26th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston) look the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr CORBETT presented a petition from certain citizens of the Commonwealth praying that the House make a survey of the full requirements of pensioners of all types and adopt a policy for the progressive liberalisation of the means test resulting in its removal within 3 years.
A similar petition was presented by Mr Kevin Cairns.
Petitions severally received.
Mr McLEAY presented a petition from certain electors of the Commonwealth praying that the House take any action necessary to ensure that the Government does not implement the resolution of the Security Council of the United Nations in imposing economic sanctions on the Government of Rhodesia.
Petition received and read.
A similar petition was presented by Miss Brownbill.
Mr JAMES presented a petition from certain citizens of the Commonwealth praying that this House take any action necessary to assist a campaign for a lasting peaceful settlement in Vietnam.
Petition received and read.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer. Will the right honourable gentleman today affirm or deny the impression that he gave on Tuesday evening last in a television interview that he was calling upon the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to reject the application of the Australian Council of Trade Unions for an increase in wages for workers in the case presently before the Commission? Does he disagree with the unanimous trade union argument that the economy can and should be called upon right now substantially to improve the living standards of the Australian workers by an increase in wages, particularly in the lower wage bracket, commensurate with the claim lodged by the ACTU on their behalf?
– The first part of the statement contained in the honourable gentleman’s question is manifestly wrong. If he had listened he would not have made the statement that he has made. But, of course, one gets accustomed to statements of this kind in questions asked by the honourable gentleman. What I did point out - it was pointed out in the White Paper, and the honourable gentleman knows this as well as I do - was that if there is an increase in wages and salaries that runs ahead of the increase in productivity we must inevitably get inflation. That is such a simple proposition that I can see no harm in repeating it. Indeed, I think it ought to be repeated frequently. I went on to say that in this Budget the Government had taken action to restrain inflationary forces because it felt that if we added to the cost inflation that was occurring today and if we permitted demand inflation as well then, of necessity, two things would happen. Firstly, in all probability there would be a spill over into international demand that would cause balance of payment difficulties, and secondly we would be doubling up on internal inflationary pressures which in turn would lead to an increase in prices. We did this obviously with the intention of creating the impression universally that we felt that this was the obvious time for inflationary pressures to be restrained.
– Has the attention of the Minister been drawn to a front page article in the ‘Daily Telegraph’ headed: ‘Australian Defence Forces to be Joint Service’? ls this correct? Is this a reorganisation of Australia’s defence forces? Would the Minister clarify this matter to the House?
– I am afraid my attention has been drawn to a complete misreport and a set of incorrect inferences that have been drawn from that misreport. Yesterday at a Party meeting which was supposed to be a closed one, I did use some words which have been misinterpreted. As ] say, a completely wrong inference has been drawn. I was reported as having said that the days of individual defence services in Australia are at an end. That, of course, is not true. The words I used were that the days of single service operations are about over. I went on to explain that it was for this reason that the Department of Defence in its re-organisation proposals was giving a great deal of consideration to joint service requirements. 1 think 1 should also take leave to refer to my defence statement of 2nd May last in which I used these words:
We are carefully studying movements towards Service integration in other countries, particularly in Canada where a quite revolutionary change has established a unified defence force. We, however, retain the conviction, at (his stage at least, that the separate identities of the three Services should be preserved. But this does not mean that, in every respect, the status quo should be maintained.
I hope that clears up the matter for the honourable gentleman.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question which concerns the public statement which was made by him on the triennial defence review which was due in May. The right honourable gentleman will remember that in Washington on 28th May, certain questions were put to him and answers were given as follow:
P.M. Not a defence review, I do not think. We will be looking at defence in the context of the Budget. I am not quite sure what you mean by defence review.
P.M. I dare say that will be a subject of Cabinet discussion but that is not a strategic paper or a 3 year plan or anything of that kind.
On 20th June at the National Press Club in Canberra, the Prime Minister said:
I had asked before the visits that our Defence Committee should prepare a new strategic appreciation . . . The new assessment from the Defence Committee when it is presented to Cabinet, as I expect it will be by August at the latest, will enable us-
-Order! The honourable member is now going beyond the bounds of a reasonable question. I would remind all honourable members that question time is a time at which members can ask questions or seek information. There has been a tendency to make questions and answers far too long. I would request the cooperation of all honourable members in this regard. I now ask the Leader of the Opposition to ask his question.
– The Prime Minister went on: will enable us properly to assess what the far future role of Australia should be.
-I think the question arises from some confusion in the mind of the Leader of the Opposition between a defence review and a complete strategic reassessment of the situation in which Austrafia finds itself. A defence review in the terms in which 1 have always understood it to be used and indeed, in which it has been used, is a review of the kinds of equipment and hardware that various services in Australia need and require and will buy in the course of a year or order to be paid for in future years. The Leader of the Opposition is mixing that up with the question of examining whether the strategic situation of Australia in the world has altered as a result of the various changes which have taken place. I can inform the honourable member that the Defence Committee is examining that particular question as a result of which Cabinet will then examine the paper put to it as a result of which there will be a defence review. But initially, the Defence Committee is examining the strategic situation. The paper has not yet been presented to us. But it is, I still expect, to be presented to us during this month of August.
-I ask the Prime Minister: In view of the fact that this Parliament sent overseas a delegation to investigate primarily, I suppose, architectural aspects of parliament houses in other countries, would the investigations of the delegation not include the size of the site required and traffic problems that may be encountered? Would it not be advisable, or at any rate a complement to those investigations, to wait until the report of the delegation is issued before we discuss either the site of the new Parliament House, or anything else with regard to that building? Otherwise, it seems to me to have been a waste of money to have sent the delegation overseas.
-I find myself quite unable to agree with the honourable member for Chisholm. This Parliament appointed a committee under the leadership of the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate to examine, as the honourable member suggests, the amenities required in a Parliament House, the architecture, if you like, but more than that, the requirements in public rooms and the provision for members to interview constituents, and all that vast variety of matters. This same committee, though it was not included in its terms of reference, nevertheless it was in the speeches which were made in this House by previous Prime Ministers, was quite at liberty to express its views on the siting of the new Parliament House. This it has done. To the best of my knowledge, the committee that went abroad, or at least a large number of those who went abroad in the delegation to which the honourable member for Chisholm refers, were in fact members of the committee appointed by this Parliament to examine the things of which he speaks. Therefore I see no inconsistency whateverin the matter being presented to this Parliament at the earliest possible date.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister a question which is supplementary to the question asked by the Leader of the Opposition. If, as the Prime Minister suggests, a defence review is under consideration, does that mean that the Parliament is voting blind in respect of one of the principal items in the Budget, namely, the expenditure of $1,217m on defence?
– The answer to the honourable member is no, of course not. The Parliament is being asked to vote this amount on defence for equipment which, for the best part, already has been purchased, has been bought, and which is being paid for during this and subsequent years.
I refer to such equipment as the F111 aircraft, the DDG destroyers and other matters of that kind. For the rest, the vote goes, as the honourable member must know will be quite clear when the Estimates are presented, on payment of those who work for the armed forces, on the provision of works for them to live in, and for other matters which are clearly spelt out. The honourable member must know that he could not possibly suggest voting blind on this kind of thing.
– My question, which I address to the Minister for Shipping and Transport, relates to an inter-departmental committee established to investigate possible avenues of government assistance to get the full benefit from the output of Australia’s inventive brains. As previous inquiries of mine addressed in the first place to the Attorney-General were diverted to the Treasurer, the Minister for Supply and then the Prime Minister, I ask whether it is correct that the Minister for Trade and Industry has now finally accepted the responsibility for the work of the committee, and whether the Minister has any progress to report.
– I do not know whether the honourable gentleman has yet had an opportunity to peruse the Budget for this year. He will be delighted to know that it includes an item which specifies the allocation of $6,000 to the Inventors Association of Australia. He and a number of other members of this chamber have over the years expressed a wish to see the inventiveness of Australian industry and individuals developed to a point at which it will be of greater advantage to Australia as a whole. Beyond this, of course, the research and development legislation which was passed through this chamber last year is also designed to encourage industry itself to rely upon the inventive skills of its own employees instead of continuing to rely on those of people outside this country. But the $6,000 this year is directed specifically to the advancement of the Inventors Association of Australia, and I have no doubt it will help to meet the needs that the honourable gentleman has explained to this chamber.
– My question, which is directed to the Prime Minister, is supplementary to questions asked by the Leader of the Opposition and the honourable member for Melbourne Ports.
– Order! If this is a second supplementary question on the same matter, it is out of order.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister a question. How long after Cabinet receives the defence reviewthis month will he or the Minister for Defence be able to make a statement on the Government’s defence policy for the next 3-year period?
-I should point out to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that what Cabinet will be receiving will be not a defence review but a new strategic appreciation, as a result of which the requirements of defence can be assessed by the Cabinet. Those requirements will be what each Service needs in the new strategic situation in which the paper may say we find ourselves. That will then lead on to a defence matter. The honourable gentleman asked how long it will be before the results of these reviews are presented to the House.I think that was the question he asked.
– I would hope they would be presented before the end of the year, as I have previously stated.
– I address a question to the Minister for External Affairs. By way of preface, I state that I note from the Budget papers that the Australian Embassy in Indonesia is to have its Australian based staff increased by 2 to 28 and its total staff from 86 to 92, while costs for the Embassy are estimated to increase by 7.5% compared with last year. Can the Minister inform the House whether such increases in staff include the appointment of a senior cultural officer to facilitate implementation of the recently concluded IndonesianAustralian cultural agreement? If not, will the Minister treat the appointment of such an officer as a matter of some urgency?
– Usually departmental estimates are prepared as early as February or March and so the increased establishment for Indonesia would be the result of a forecast of the situation made in February or March. Although the cultural agreement had been in contemplation and in draft form for some time, it had not then been signed. So I assume that these small increases in staff have no reference to the cultural agreement. I should add one cautionary word. It is not always essential in cultural relations work, nor is it in my judgment always the best way of promoting cultural relations, to appoint cultural attaches at particular embassies. There are very many ways of carrying out cultural relations work. Sometimes it can be carried out more effectively in some other way than by putting the matter in the hands of a single officer.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Defence. Is the aircraft which he describes as a super battle bird, the greatest thing with wings since angels, yet capable of using its wings with safety and satisfaction? Have all the promises made to the specialist Royal Australian Air Force team which visited the United States of America in June been fulfilled? Have all areas of doubt about the plane’s efficiency and capability been eliminated? Will the first aircraft be delivered to the RAAF by the end of this month and will the final delivery be made in December? What will be the final cost of the twentyfour F111 aircraft on order?
