view. Why should we have a mediaeval view? What has this matter got to do with a mediaeval view? The fact that we put the new and permanent parliament house on a high spot, out of fog, and enable it to be seen and used by people is, I think, useful in itself.

When Senator Button suggests that on other occasions the Parliament should assert its superiority at various times it is clear that he does not believe in this idea of identity with the people. It comes to him only when it suits him. I suggest to the Senate that a new building does not dominate the city because it is the highest building in it. This is not a city of so many high hills. If you are going to do that and you put the new and permanent parliament house where the towers are being erected on Black Mountain you might have a point. The new and permanent parliament house should be put on an elevation which is clearly one which can be viewed in the city but not one which dominates it or is separated from the people. It is suggested that in a city like Canberra a parliament house situated on this spot is somewhat closeted with the people and close to the people. In fact, Canberra has a sense of isolation in itself, and it will not make the slightest difference so far as that is concerned, whether the new and permanent parliament house is put on one hill or another.

I can only say that it has always seemed to me that to start putting quickly, as Senator Button said, a parliament house on Camp Hill is to create an outhouse for the existing parliamentary building. It will not create a building which in its own sense and its own features will be a matter cf pride for the Australian people. So 1 reject the so-called theoretical argument that somehow the aspirations of the people would be ignored by having a building on a fairly high and fine position in this city. Nor do I accept the fact that because some roads have been put in and because certain officials have taken certain steps that might make more difficult the siting of the new and permanent parliament house on Capital Hill, this is anything which ought to restrict this Parliament from doing what it thinks is right and in the best interests of the people.

It seems to me that there is one essential argument. Sure, we want to consider the aspirations of the people. We want to see the people uplifted and to have higher aspirations. We want to improve that aspect. I see nothing inconsistent in having a building, which is their national Parliament, in a prominent position in this city. But surely Parliament, above all things, must assert its dominance over the administration and over the public servants. It must assert what members of Parliament have indicated in debates that I have read. They have indicated a strong preference for the building of the new and permanent parliament house on Capital Hill.

Senator James McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - You do not achieve that by a building.

Senator MISSEN -You will not achieve that by a building, but I think that you will go a long way towards achieving that if you make your own decision and are not set aside from that decision by decisions or recommendations or beguiling picture books produced by the National Capital Development Commission in order to try to divert you from that view. We are here to make what we think is the best decision regarding the best spot for the new and permanent parliament house. Surely we are not here to be prejudged or pre-empted by decisions of public servants in the past. In my mind, the top of Capital Hill is the best spot for the new and permanent parliament house. The building ought to be a reasonably clear building that can be seen and appreciated around the city, not one of a cluster of many buildings. For those reasons, amongst others, I think that Capital Hill is the site for the new and permanent parliament house.

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