– Clearly the honourable member has not been paying attention to previous debates that we have had on this subject. If he had been he would know the stipulations I have made on the matter of final costs. Apart from that I am pleased to say that we have had a top ranking committee visit the United States and that it sat in on the inquiries into the crashes in which these aircraft have been involved in recent times. The committee came away completely satisfied that all areas of doubt, after the most careful scrutiny, have now been eliminated. There is therefore every reason to have complete confidence in the aircraft. The first aircraft will be officially handed over to the RAAF in Fort Worth on 4th September and I understand that the first half dozen aircraft will be flown to Australia in late September, the whole of the order to be completed by the end of the year.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Army. Has the Minister advised the Federal Executive of the Australian Journalists Association that the accreditation of all newspaper, radio and television correspondents in Vietnam is jointly controlled by the South Vietnamese authorities and the United States Command in Saigon? Why cannot Australian pressmen be accredited by the Australian Government and why has Australia no say in the accreditation of journalists from other countries in Vietnam? Will the Minister take steps to see that Australian correspondents are accredited by Australian authorities and refute allegations that news from Vietnam is being censored?
– I am certainly not aware that news emanating from the Vietnam theatre is in any way censored. In fact, as the honourable member for East Sydney would be well aware, the Vietnamese war is the most uncensored war in history because in Vietnam at this time there would be approximately 400 journalists whose news stories and commentaries on the war are certainly not subject to any form of censorship. It is true that accreditation of all correspondents in Vietnam is jointly administered and controlled by the Vietnamese Government and the United States authorities.I am not aware that this arrangement has constituted any problem. As far as I am aware, the joint control of accreditation in that part of the world is working satisfactorily.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation and it refers to a question that was put to him by the honourable member for KingsfordSmith yesterday. First of all I ask the Minister whether he is aware that domestic airlines are making a move to carry freight in jet aircraft by night. Secondly, is it a fact that the movement of jet aircraft during the normal hours of sleep is at present prohibited by regulations promulgated by his Department? Thirdly, is he aware that if the present regulations are abrogated at the instance of a few powerful business interests the ordinary amenities of hundreds of thousands of little people in all the capital cities of Australia will be curtailed for all time? Fourthly, is he in a position to give an unqualified assurance that this will not be permitted to happen?
– As for giving unqualified assurances, I can speak on my own behalf and in my present capacity, although Iof course cannot speak for anyone occupying this post in the future. At the present time the regulation does apply and is being strictly maintained. The hours of operation for jet aircraft are restricted between 1 1 p.m. and 6 a.m. Except, as I mentioned yesterday, in some special cases especially of emergency, that regulation is applied strictly. I have had no official advice from the airline operators that they wish to operate freighter jet aircraft at night. I may say that I have read this in the Press. The source of it is not known to me. It is perhaps one of those things about which someone at this point of time is flying a kite. But no official approach has been made to me or to my Department by the airline operators to operate jet freighter aircraft during the hours which are restricted hours at the present time. If applications are made to operate at such hours, they will have to be considered in the light of the restriction which applies. So far as I am concerned at the present time, this restriction will continue to apply to aerodromes and airports throughout Australia which we classify as noise critical.
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport will be aware that the Government granted a subsidy of $5 per ton to assist King Island over the 3-year period from 1965 to 1968. I ask the Minister: What plans has his Department now in connection with the subsidy? Is it to be continued; if so, for how long and at what rate? As this matter is related to the proposed roll-on roll-off service envisaged by Captain R. H. Houfe linking Melbourne, King Island and Stanley in Tasmania, I ask the Minister further whether the Government has made any decision to assist with this proposal by Captain Houfe bearing in mind that the port of Stanley, and shippers to that port, could be in serious difficulties in 1970 when one of the last of the orthodox vessels, the ‘South Esk’, is to be taken off the trade.
– As to the first part of the honourable member’s question, the Government has decided to extend the transport subsidy to assist King Island trade at the rate of $3.35 per ton for another period of 12 months. This will be up to 30th June 1969. The amount was reduced from $5, as I remember, on 1st July 1967. As to the second part of the honourable member’s question, this indeed relates back to the continuance of the subsidy itself. Correspondence has taken place between the Premier of Tasmania and the Prime Minister concerning possible capital assistance towards the undertaking of a survey to ascertain whether or not there might be an alternative to the present Currie Harbour facility available at King Island. The difficulty at the moment, of course, is that the size of the vessels which can be operated economically to and from King Island is such that it is difficult for the farmer on King Island to gain access to the market in Melbourne at a rate which makes his produce competitive with produce delivered from rural centres whose distance from Melbourne is approximately that of King Island. For that reason it has been regarded as necessary to provide a subsidy. Apparently it is thought by the Tasmanian Government and by Captain Houfe that if alternative facilities were to be provided, there could well be more economic cartage of goods and livestock. It is to be hoped that if this were achieved it would no longer be necessary to maintain the subsidy. At this stage, inquiries are still proceeding and the matter is under active consideration by the Commonwealth Government.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Housing. Will the Minister consider changing the War Service Homes Act so that finance for home building can be made available to single ex-servicemen and exservice women?
- Mr Speaker, I think that the honourable member must be aware that this is a matter of policy which is considered from time to time. It is not a suitable matter for an answer at question time.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question that is supplementary to that asked by the honourable member for Chisholm. T preface it by saying that recently a good deal of public criticism was voiced about an all-party parliamentary group that went overseas to inquire into matters associated with the new Parliament House. Will the Prime Minister postpone the motion he intends to propose later today, which provides that the site of the new Parliament House be at the lakeside, until the recent all-party parliamentary committee that examined all aspects of the new Parliament House has had time to present its report to the Parliament? Or does he intend to proceed with his motion and use the Parliament as a rubber stamp for the National Capital Development Commission?
– I do not think that the honourable -member is in any way presenting a factual picture of the situation. Let me restate it. This Parliament appointed a committee drawn from both sides of the Parliament, drawn from all shades of opinion in the Parliament, to examine the matter of the amenities required in a new Parliament House. That committee did not confine its examination to the amenities required but extended its inquiries into the question of a site for a new Parliament House. It not only extended its inquiries into the matter of a site for a new Parliament House, but it has reported on where it thinks the site for a new Parliament House should be. That report has been presented by the Speaker of the House of Representatives and by the President of the Senate. So the situation is that the committee set up by the Parliament to examine this question has examined it and has reported to the Parliament. There would therefore be no reason whatever for postponing a consideration of this matter. The honourable member referred to using the Parliament as a rubber stamp. He ought to know, because I think members on both sides of this House do know, that in fact we take the view that this is a matter properly to be decided by each member of the Parliament voting according to his own judgment and not by block votes of one kind or another. So any talk of using the House as a rubber stamp in this way is clearly completely without any foundation.
– Then why do you not wait?
– Order! The honourable member will cease interjecting.
– I would add one point. The honourable member spoke about acting as a rubber stamp for the National Capital Development Commission. Certainly the Commission has made a recommendation as to where it believes the site of the new Parliament House could best be. That is its job. that is its function; but there is no requirement to accept that recommendation without question. Indeed it is for each honourable member to decide. But I would want to make it clear that neither the Commission nor any other organisation has in any way taken the decision of this House for granted or taken any action of any kind in advance of the decision of this House and the other place.
– I address my question to the Postmaster-General. In considering the extension of television services, what factors govern the provision of new stations? What number of potential viewers is necessary to justify the establishment of a station? What approximate area is regarded as covered by a high-powered station as compared with a translator station, allowing for a reasonably level terrain?
– I am not aware of any exact criteria used by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board in deciding to recommend to the Government that a television station be established. There is no doubt that it would take into account cost and population and matters related to relay facilities, such as microwave and coaxial cable systems. Each area is looked at on an individual basis. If the honourable member requires the view of the Board about a particular area and if he submits the matter to me, I will obtain the information for him. He asked what area of viewing is covered by a high-powered station. It is approximately 65 to 70 miles, but there cannot be any clear definition of this. There are occasions when viewing is not really possible beyond a distance considerably less than 65 or 70 miles, and there are other limes when viewing is very good well beyond that particular distance. I point out that a translator station is not a station in its own right. It is dependent on a parent station. It picks up signals from the parent station and translates them. The viewing area is in approximately a 15 miles radius from the translator station.
– Has the Minister for Shipping and Transport any knowledge of a report that the ‘Iron Hunter’, a 55,000 ton dead weight bulk ship recently built with a Commonwealth subsidy forthe Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd has been sold to the Peninsular and Orient Steam Navigation Company, an overseas company, which has chartered it back to the BHP Company? Did the Australian National Line try to purchase this ship and why was its offer rejected?
– I have no knowledge of the proposition which the honourable gentleman has put to the House nor do I believe that it is. in substance, true.
– Will the Minister for the Navy inform the House of the orders given to commanders of patrol boats dispatched to the Gulf of Carpentaria? Can he assure the House that officers commanding these boats are adequately briefed on the law of the sea so far as it is likely to affect any action they might be required to take?
– The officers in command of the patrol boats that are patrolling in the Gulf of Carpentaria area are instructed to investigate and report. I consider that they have been adequately briefed on the legal obligations, rights and duties of that job.
– I address a question to the Minister for Education and Science. The honourable gentleman will,. I believe, concede that without exception the Commonwealth has asked the Universities Commission or special expert committees to inquire into and report upon any field of tertiary education before it has granted assistance to them or has participated in them. I ask him: What investigations were carried out and what criteria were adopted before it was decided to investigate junior science teaching before any other areas of curricular research?
– This particular project was chosen at the request of three States which had been doing some work in co-operation on this particular matter, with the co-operation and through the councils of the Australian Council for Educational Research. The States were Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. It is one of the areas which my advisers tell me - and this is supported by the States and the Australian Council for Educational Research - is most urgently in need of provision. This was a question of the States making a judgment in an area in which they have the major responsibility for the curriculum within their own States. They requested Commonwealth co-operation in a matter which might be of benefit in the longer term not only to those three States but to other States if they chose to use the advantages of this particular research. The investigation that went into this project before the submission was made was as complete as could possibly be required.
– I address a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. In view of the fact that 52,000 tons of steel annually will have to be transported by road from Whyalla to Port Augusta and thence by rail to Sydney can the Minister say how this situation will be met?
– I am aware of the honourable gentleman’s concern for the effects on his constituents of past and future developments in the transportation of steel, which have a bearing on transport facilities generally. It is true that the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd, which is transporting the steel, intends to use rail transportation in preference to shipping, apparently because of the economies involved. Those economies will be substantially increased when the rail standardisation link between Port Pirie and Broken Hill is completed. The link is expected to be completed to Cockburn by the end of this year. It is felt that our negotiations are leading to finality-
– I rise to order. The subject of this question has remained for the Minister’s attention since 26th March last, as would appear from question No. 136 on the Notice Paper.
-Order! There is no substance in the point raised by the Leader of the Opposition.
– I am delighted to have the opportunity to enlighten the House. I am disappointed that the Leader of the Opposition is not interested in the information which he apparently has been seeking for some time.
– I have been waiting for 5 months for it.
– As for the future development of transport facilities - the transport of steel, which was the main subject of the honourable member’s question, plays a big part here - for some time there has been a proposal to construct a line between Port Augusta and Whyalla. Such a line would assist in the movement of steel from Whyalla. The proposal has not had as high a priority with the South Australian Government as had the standardisation of the line from Port Pirie to Adelaide. However survey work has been undertaken by the Commonwealth Railways. I understand that a route has been pegged and a preliminary survey completed. In addition, some investigation has been made into the engineering feasibility of a bridge across the upper end of the Gulf. With this work now well advanced it will be more practicable for the Commonwealth to consider future plans and proposals for the construction of this line. Everything will depend on the allocation of priorities, not only by the Commonwealth but also by other people concerned in the utilisation of this proposed railway.
– I ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport: What is the position in the negotiations for the construction of the Cockburn to Broken Hill section of the standard gauge railway?
– Discussions are still proceeding between the Commonwealth and the Governments of South Australia and New South Wales in an endeavour to reach finality on an agreement which will enable construction of the line between Cockburn and Broken Hill to be commenced. It is anticipated that an agreement will be concluded fairly shortly. Subsequent to the terms of the agreement being finalised it is intended that legislation will be introduced into this Parliament and, of course, into the Parliaments of New South Wales and South Australia. When the legislation has been passed construction can commence. As I intimated a moment ago, I am hopeful that the line will be completed not later than July next year.
– On Tuesday, in answer to a question asked by the honourable member for Mitchell, I said that he should place his problem before the Redistribution Commissioners by Saturday, 17th August, as this was the closing date for the lodging of objections to or comments on the redistribution proposals. Yesterday 1 received advice from the Chief Electoral Officer that the provisions of section 36(2) of the Acts Interpretation Act makes Monday, 19th August, the last day on which comments and objections to the redistribution proposals may be lodged.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation. J claim to have been misrepresented in a statement which appeared on the front page of the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ this morning. The statement was that I had demanded information about our defence. The House ought to know me well enough to know that I would not demand information; I would give it. Further, when will the Press learn not to spell Jefferson with a ‘G’?
– 1 present the following papers:
Asian and Pacific Council, Third Ministerial Meeting, Canberra, 30th July to 1st August 1968 - Agreement Establishing a Cultural and Social Centre for the Asian and Pacific Region and Joint Communique.
I ask for leave to make a brief statement on the same subject.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The third ministerial meeting of the Asian and Pacific Council was held in Canberra on 30th July to 1st August. I represented Australia at the meeting which elected me Chairman. The papers which I have tabled are the joint communique, which was signed by the representatives of the nine members of ASPAC; and the Agreement establishing a Cultural and Social Centre for the Asian and Pacific Region which was signed by the representatives of the nine members of ASPAC.
The meeting was attended by the Foreign Ministers of China, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Thailand and the Republic of Vietnam, and by the Malaysian Minister of Education and the New Zealand Minister of Broadcasting. Laos attended as an observer, being represented by its Charge d’Affaires at Canberra.
At the second ministerial meeting of ASPAC in Bangkok in July 1967, the Council accepted our offer to hold the third ministerial meeting in Canberra. As a consequence, during the past year Australia has had the responsibility for organising and providing secretariat support for the standing committee of heads of mission of participating countries, which carries on the work of the Council between the ministerial meetings. Nine meetings of the standing committee were held in Canberra under my chairmanship.
As at previous sessions of the Council in Seoul and Bangkok the proceedings, except for the opening and closing ceremonies, were confidential, and consequently I do not feel able to give Parliament a detailed account of the discussions. The meeting took place in a friendly and informal atmosphere and provided an excellent opportunity for Ministers to exchange views on a wide range of world and regional problems. The range of topics discussed is brought out clearly in the joint communique.
ASPAC has now established itself as an important regional forum for informal and frank exchanges of views on matters of common interest. Consultations take place not only at the annual ministerial meetings but also regularly in the standing committee and throughout the year among the representatives of ASPAC countries when they are attending a wide range of international conferences.
During the year substantial progress has been made regarding the projects accepted at the second ministerial meeting, namely, the Registry of Experts’ Services and the Cultural and Social Centre. The Registry, which is being sponsored by Australia, has been established in Canberra and was officially opened during the ministerial meeting. At the end of the concluding session of the meeting the representatives of the nine member nations of ASPAC signed the Agreement establishing the Cultural and Social Centre in Seoul. A copy of that Agreement is among the papers that I have tabled. Australia will contribute $US40,000 to the operational costs of the Centre in its first year, and will also establish a special bilateral programme of cultural exchanges related to the Centre’s activities.
The Council has decided that its next meeting will be held in Tokyo and as a consequence the standing committee will be meeting regularly in the next 12 months in Tokyo under the chairmanship of the Japanese Foreign Minister.
– by leave - In the Budget Speech the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) said:
This year we are expecting an increase in the intake of assisted migrants, and we are providing more than $34m for assisted passages or nearly 88m more than we spent last year for this purpose.
The purpose of this statement is to inform Parliament of the immigration programme planned by the Government for the financial year 1968-69. The programme provides for a total of 160,000 settlers. Of these, 105,000 will be brought to Australia under assisted passage arrangements. An estimated 55,000 will be admitted as fare paying migrants.
This programme of 160,000 exceeds by 22,475 the 137,525 settlers who arrived in Australia during 1967-68. Almost all of the increase will be in assisted migration.
Reflecting this, the budgetary provision of more than $34m for assisted passages exceeds any previous appropriation for this purpose.
Of the 105,000 assisted migrants, 70,000 will be from Britain. Most of the other 35,000 will come from Europe. The 70.000 assisted migrants expected from Britain represent a sharp increase on the 55,877 who arrived last financial year. If the dramatic rise in applications which has occurred during 1968 continues, the planned intake of 70,000 assisted British migrants could even be exceeded, for this is a target, not a ceiling.
Early in 1967, the application rate in Britain declined markedly and it became certain that there would be a 15,000 drop in British migration in 1967-68. We immediately took steps to diversify our migrant sources. These efforts were successful in Europe and the larger number of settlers we gained from there substantially cushioned the effect of last year’s fall in British migration. The comprehensive measures taken to achieve this, included new and revised agreements with Britain, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey; more liberal assisted passage arrangements which have brought migration to Australia within the financial reach of greater numbers of suitable settlers; opening new migration offices and reinforcing the staff of existing posts; and improved services to prospective migrants and more extensive publicity in an increased range of languages.
When f forecast a decreased number of British migrants for last financial year I said it would take time for Australia’s thrust for more migrants from Europe to gather momentum and show results. Assisted migration from the Continent increased from 15,535 in 1966-67 to 26,657 in 1967-68. This financial year 33,500 assisted migrants are expected from the Continent. This year will sec the revival of a regular flow of assisted settlers from Italy. Assisted migration from Spain resumed last month. The first group of assisted Turks and their families, under the agreement with Turkey, will arrive in October. Larger numbers of Scandinavians and Dutch are expected.
The combined effect of the resurgence in migration from Britain and the strong upward trend in applications in Europe make it possible in 1968-69 to undertake the most ambitious immigration programme in our history.
Mr CLYDE CAMERON (Hindmarsh)by leave -I am indebted to the Minister and his officers overseas for the opportunity of seeing at first hand the wonderful organisation which the Australian Government has built up since 1947 in the field of immigration. Immigration officers abroad were told I was to be given the right to see every office and every aspect of migration activities overseas that I wished to see. I took advantage of that, and the more I saw the more I was convinced that the Department is, as it has been over the last 20 years now, very efficiently run. It is well administered.
From Mr Calwell’s time on, the Department has been blessed by having good Ministers and good administrators. I do not know how many times I have said this, but I say once more that in my opinion it is easily the best of all the Commonwealth Departments that are operating. Because it is dealing with human beings, it has,I am pleased to note, the very necessary quality of human understanding of the multitudinous problems that affect human beings in every walk of life.
I have one or two criticisms to offer. They are political in a sense. They are criticisms which I hope will not continue to fall on deaf ears forever. I think that politics can be taken to extremes when it comes to dealing with human beings. I refer at the beginning to the policy that we are following abroad in the selection of migrants of placing such great emphasis upon the political views of the applicants.
I am not suggesting that the Immigration Department ought to accept people who are regarded as prominent and dedicated activists in what we call subversive organisations. I am not suggesting that we ought to compel it to take active, dedicated and fanatical members of the Communist Party where these people apply for migration, or the active dedicated fanatical, unbendable members of the Falange Party - the Falangists. This is not what I am saying at all. But I do believe we ought not to just put what is virtually a blanket prohibition on some poor devil in the south of Italy who is a Communist or some poor wretch in one of the suburbs of Madrid who is a Falangist because he could not get a job with the Madrid council or anywhere else unless he was a member of the Falange. I do not think we ought to apply this prohibition to some peasant in the south of Italy who is a Communist because of the mistaken belief that it is the only alternative to poverty, illiteracy, disease, unemployment and lack of hospitalisation.
The Falangists and the Communists to whom I am now referring are people who are following the particular beliefs they now hold not because they have any very great convictions in that direction but because of the particular circumstances of the countries in which they happen to live. I feel that if these people were brought to Australia, in 99 cases out of 100 - the odds are greatly in favour of their doing so - they would change their views to those that most of us hold in varying degree. It is a risk that we ought to take. We ought to give them the benefit of the doubt.
We do not have to naturalise them until 5 years after they have been here. If. after coming here, a person has indicated that he is a fanatical, dedicated follower of some of these authoritarian, dictatorial parties to which I have referred, we can always exercise the right to refuse him naturalisation. In extreme cases, where persons are interfering with the liberty of other people to follow a proper, sane course here, we can take whatever other course we choose to take against them.I think the same principle applies in connection with naturalisation. Although naturalisation is an entirely different subject, I shall touch upon it lightly. Where a person who lives in Australia has political affiliations, provided they are not of a very drastic nature those affiliations ought not to be held against him for naturalisation purposes.
I move now to the area in which the Opposition and the Government are in complete agreement, and I am happier doing this than I am when referring to the points at which we differ. I believe that the Government has done a really first class job in getting the number of migrants it has got from Britain. Although the number has been falling, it is not through any fault or lack of zeal on the part of the officers of the Department, or the Minister, that this has occurred. The Minister has shown a very healthy, personal interest in migration. I do not think any Minister could do more than the present Minister has done. He finds time to go overseas every year. He went last year. He went again this year, and I hope he will find time in between sessional periods to go again next year. Just as the Minister for External Affairs is carrying on a job which requires him to keep in touch with overseas events, so, too, the Minister for Immigration, of all the other Ministers, is the one who has to do the same kind of thing. It is not possible for a Minister, in any one trip abroad, to visit all of the countries in which there are possibilities of getting migrants. To do the job thoroughly, it is not possible to visit more than two or three countries in one year, and this, I am pleased to note, is what the Minister is doing.
I am glad to notice that attention has been given by the Department to getting migrants from Portugal, and from Spain. In my opinion, these two countries offer opportunities for getting the kind of migrants which we need so badly in this country. The Spanish and the Portuguese are good people. They are hard workers. They are people who will assimilate very easily with our own people. Their way of life is not greatly different from the way of life which we follow here. I am not one who will condemn, as I have noticed so many newspaper writers have done, the decision of the Government to go to Turkey for migrants. I see nothing wrong with getting Turkish migrants, and I, for one, agree with what the Government is doing there. People seem to imagine that the Turks are a dark skinned, Asian people who have nothing at all in common with the Australian people. Those who have been to Turkey know differently and it is wrong for this ignorance which seems to pervade the newspaper scene in some respects to be allowed to prevent the Government from doing what it is doing with regard to Turkey.
The problems of getting migrants are very great, as anyone who visits Britain and other countries will learn. The social service benefits in the Scandinavian countries and in Holland are infinitely better than the social service provisions which we have here. That is one reason - and it is a very powerful one to the people affected - which prevents those who might otherwise do so from coming here. They find it hard to give up the social service entitlements which they enjoy in their own country to come to a country which, so far as they are concerned, offers worse social service entitlements and which has not enough other advantages to compensate for what they would lose in the field of social service benefits. I am not saying this by way of political criticism in order to try to score off the Government. The Minister knows, as I do, that it is not possible to refer to the difficulties of migration in the Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries without making non-political reference to the fact that the social service benefits of those countries, have a great hold on the people.
In Britain, the social service entitlements are not as favourable as they are in the Scandanavian countries and the Netherlands. One thing in particular which does seem to make it difficult for migrants to decide to come here - and again this is not due to any fault on the part of the Minister - is the real fear these people have of the Vietnam war. Parents of young men of 18, 19 and even 16 years of age who believe that the war will go on for a long time yet are genuinely afraid of coming to Australia wilh the possibility of their sons being involved in the Vietnam war. They know that if they come here they will be subject to the conscription laws, which apply to everybody, including aliens. They know that possibly this could result in their sons being called up to lake part in a war from which they are completely safe while they remain in England, because England is not involved in the Vietnam war. I throw that in again not to criticise the Vietnam war - this is not the time and the place to do that - but to indicate the great problems which face these dedicated officials of the Department of Immigration.
Our Minister for Immigration is particularly fortunate because possibly he is the only Minister for Immigration who has been a selection officer himself. I suppose that no other Minister for Immigration has had the same first-hand knowledge of the problems that the present Minister possesses. As a member of Parliament I have had dealings with him and I cannot help but speak highly of the way in which he handles individual cases which merit special consideration. He is not a person who wraps red tape around himself and says: ‘I will not unwrap myself. I have spoken and that is the end.’ He is always prepared to adopt an independent, understanding and sympathetic attitude to individual cases. But it is unfortunate that it is not possible to evolve some way by which the officers in the field could be given a discretion in certain cases. I am not recommending that they should have an overall discretion. Such discretion should be exercised only by the Minister. He is the only person who should lay down the rules and is the only person who should be permitted to break the rules. The difficulty is that one man has to deal with thousands of problems which are different from the run of the mill cases. In such cases the Minister is the man who has to make the final and ultimate decision. 1 have never known the present Minister to shirk this duty. 1 have never known him to make a decision which, on an understanding of the facts of the case,I could say was wrong.
I turn now to one of the greatest problems of all. Migration immediately creates a demand for housing. It is of no use bringing a great number of migrants into this country unless something is done to increase the total amount of housing available. If migrants get houses, fewer houses are available for the people who were born here.If migrants do not get houses they cannot be expected to settle here. A contented wife makes a happy and contented husband. A happy and contented wife and husband make a happy and contented family. This is the kind of people we want to bring here. We do not want women and men who are frustrated and children who are unhappy because they cannot obtain proper housing. I would like to see a scheme under which the donor country could be induced to put up a certain amount of money as a deposit on a house so that agencies in Australia could then lend money for the building of homes for migrants.
It is a big problem. It involves political considerations, because immediately you provided for new migrants you would have the Australian born person and - worse than that - the migrant who has been in Australia for 10 years adopting a purely selfish attitude and saying: Why cannot we get bouses first?’ If they already had a house, they would say: ‘Why cannot we get a better house before the migrants are attended to?’ One day we will have to face this political problem. In this field of immigration the Government could take decisions of this kind, after proper consultation with honourable members on this side of the House, without fear of any political stress being stirred up in this chamber. We know that we cannot prevent the Press from doing it but in the field of immigration in the past we have always been able to reach some understanding on a single decision which represented the views of both sides of the House. This should and could be done in the housing of migrants.
Earlier this year I was pleased to note that the Government had altered the provision relating to second assisted passages. This was a great improvement. I know that it is not possible to give a second assisted passage ad lib to everybody who cares to come to Australia, gets homesick and returns to his homeland and then finally wants to return here. Money will not allow that. It could be possible if we had unlimited money.I come to another point. We have a great disadvantage in Australia when compared with Canada. When the Canadian authorities offer migration to people in Britain they are able to tell them that if they are not satisfied they can return to Britain at approximately one-third of the cost of their returning to Britain from Australia if they were not satisfied. When the average person in Britain, who is thinking of migrating to Australia, looks at a map and works out the cost involved in returning to Britain he believes that he has to make a permanent decision. That decision is like death; it is permanent. Once he goes to Australia he has to remain there permanently. He thinks that once he comes to Australia money will prevent him from returning to Britain. He does not have this same belief regarding Canadian migration. The Canadian migration recruitment centres, very cleverly, have a map of the world showing Canada in a distorted geographical position in relation to Britain. It appears to be only a stone’s throw from Scotland or England. People look at this map, then at our map, and say: ‘Fancy going down there to Australia when we can go to Canada, which is only a stone’s throw away.’ When they get in an aeroplane and fly to Canada they find that it is a lot further than the map in the front of the Canadian migration offices would tend to suggest.
I am very pleased to note that the Minister has been able to report a great improvement in European recruitment. To a large extent this has offset the reduction in the number of migrants that we have been able to get from Britain. I thought that last year we would have obtained a big inflow of migrants from Britain. This Government has done a lot to improve the recruiting offices there. In most large cities in Britain the offices are situated at ground floor level and in the very best part of the city. The Government has not failed to recruit migrants from Britain because of the location of recruiting offices. It came as a surprise to me that there was a rather drastic drop in the number of British migrants last year. It was just as great a surprise to learn that the Government had succeeded in obtaining a greater number of migrants from Europe.
I do not think that the Minister is being over-optimistic when he says he expects that the number of migrants from Europe this year will be even greater than last year. Our migration efforts in Yugoslavia have really only begun. In fact, it is not our fault that the programme has not got under way better than it has already. I think it is the fault of the Belgrade city council, or whatever the relevant body is called, which has not co-operated with our officers in Belgrade to the extent that it should have in allowing them to obtain recruiting offices in that city. Yugoslavia is ripe at the moment for securing migrants. A couple of years ago Yugoslavia introduced a new economic policy. It deliberately set out to remove feather bedding in industry. Large numbers of people are now unemployed as a result of the successful operation of the new economic policy. People have no difficulty in obtaining passports to leave Yugoslavia. If we could obtain the facilities in Belgrade which we require and for which we are willing to pay, we could obtain a greater number of migrants from Yugoslavia.
I should like the Minister to consider the possibility of setting up offices in Zagreb and Ljubljana. People in those two parts of Yugoslavia are more suited to the Australian way of life than are the Serbs who live around Belgrade. However, we cannot consider these matters until we properly establish ourselves in Belgrade. Anyone who believes that in future it will be easy to get migrants from Britain or Europe will have to reassess his views. It is getting harder and harder to obtain migrants for Australia. Conditions in the European Common Market countries are greatly improving and people will not gladly leave the land of their birth unless they are able to improve themselves economically.
People in most of the European Common Market countries believe that they are doing very well at the present time. It is not easy to get migrants from Austria. I have never understood how we have been able to get any migrants at all from countries such as Austria and West Germany. We have not had many migrants from France. I hope the Department of Immigration does not try to get many from there because I do not have a very good opinion of the French people. It would not worry me if we did not get any migrants from France. If we have any offices in that country I would like to see them closed.
I think that our propaganda in Great Britain is a little too detailed for prospective migrants to read. It seems to me that when we get an original inquiry from a person about migration to Australia, instead of sending him a whole bundle of detailed literature we ought to recognise the fact that the average person wishing to come here is like the average Australian. If he is asked to read the equivalent of a full page article in the ‘Age’ he is not likely even to start reading it. If he were asked to look at a condensed version, such as a caption or leadlines, he might do so. I think we have to treat prospective migrants in much the same way as we treat our own people. We should start with a very condensed pictorial presentation of our case and not send them heaps of detailed literature, such as we now have for them, unless they specifically ask for it. We should also make it easy for them to ask for this literature. We should perhaps send them a form, on which they can put their name and address, and an addressed envelope so that they do not have to write a letter. Then we could send them all the detail.
If migrants bother to read all the detail they cannot say truthfully that they were misled about conditions in Australia. Migrants in Australia who say that they were told lies about conditions here, or were misled about wages, are not telling the truth. They are admitting that they did not bother to read the material given to them. The material given to those in Britain who seek to migrate to Australia is usually detailed. My criticism so far has been that it is too detailed. It is so detailed that if they bother to read it they will know more about Australia than people born here. If they read the material they will find that it contains a fair, accurate and objective statement of conditions in Australia. I think that by sending people too much material at the initial stages we are putting people off. We should deal with them gently and coax them along a little at a time.
Mr Speaker, I thank you for your forbearance in sitting so patiently while 1 spoke at length on this subject. Migration is a terribly important thing to Australia. I think members on both sides of the House are pleased to know that the Department of Immigration is one department about which there is no great political friction between the prospective parties forming the Parliament. [Quorum formed]
-I have received a letter from the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The failure of the Government to initiate action to police, control and conserve the resources of the waters of the Gulf of Carpentaria and the Great Barrier Reef.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required b.y the Standing Orders having risen in their places.)
– Members of the Opposition have noted, after looking at the list of speakers for this debate, that the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) is not going to take part. Yet he is the most important authority in the Parliament on this subject. No doubt the eminent legal authorities outside this Parliament who are waiting to hear what he has to say on this subject will take note of that point. On 30th May I moved a motion in this House calling on the Government to enact legislation to assert Australian control over the waters of the Great Barrier Reef and the Gulf of Carpentaria. The motion was introduced at that time in an attempt to shake this Government out of its lethargic complacency and to take action to counteract the blatant breaking of Australian laws along our unprotected shores by foreign fishing interests. At the time I warned the Government that if it did nol take positive action in regard to this matter the intensity of foreign interest in these areas would increase. This has happened.
The Australian people, and the people of all interested countries, are now familiar with the melodramatic events that look place when a Russian ship visited the Gulf recently. Almost daily we are witnessing the blatant poaching and destructive activities of foreign fishing ships in the Barrier Reef waters. I argued at that time that there was ample evidence and precedent for Australia to place on her statute books a declaration that the northern waters were Australian waters, for the sole purpose of controlling the activities of those exploiting fishing - both Australian and foreign fishermen. It was my contention then that Australia had strong grounds for taking such action and, if necessary, arguing its justification in the international courts if it were challenged.
As could be expected in regard to all matters concerning foreign exploitation of northern resources, the Government’s attitude, as expressed through the AttorneyGeneral and the Acting Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Nixon), was defeatist and negative. These two Ministers revealed to the Australian nation and to foreign countries that the Australian Government had no intention of enacting any law which would interfere with the exploitive activities of foreign fishing interests outside the 12-mile limit. They maintained that Australia had no right whatsoever to lay claim to these waters. These two Ministers should be condemned for their approach to this problem. They gave the damning reply for all countries to see: That such action to control the waters of the Gulf and the Reef could not be taken and would not be taken. They said that it was impossible under international law and that those who suggested it were irresponsible. In the words of the Attorney-General, they are arrogant and ignorant.
These two Ministers have, knowingly or unknowingly, sabotaged Australia’s case for control of these waters. By their own words they have given the green light to every interested foreign nation to send ships to the Gulf to exploit and to plunder all marine life if they so desire. They have, in fact, implicitly informed foreign countries that the Australian Government would not stand in their way. Since 30th May the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) has continued to make these statements, which are being carefully recorded in Japanese, Russian and Chinese newspapers and in official files. Everyone who states that Australia could or should lay claim to these waters in the Gulf is irresponsible, according to the Ministers. So damaging to Australia has been these views that the Minister for Primary Industry, who is now present at the table, has been publicly rebuked by the Dean of the Faculty of Law at Queensland University. On 21st July the Dean said: lt is unfortunate that the Minister for Primary Industry should be attempting to prejudge the issue against Australia’s interests as he did at Karumba last Thursday . . . with the Government Ministers making public statements of this nature Australia does not need enemies.
Is it any wonder that those Australians genuinely interested in the problem are disgusted? The Government is now attempting to disguise the issue by trying to hoodwink the people into believing that it is acting to protect the clams. The Government is not even consistent. On the one hand it argues that under international law it cannot close the waters of the Gulf or of the Great Barrier Reef. On the other hand the Government is refusing to take action against the poachers inside the 12 mile limit. They have been and are blatantly breaking and infringing Australian and international law. The Government refuses to take action against the poachers for the same reasons that are advanced as to why the waters of the Barrier Reef cannot be closed. The stark truth is that the Government does not have the naval boats to catch these poachers.
The Australian Labor Party refuses to accept the Government’s continuing policy of pussyfooting to foreign interests who want to control our northern resources. We refuse to accept the Attorney-General’s statement that Australia cannot lay claim to these waters. Since the Ministers have made these damaging statements, other legal men trained in international law, or who have made a special study of the problem, have commented in one way or another. Their comments boil down to two things: Australia could lay claims to these waters and later argue the case in the International Court of Justice if challenged or, at the very least, such action is not impossible, as is made out by the Attorney-General. Not one legal man who has expressed an opinion, other than the Attorney-General, has stated that to do what the Labor Party suggests is irresponsible or impossible. Even if we accept the undisputed fact that it is not certain - and this is all we are arguing - whether or not Australia could successfully claim these waters, the fact that a doubt exists should be sufficient for any responsible Government, which has Australia’s interests at heart, to do exactly what the Opposition and the Australian people want, that is, to stand up for Australia - that and nothing more. First and foremost we are Australians. It is time the Government woke up to that fact and stopped its obsequious attitude to all foreign countries who wish to exploit our northern resources. Here is what the Professor of Law and the Head of the Law Faculty at the University of Queensland, Professor Tarlo, had to say:
The Federal Government could enforce the closure of the waters of the Gulf of Carpentaria by regulatory legislation, declaring the Gulf to be internal waters.
International law is not like the internal laws of a State, lt is in a less stable form.
It is being formed and developed all the time and much of what passes for international law is in fact based on unilateral action which is approved only negatively by other countries which appear te acquiesce. lt is subject to dynamic change.
These views are identical with those held by members of the Opposition. According to the Attorney-General and the Minister for
Primary Industry, all who suggest such action are irresponsible. In the eyes of these eminent Ministers, Professor Tarlo and other learned legal brains who dare to differ with the Ministers are apparently irresponsible also. A member of the Party to which the Minister for Primary Industry belongs, the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter), has stated publicly - reports appeared in the papers of his own electorate - that the Government should declare the northern Gulf area to be Australian territorial waters because Australians have pioneered and developed the fishing and prawning industries in that area. Would any other country allow such valuable natural resources to slip into Russian and other hands? The honourable member for Kennedy is completely irresponsible, according to the Deputy Leader of his own Party. Other countries have been faced with a similar position. They have not hesitated to take action on behalf of their people. Precedents abound throughout the world. I refer to what the Russians did about Peter the Great Bay in 1957. The Bay is in excess of 100 miles wide. Protests came from the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Japan, France, Italy and other countries. But the Bay belongs to Russia and the Russians police it. Hudson Bay has been quoted many times in the House. The Attorney-General says that it is not analogous. But it is analogous, according to other people. I quote from the United Nations document titled The Law of the Sea’:
In 1906 notwithstanding the assumption of the world as to the status of Hudson Bay, the Government of Canada placed on its statute books a statute declaring the waters of Hudson Bay to be territorial waters of Canada.
Does the Attorney-General know that the United States has never admitted the Hudson Bay claim? But this does not necessarily mean that the Canadian Government is irresponsible or that it has no right to control the waters of the Bay. I have been informed that the Attorney-General’s argument that because Hudson Bay has a narrow neck it is therefore different from the Gulf of Carpentaria is irrelevant. Size is not mandatory in proving ownership under historic title. There are literally hundreds of precedents on which a sound Australian case could be argued by analogy with specific cases in almost every country in the world. Let us not have it said that historic title must be tied to time. I quote what Judge Alvarez said in the AngloNorwegian fisheries case:
International Law does not lay down any specific duration of time necessary for prescription to have effect. A comparative recent usage relating to the territorial sea may be of greater effect than an ancient usage insufficiently proved.
The noted international authority, Monsieur Bourquin, clearly states that international law, by contrast with municipal law, does not, for the purpose of historic title, contain any rule laying down a specific period. The real criteria in laying claim to the waters of the Gulf and the Barrier Reef are that Australia must have sovereign right to lands adjacent to the seas and that a constructive case for ownership can be advanced so that other countries will acquiesce. Further, the country in question must have the ability to police the waters of which it claims ownership. The Australian Government should end its pussyfooting attitude and immediately lay claim to these waters, lt should then be prepared to back its action on behalf of the Australian nation if challenged. Not only should the Government be prepared to defend its action in an international court but it should effectively police the waters against poachers.
At no stage has the Opposition stated that it wishes to exclude all foreign interests from these areas. The navigational rights of foreign nations will not be interfered with. It is not claimed that the Gulf should be territorial’ seas in the strict sense of the word. Control of the waters of the Gulf and the Barrier Reef would mean that the Australian Government would have exclusive rights to control all activities concerned with natural resources in these waters, just as the Government now maintains it has control under the 12 mile limit. This is not an irresponsible proposal. Australia has an excellent case. The Gulf of Carpentaria is surrounded on three sides by Australian territory, it is not traversed by international shipping lanes and it is historically part of Australia. In addition the great rivers flowing into the Gulf are responsible for feeding much of the marine life. Furthermore the Aboriginals of Arnhem Land and Cape York have used the Gulf from time immemorial. An equally strong case can be argued for the Barrier Reef with its maze of islands, reefs, cays and low tide elevations.
The Government has refused to assert control of the waters of the Gulf and the Barrier Reef for three main reasons. Firstly it refuses to offend powerful foreign interests, particularly Japanese interests. It is content to let Japanese and other foreign interests dominate the exploitation of our northern resources so thai we can earn foreign exchange or royalties. Secondly if the Government laid claim to these waters it would have a responsibility to develop the resources and to establish a proper fishing industry for Australia. Thirdly, and most important, it would have a responsibility to police these waters with an efficient naval patrol boat service. The question of policing our shores raises some very interesting issues. I quote from a statement made by one of the top authorities in Australia, Professor O’Connell:
The Navy Department is anxious to restrict the national boundary as far as possible because of the difficulty of policing a long and complicated coast tine and because it does not want to encourage Indonesia to make excessive claims in its Archipelago.
The remarkable and courageous statement made on Saturday last by Admiral G. J. B. Crabb in bis trenchant attack on the Government for its neglect of the Australian Navy reveals starkly that the Australian Navy is completely incapable of policing our coastline. This is a shocking indictment. Admiral Crabb said that if the Navy is to patrol the northern coast it will need twenty patrol boats in addition to those being constructed. At the Navy apparently has no effective patrols, the shocking state of our naval defence is revealed for all the world to see.
Not only are the northern waters vulnerable to fishing exploitation but the Australian nation is now faced with the unpleasant fact that this Government has so neglected our Navy that the northern waters, coastline and islands present an open go for smuggling, including the smuggling of drugs, the introduction of exotic diseases that could seriously affect human and animal life, uncontrolled consorting with natives by foreigners, and taxation evasion. Who is to stop foreign boats? Certainly not the Navy. The Navy, at its present strength, could not even apprehend a Chinese sampan poaching in the shallow waters of the Reef. This is a deplorable situation which once again reveals the neglect of the Australian Navy. One wonders how many other people in high places are, like Admiral Crabb, fed up with neglect, inefficiency and outdated policies. The Government’s entire attitude to the waters of the Gulf and the. Barrier Reef is one of apathy. Its defeatist approach is to be condemned.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– 1 think all of us accept the view that the Opposition should be allowed a little licence in presenting its case. But today the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) has certainly made a welter of that licence, firstly, by exaggerating the circumstances and, secondly, by over-simplifying the difficulties and problems involved. He seems to think that our signature to international conventions dealing with the law of the sea means little or nothing at all. He forgets that we have an enormous coastline around our continent - a distance of 13,000 miles or half way around the world. This is not an easy problem to deal with. He forgets the retaliation and repercussions that could come from other countries in respect of our trade routes if we arrogantly went ahead and proclaimed law at a time when we are not quite certain what the international position is or where we stand on these questions.
The matter before the House today is:
The failure of the Government to initiate action to police, control and conserve the resources of the waters of the Gulf of Carpentaria and the Great Barrier Reef.
In speaking in this debate I would like to deal with each part of the subject matter. First of all let me deal with the question of a lack of initiative in conserving these resources. Let us look at the record over the years. In 1952 Australia was one of the countries that took the lead in having the law of the sea and the continental shelf extended to cover sedentary life, at that time in respect of pearl shell at up to 100 fathoms. That extension was not internationally recognised, but a good many countries accepted it. It was the present Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) who led in taking that action.
Australia, along with other countries, gave a lead to the world. In 1958 the extension was accepted internationally.
We have also said - the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has announced this - that we will be amending our fishing legislation to include clams and other sedentary marine life and that the legislation will include the Great Barrier Reef. I hope that that legislation will come before the Parliament this session. The legislation regarding the 12- mile limit was brought before the Parliament at the end of last year and was brought into force on 30th January this year. That was done, not because of pressure from the fishing industry or pressure from the Opposition, but on the Government’s own initiative. Since we have extended our exclusive fishing zone from 3 miles to 12 miles from shore, whenever there has been any indication of foreign vessels within that area we have immediately sent people to observe and to find out what the situation is. So members of the Opposition should not say that there is any lack of initiative on the part of the Government in trying to secure greater fishing rights for Australian fishermen. In 1952 we gave a lead to the world, and it was the Government that gave the lead in regard to the 12-mile limit.
Not only was the limit extended from 3 miles to 12 miles, but territorial baselines were drawn across inlets where the distance across the mouth was 24 miles more or less and across certain bays or gulfs which we had an historic right to claim because we had used them exclusively. They included Spencer Gulf and St Vincent Gulf in South Australia, and Exmouth Gulf and Shark Bay in Western Australia. We drew the baselines across those bays and gulfs. But the Gulf of Carpentaria is slightly different. It is an enormous sea in itself. It is twice the size of Victoria. The distance across its mouth is 320 miles. It is not analogous to Hudson Bay, which the honourable member for Dawson mentioned. The Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) clearly explained to the House during the previous debate what the difference was. Canada had had exclusive use of and rights to Hudson Bay for the previous 300 years. There is only a small entrance to Hudson Bay. It is 35 miles wide at one end and 40 miles wide at the other. It is about 500 miles long. So it is not correct to compare the Gulf of Carpentaria with Hudson Bay. Foreign fishing vessels have fished in the Gulf of Carpentaria for many years.
What we have said - and said repeatedly - is that it would be bull headed and irresponsible to rush in at this time and declare it ours. But we have not closed the door. What is happening is that the Attorney-General, with the help of officers of the Crown Solicitor’s Office, is investigating every possibility of extending our exclusive fishing rights. He not only is using officers of his own Department but also is asking eminent authorities of international standing to give him advice on this question. If it is possible to extend our rights, the Government certainly will do so. But we will not ignore the possible repercussions or the possible effect on our international reputation. We will not act until we have a sound case that we can put up. What we are doing at the moment is preparing that case. So Opposition members should not make this accusation that there is no initiative on the part of the Government. The record is clear enough in itself. It provides proof of initiative.
What about our initiative in finding out what the resources of our nothern waters are? Who was responsible for finding these enormous supplies of prawns in the Gulf of Carpentaria? That was the result of a joint venture between the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government which, in 1963, provided $136,000 for a survey of the Gulf of Capentaria to be carried out. Craig Mostyn and Co. Pty Ltd helped enormously in that survey by providing shore facilities to enable the survey to be carried out. It was not just a 1-day wonder, lt was years before the people who made the survey were able to determine the extent of these resources and the habits of the different types of prawns. They discovered that enormous quantities of banana prawns were shoaled together at certain times of the year and that there were supplies of tiger prawns and king prawns. As a result of that we have developing in the north a whole industry that looks to have great potential for Australia.
But these successes have attracted the attention of people in other parts of the world. Consequently we had the incident in which the Russian trawler ‘Van Gogh’ came into the Gulf of Carpentaria last month. The way the incident started was unfortunate. This trawler came in and sailed straight through the fleet, accepting its rights under the law of the sea, using the appropriate signals and obeying laws with which our Australian fishermen were not familiar. Although its captain might have been legally right, he was morally wrong in doing what he did. He certainly interfered with and harassed our small fishermen there. What did the Government do as soon as a report on the incident was made to it? Was there any lack of initiative? There certainly was not. Immediately we sent the nearest patrol vessel in the region - HMAS Attack’ - to watch the situation and to put the ‘Van Gogh’ under surveillance. Once this happened there was no more trouble in the region and the fishermen working for the Craig Mostyn company publicly stated, when I was at the opening of their processing works, their appreciation of the action of the Commonwealth Government. Even when I: was mixing privately with them, almost every one of them came up to me and thanked me for the action taken, and I gave an assurance to those fishermen that if there was on any future occasion interference with or molesting of Australian trawlers the Commonwealth would immediately have boats in the area.
It has been reported to me that the ‘Van Gogh’ is about to come back into the Gulf of Carpentaria. The latest report is that it has unloaded or refuelled at Singapore and will be coming back into the Gulf. As soon as that boat comes into the Gulf of Carpentaria it will be under surveillance by our patrol craft and by aeroplanes. If it breaches the law by coming inside the 12- mile fishing limit it will be prosecuted; action will be taken. So do not make the accusation that the Commonwealth fails to take the initiative in the policing measures necessary. What about the other case that happened only a few days after that when a Nationalist Chinese boat was reported to be interfering with clams on the Great Barrier Reef just north of Green Island? We immediately sent an officer of the law out to board the vessel. This is the first occasion on which we have been able to board such a vessel and get the name of the captain.
– Why is it the first occasion?
– This is the first occasion on which we have been able to catch the person responsible.
– You did not have the facilities.
– It is easy to talk academically about catching a boat. You have to find it and there are big seas. You cannot board a boat from an aircraft. You have to have another boat on the scene to put people on board. On a previous occasion when we had reports in relation to the landing of Nationalist Chinese fishermen on Green Island in search of water, we immediately made a complaint to the Embassy of Nationalist China in Canberra and advised that action would be taken if any fishermen were caught. We caught the vessel I referred to earlier and got the names. We have advised the Embassy that from now on anybody caught in the region in these circumstances will be penalised under Australian law. The Embassy has informed its Government which has, I hope, taken action to inform its fishermen that we have a 12-mile limit. As far as the Great Barrier Reef is concerned new base lines are being drawn. They will be drawn at a distance of 12 miles around each of the islands that are above the high water mark. In cases where islands merge and the distance between them is 24 miles, we will be drawing straight lines. This work is taking place at the moment, but it is not a simple job. It is not something that can be done overnight, but we are taking the action that is necessary in this direction.
So, Mr Speaker, let me look again at the terms of the matter that has been proposed for discussion. It is:
The failure of the Government to initiate action to police, control and conserve the resources of the waters of the Gulf of Carpentaria and the Great Barrier Reef.
I think I have answered the charge. We have taken action when necessary and we have extended our law whenever it has been possible to do this in conformity with international law. At the same time we have maintained our international reputation. If we can find a way to extend further our fishing rights we shall take it. We intend to alter our Fisheries Act in relation to sedentary species on the continental shelf. These will include not only pearl shell, beche-de-mer, trochus and green snail, as at present, but also clams and other marine life, including the Great Barrier Reef itself. I have given ample proof of the action that the Government has taken and is taking to try to protect our northern marine resources.
– It is a matter for regret that the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Bowen) is not present to participate in this debate, because if he had been he would have heard a responsible Minister of the Crown suggesting that at all costs, no matter what we did, we would finish up in the International Court. That is, in my opinion, arrant nonsense and I shall proceed to prove it. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) referred to the international convention relating to the open sea. I say that if we cannot protect the waters of the Gulf of Carpentaria and around the Great Barrier Reef we cannot protect the oil exploration which is now occurring in Bass Strait and on Barrow Island, because in terms of the Convention on the Continental Shelf, by which operations are proceeding in Bass Strait, the Commonwealth Government should be acting to protect certain of the fisheries in the Gulf of Carpentaria and in the waters off the Great Barrier Reef. Paragraph 1 of Article 2 of the Convention on the Continental Shelf states:
The coastal state–
And that means in this instance Australia - exercises over the continental shelf sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring it and exploiting its natural resources.
The article goes on to provide that the rights are exclusive in the sense that if the coastal state does not explore the continental shelf or exploit its natural resources no-one may undertake these activities, or make a chirn to the continental shelf, without the express consent of the coastal state. What are the - further rights conferred by the Convention, apart from those in relation to minerals, in respect of the continental shelf? Need I remind honourable members that Australia has a continental shelf of 11/4 million square miles, the greatest in the world.It has a coastline of 12,000 miles, which is also the greatest in the world for a single country. Under the terms of this Convention Australia has sovereign rights in respect of species which move on the floor of the continental shelf or are attached to it. In addition, paragraph 4 of Article 2 of this Convention, to which Russia is also a party, states:
The natural resources referred to in these articles consist of the mineral and other nonliving resources of the seabed and subsoil together with….organisms which, at the harvestable stage, either are immobile on or under the seabed or are unable to move except in constant physical contact with the seabed or the subsoil.
Now let me refer to the work of Dr R. D. Lumb on precisely this matter, in relation to the species covered. He classifies them into two groups. The ones that are covered are known as the benthonic species and the ones excluded are the nectonic species. The benthonic species broadly cover the sedentary species, also crabs and lobsters, and other species which are classified in the Pearl Fisheries Act of 1952-53. The position is that Australian sovereign rights are exercisable in the case of the Gulf of Carpentaria, which is one of the most shallow bays around the Australian coast. At no point does its depth exceed about 70 fathoms. As a matter of fact,for a considerable distance out from the land it is not more than 3, 4 or 5 fathoms. In the whole of that area it is impossible for any trawler to cast its nets without gathering some of these species.
The Government, as a matter of fact, is afraid to take action under its own legislation which already exists, namely the Pearl Fisheries Act. It is also afraid to take action under the proclamation issued in 1953, in the era of former Prime Minister Menzies, which claimed ther ight to exercise control over the continental shelf. That was later confirmed by the Convention drawn up at Geneva in 1958. That Convention still operates and Australia is a party to it. It is possible under the terms of that Convention for Australia to pull up any ship coming into the Gulf of Carpentaria which has the equipment necessary to catch any of these species. The Government is not prepared to tlo it.
There are four different concepts with regard to Australian off-shore waters. The first is the traditional one, the old concept of territorial waters and the 3-mile limit which the State could control by virtue of the limited range of the old smooth bore cannon. The new concept of a 12-mile in respect of fisheries is covered by legislation recently introduced. There is a further concept which the Minister either does not know or ignores and to which the AttorneyGeneral certainly has not referred - the concept of Australian waters as enunciated in the Pearl Fisheries Act. That is the concept which should be applied to the Gulf of Carpentaria and to the waters between the Great Barrier Reef and the Australian mainland. A further concept relates to waters over the territorial shelf, that is, waters where the depth does not exceed 200 metres. In the Pearl Fisheries Act the depth referred to is 100 metres. That has since been expanded in the terms of the Convention.
Let us take the other point in which the Minister took refuge - the convention on the open sea. In that regard also rudimentary action obviously has been taken by the Government in respect of the islands, islets and cays of the Great Barrier Reef by drawing territorial waters for a distance around them. In point of fact it is possible under Article 4 to claim the whole of those waters by drawing a line straight up the Barrier Reef connecting all such territory. The Reef is unique. It has no counterpart in any other part of the world. If the Government intends to do that, it should do it. This is the true test - the ultimate test - of Australian nationality. We have had plenty of blather from this Government on foreign policy, foreign adventures overseas and the defence of Australia in other parts of the world. Let it knuckle down to the business of defending Australia and its real coast line and bay. It has not the slightest intention of doing so.
Australia is more vulnerable to submarine attack than is any other continent in the world because the whole of the 1£ million square miles of continental shelf oan provide harbour for lurking submarines. The whole strategic concept of the Australian Navy in relation to the areas off the mainland of Australia is anti-submarine warfare. What is to be the position with the Gulf of Carpentaria itself? What better lurking ground could there be? What is to be the position of the cities along the coast of northern and central Queensland in line with the Barrier Reef? What is the Government’s answer to that question? This Government is spineless and craven. It is not prepared to meet the first elementary test of nationhood - the ability to stand up and in its own right defy other nations and say: This is what we have and control’. Rear-Admiral Crabb was correct and the Government is smarting under his criticism. If there is one thing we need in Australia it is a coastguard service. That is our elementary training ground.
– Admiral Crabb did not say that.
– He said that we needed at least another 20 patrol vessels, and we need more than that. There are experts within the Royal Australian Navy who are capable of telling the Government what is needed. We need to exercise our sovereign rights in respect of the area of the Gulf of Carpentaria and of the waters between the Great Barrier Reef and the mainland. A case certainly could be made out for the Gulf of Carpentaria to be regarded as an historic bay. The Gulf of Carpentaria was the first point at which Europeans made contact with Australia. If my memory serves me correctly, it was Jantzen in the year 1606, who first did so. It was the first part of the Great South Land that was ever shown on a map. It is part of Australia. Let us state that clearly.
All that is needed is for the Government to amplify further the terms of the Pearl Fisheries Act and to say to countries which want to come into these waters: ‘We are not playing dog in the manger but we intend to apply unilaterally the terms of the third convention’ - that is the Convention on Fishing and Conservation of the Living Resources of the Sea - ‘and we intend to ensure that when you come here you will take only your fair share of what is available and will not destroy the natural resources we possess. Whales have been fished out and, literally, have been almost destroyed despite international regulation. We certainly intend to assess on a scientific basis what we have in the seas over our continental shelf to ensure that you get a fair share if you need it to feed your millions of people, but you will not come in and devastate the resources’. That is a fair and reasonable proposition. That is the proposition we put to the Government, but the Government is not prepared to accept it because it is craven and incompetent.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I must begin by saying that I commend the Labor Party in that it is a party with an infinite variety of moods. Today we have seen the Party in a new mood, a mood that I, speaking for myself, would never have expected to see revealed. This morning we have listened to the Labor Party speaking in the role of the new imperialists. First of all we heard from the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) who spoke in the role of Napoleon Bonaparte. Then came the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) who spoke in the role of Marsha) Ney. I remind the two honourable gentlemen that it was Marshal Ney who led the imperial guard up the valley at Waterloo and was defeated, and 1 remind particularly my good friend the honourable member for Dawson, who played the role of Napoleon Bonaparte this morning, that that gentleman saw out some of his last days on Elba.
– lt was St Helena.
– I am indebted to my historical friend for his correction. The honourable member for Dawson began by reading a carefully prepared speech. I do not want to upset him because that would be contrary to my nature but I say to him that it is a pity he did not have his facts correct. The honourable member for Cunningham turned his attention to the continental shelf. Dearie, dearie me. 1 would have thought that plain words could be given a simple meaning but the honourable gentleman had difficulty in doing that.
After that mild excursion I want to begin by reminding the House that the most persistent questioner in this Parliament on matters relating to international conventions has been the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). In the 13 years I have been here he has shown himself time and time again to be the most persistent searcher for information about international conventions. I admire his industry in this field. I mentioned that to enable me to say that Australia is a party to a number of conventions, two of which have been referred to this morning - the Convention on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone and the Convention on the Continental
Shelf. The Labor Party this morning turned its back on its Leader yet again because it spurned the whole concept of accepting a rule of law in the conduct of international affairs.
What is the point of becoming a signatory to a convention if you have no intention of observing the terms of the convention? I think I can speak for the overwhelming majority of people in the Parliament when I say that the conventions into which this country has entered were entered into in good faith and with every intention of being observed. This morning the honourable member for Dawson said: ‘We should lay claim to the whole of the Gulf of Carpentaria’ - 320 miles across - ‘and should ensure that all of our pretended rights are protected’. Let me put a proposition to the honourable member for Cunningham, the leading marshal in this affair. Let us assume that the ‘Van Gogh’ came back in 3 months and on that occasion was escorted by two Russian heavy cruisers.
Let us assume also that it exercised its rights under the convention to which this country is a party and sailed into the Gulf of Carpentaria. What is the proposition put by the honourable member for Dawson? Should we say that the ‘Van Gogh’ cannot come into the Gulf? I cannot imagine a sillier proposition. I can only expect to wait for the honourable gentleman to say that Rear-Admiral Crabb should be sacked and the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports should replace him. One has to be realistic about this, because 320 miles is a very large distance in terms of the sea. As the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) pointed out, the Gulf is a large sea. But no, this does not satisfy the Labor Party. The Attorney-General has said that the Government is prepared to keep its options open. That is fair enough. But we cannot, simply by a unilateral declaration, say that we will take over the Gulf of Carpentaria. My friend, the honourable member for Darling (Mr Clark) said that we could take the matter to court. If court action is taken then that sort of declaration could not survive, simply because there is a convention to which we are a party. But if, on the other hand, a majority of the nations of the world or of those nations which trade in or use this part of the world agreed to Australia regarding the waters of the Gulf as being internal waters, the proposition would be completely different. That is what the Attorney-General has in mind.
The honourable member for Dawson said that prescription, in terms of time, exercising dominion is irrelevant in a consideration of what constitutes an historic bay. With great respect to the honourable gentleman, that is not true. Two elements have to be discussed in considering what constitutes an historic bay in terms of international law. Firstly, we have to consider dominion over the bay, and secondly, I imagine we would have to consider the fact that a measure of time would be involved. The honourable member, having said that this is not so, said that Hudson Bay is analagous. This is not true. Henry Hudson worked in Hudson Bay in 1610. In 1670 the Hudson Bay Company was given a charter to operate in an area which included Hudson Bay. In .1818 the United States of America was accorded by the British Government fishing rights over certain parts of the Canadian coast. Hudson Bay was expressly excluded from this arrangement. In 1870 the Company’s territory was taken over by Canada and in 1912 a treaty was concluded for the purpose of carrying out an award of the tribunal which arbitrated in the North Atlantic coast fisheries case. The award provided that it was understood that the treaty did not cover Hudson Bay. I mention that bit of history to illustrate the point that in the case of Hudson Bay two elements have been present. Dominion has been observable over a substantial period of time. Also, there has been recognition by neighbouring countries that Hudson Bay is part of Canadian sovereignty. As I understood the Attorney-General, this is precisely what he meant when he said that the Government had not closed its mind on this matter and was prepared to keep its options open.
I submit that it would be a gross act of irresponsibility to pretend that by unilateral declaration we could close off the whole of the waters of the Gulf of Carpentaria. The honourable member for Dawson was right on at least one occasion, that is when he quoted Professor Tarlo, the Dean of the University of Queensland, as saying that international law is dynamic and changing. That is so, and it is observable in the case of the continental shelf. A country may work the continental shelf out to a depth of water of 200 metres. Today, in many parts of the world, mining of the shelf itself is being carried out to a depth in excess of 3,000 feet. It was observed recently at the United Nations by a Maltese delegate that this dramatic and tremendous achievement has brought the world to the threshold of a completely new concept. Speaking for myself, I hope that the Australian Government will take the initiative to ensure that the convention on the continental shelf is altered to make it more realistic.
That is the last thing I want to say. I welcome the debate but I hesitate to accept some of the arguments that have been put forward by the honourable member for Dawson and the honourable member for Cunningham. When people look at the debate in cold print, they will see that both Napoleon and his marshal were defeated.
Sitting suspended from 12.46 to 3.35 p.m.
– I wish to speak in this debate because the Gulf of Carpentaria and the main part of the Barrier Reef are located in my electorate. I was born in that area and I have lived there all my life. I know how important it is that something should be done, and done quickly, to protect Australia’s rights in this area. The Gulf area has been thoroughly discussed. 1 agree with the remarks of my two colleagues, the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) and the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor). I do not wish to touch on the legal side of the matter. The honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) tried to make a farce of the debate early in his speech by play acting. Then he decided to get down to fundamentals and discuss the legal aspects. I will not attempt to contradict him, but I think something must be done and done quickly. 1 would like to see the waters of the Gulf of Carpentaria controlled by Australia, also the waters of the Barrier Reef.
The Gulf of Carpentaria area has been thoroughly discussed by previous speakers. The Great Barrier Reef is unique in the world and must be protected. At present, foreign vessels are operating off the east coast of Queensland. We hear only of one or two of them that happen to flounder. Then they become local news. But there are hundreds of foreign vessels operating in the area, about which nothing has been printed in the Press. I am glad that honourable members are waking up to what is going on in the north of Australia. 1 hope they will be awakened to such an extent that the Brisbane line will no longer be considered as a line of defence for Australia.
We have very valuable assets in the northern areas of Australia, particularly in northern Queensland, which are just now coming into bloom. One such asset is the fishing potential of the Gulf waters, particularly for prawning. I do not see why we cannot take control of the waters of the Gulf, because the whole of the Gulf is fed from streams in northern Australia. The waters are a feeding ground for prawns which spawn in the mouths of the rivers and inlets and are fed into the Gulf. I was sorry to hear it said that the ‘Van Gogh’ will be returning to the Gulf waters. I was led to believe that it would not be returning because of the great distance involved in a voyage from Russia. It seems that the Russians have found prawning in the Gulf waters to be very profitable and are to return in order to reap the benefit of the prawns there.
I will not speak on the incident between the ‘Van Gogh’ and Australian fishing vessels. It was covered by speakers in this debate this morning. I wish to deal with the Barrier Reef. Nowhere else in the world is there such a structure but gradually, year by year, it is being destroyed. I spoke about this some years ago. The Reef was being destroyed because of the activities of tourists visiting the area to collect trumpet shells. This decrease in the number of trumpet shells interfered with the normal build up of the Reef because it gave the starfish there a much freer rein. The starfish started to eat into the Reef, which gradually receded from Green Island. The main cause was the collection of trumpet shells by tourists. Noel Monckton, who lives on Green Island, knows more about marine life and about the barrier Reef than anybody else I know. He has a very interesting theatre on Green Island and if honourable members have the chance to do so it would be worth their while to go there and reap the fruits of his knowledge of the Reef.
For years now foreign vessels have been sailing through the Barrier Reef waters fishing for tuna, and when they go back with their catch they stop off at various places along the Reef and allow the crews to take clams. This is a kind of bonus for crew members. They dig the clams directly out of the Reef, and what damage they do to the Reef I leave to honourable member’s imagination. The clams are embedded in the Reef itself, and the Reef must be broken before they can be taken out. Each clam may weigh from half a ton to a ton, but it produces only one or two pounds of flesh. After this is extracted the remainder of the clam is thrown overboard, and the despoliation of the Reef caused by removing the clam from it is increased by the effects of the dead meat thrown overboard.
These clams could be 50 to 100 years old. The clam shells themselves used to be very valuable years ago. They were used by many families as baths for their babies. After a time a clam shell might become more or less an antique household utensil; now the clam is taken only for the little flesh that can be used. Admittedly some of the shells are taken away. These are the most perfectly formed ones, which are still of value to collectors.
The vessels which are responsible for this damage are increasing in number year after year, just as the vessels in the Gulf willi increase in number year after year. We have a wonderful fishing industry in Queensland waters, and probably around the whole Australian coast, but there are more fishing boats and fishermen south of Brisbane than there are north of it. The word has got around amongst fishermen who are finding it harder to take a catch from their traditional fishing grounds because they have been fished out. So there is a movement to more southern Queensland waters. I believe the Van Gogh would never have been here had the master of that vessel not learned from the Japanese about the banana prawns in the Gulf.
There is a dangerous practice at the present time which must be .stopped. Chinese fishermen coming south for the clams are fraternising with the local fishermen, who are doing a great disservice to Australia by accepting from the Chinese vessel’s food that has not been examined by the Department of Health or the Department of Customs and Excise. As a result diseases could spread, and they would probably spread throughout Australia before we realised the cause of the outbreak. Tremendous numbers of tourists travel from as far away as Adelaide through the west of Queensland to Karumba and then along the east coast. They also may be getting various kinds of tinned stuff from the foreign fishermen. These people do not realise what harm they can cause.
For these reasons I say again, as I have said before, that we should have a coastguard service. We should not leave the coastguard job to the Navy. The nearest place to the Cape York Peninsula at which a Naval vessel is stationed is Darwin. Another vessel is stationed in New Guinea. By the time they receive a message to steam to a certain place you can bet your bottom dollar that the foreign fisherman also has heard the message. With their radios they can hear every message that is transmitted. lt may interest honourable members to hear a story that was told to me by one of the seamen picked up by the Van Gogh after their vessel was lost. He said that the skipper of the Van Gogh can understand Japanese. There were trawlers to the south nearer to the wrecked seamen than the Van Gogh was. This man heard them talking on the radio. One of them said: ‘There is somebody in trouble. What will we do?’ Another replied: ‘Forget it. We will keep on trawling’, and the Van Gogh then went and picked up these seamen and took them on board.
– Was that not a generous act on the part of the Van Gogh?
– Yes. lt was a good public relations act, too, as far as I am concerned. If these operations are going to continue we must have vessels stationed on the Queensland coast. Last time I spoke on this subject I suggested there should be vessels at Weipa, Thursday Island, Cairns, and perhaps Cooktown, to keep a continuous police watch. It is no use waiting until one of these vessels has gone aground on the Reef to find out that they are there. The Royal Australian Air Force does not always have aircraft operating over these areas. Incidentally, while such aircraft are manoeuvring around they are radioing their positions back to their bases, and the foreign fishermen always know where they are.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I want to deal primarily with the Gulf of Carpentaria, but I would like also to re-affirm the views and alarm expressed by the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Fulton) with regard to the Barrier Reef. The deterioration of the Reef is causing extreme concern to the people of the north. Two surveys have shown that this national treasure of ours is one of the two greatest tourist attractions in Australia. It has been seriously affected, and I was very pleased to learn from the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) today that the matter is being closely examined by the Government with the object of re-assessing Australia’s legal jurisdiction over the area.
I would like to present a word picture of what is happening in the Gulf of Carpentaria, particularly at Karumba and the other places which are serving as fishing bases for the Gulf waters. Firstly I can tell honourable members that geographically this is a pretty inhospitable area. Much of the northern part of the Gulf country in this area is mangrove swamp. It is not very inviting. Until about 5 or 6 years ago the only people fishing in the area were a handful around Normanton and Karumba. They were fishing for barramundi, which was flown to Mount Isa, Cloncurry and Townsville. They built up a reasonably economic trade. Then came people like Craig Mostyn, who opened up originally in a fairly big way. But let me go back a little. Between 1963 and 1965 a survey which had been going on for a much longer period in the Gulf brought forward some very interesting facts. There was a dramatic indication that there were in the Gulf unthought of quantities of the banana prawn. Then as the position was further investigated it was found that there were just as large quantities of nocturnal prawns, the tiger and the endeavour. So it became obvious that in this area were the ingredients of a vast industry.
What followed was something like a gold rush. Everyone in that north country seemed to want to go looking for prawns. I was reminded of the days around 1954 when everyone was tearing about in the west looking for uranium, armed with a geiger counter and a jeep. It was at this time that the discovery was made which led to the production of uranium oxide at Mary Kathleen, where, incidentally, as we learned this morning, operations will be commencing again very shortly.
As I have said, the search for prawns in the Gulf became virtually a gold rush, and it still resembles a gold rush. Everyone is trying to break into the prawning industry. In addition, of course, barramundi fishing is still being carried on in a big way. One thing that has concerned some of the people who live in the area is that the small operator could be squeezed out of the industry altogether. It appears that there has been an improved situation in which the small pioneering operators of the fisheries in that area are now working in conjunction with larger organisations such as Graig Mostyn and Co. Pty Ltd and Markwell Fisheries.
The survey that was carried out, culminating in 1966, indicated that if the prawning grounds that were beginning to emerge could produce anything like the same quantities that were being produced in similar grounds elsewhere on the Australian seaboard there would be a production of something like thirty-five million lb of prawns per year from that area. To indicate that this prolific industry could produce the goods, if 1 may put it that way, I point out to the House that for the 6 months to December 1966 it produced 9,166,000 lb of prawns. In 1967-68 this figure rose by 37% and the value of the production over that 12 months was $33. 9m. Admittedly, there were two factors which were not so much primarily associated with the prawning industry and which helped to produce this very favourable figure. One factor was the extremely high price that was being paid overseas for crayfish tails and the other factor was the big increase in the shipments of abalone and scallops particularly to the United States of America. All these factors culminated in a much increased interest in our waters by foreign vessels.
When we dealt with this subject in November 1967 - it will be recalled that we discussed it in the early hours of the morning - we were able to enumerate many vessels, including Russian vessels that were operating along the south east coast of this continent, and a number of Japanese ships. Everybody seemed to be wanting to come over here and exploit our waters. As the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) pointed out, 1 did have cause to make a public statement protesting most vehemently against the activities of the’Van Gogh’. I would like here and now to express my appreciation not only to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) for taking the matter up urgently but also to the Government for the manner in which it arranged for a ship to go to the Gulf of Carpentaria and let the ‘Van Gogh’ know that these proceedings would not be tolerated any further. Once that action was taken matters simmered down. At the moment there is a fair degree - I emphasise that it is only a fair degree - of contentment in the area. These fishermen have methods of their own for dealing with other people burI will not go into that.
Looking at this matter reasonably and without any political bias - we in this chamber do not want to become politically biased - I ask the House to consider the position of the Government. I am sure that no-one in this chamber would object to or fail to support strongly the extending of the Government’s jurisdiction to the whole of the Gulf waters - to the entire 100.000 square miles.I will never languish in my urging of the Government to continue to examine the problem with the object of obtaining this jurisdiction. But one little problem has to be overcome: The international authorities which would have to make the decision have amongst their members many of the nations which are involved in exploiting these very waters, and they would have to reach a decision which would react very decisively against their own interests. I hope that there is available some process which will enable the Government, as expeditiously as possible, to gain jurisdiction over these waters if at all possible.
Finally, I would like to deal more precisely with the subject of Aboriginals and the manner in which they may become involved in the exploitation of our waters in the north. At Mornington Island, not so very long ago, I met members of the local council. The Aboriginals on Mornington Island play a very decisive and important part in running their own affairs. They are men of great intelligence. They came along and met me and the present Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth), who was with me. He was not Minister for Social Services then. The local Aboriginals told me that from right back in the misty dream days of their ancestors 2,000 years ago they had lived on this island and knew that these huge fishing grounds abounded with tiger, banana and all types of prawns and other marine products. I am sure that they must have smiled when the survey was being made, because they already knew that the prawns were there. Here is an opportunity to bring these people into this industry. Operational bases could be established on the land in these areas and the Aboriginals could collaborate with the people exploiting these waters, particularly our own people, of course. This would give the Aboriginals an opportunity to improve their own conditions, build houses and develop gardens and secure many of the amenities they have been looking for. 1 suggest that the Government should closely examine the possibility of having the Aboriginals co-operate in the exploitation of these waters in the northern part of Australia.
– Having just heard from the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter), I am not quite sure what his stand is on the claim for authority over the Gulf of Carpentaria, therefore we share common ground. It is a terrible shame that the roar of protest that he voiced on behalf of the people of the north during the recess should become a muted murmur in this House when he is given an opportunity forthrightly, positively and effectively to present a protest on their behalf in this chamber. During the recess he stated his belief very ciearly. As reported in the Mackay ‘Daily Mercury’ on 9th July, the honourable member stated:
I believe that the Government should declare the entire gulf area Australian territorial waters as our own Australian people have pioneered and developed the fishing and prawning industry in that area.
I am sure that this statement went over very well amongst the people of north Queensland, especially in the area around Karumba. Butw hat he said in this House today is entirely different. Today he has made excuses for the Government by putting forward the problems which it had to face.
-I spoke strongly.
-Order! The honourable member for Kennedy has already spoken in the debate.
– And not very well, Mr Speaker. When he had the opportunity to put forward the case of the people of northern Australia he made excuses for the Government as he outlined all sorts of problems which, he said, confronted it. There is no doubt in my own mind that there are a number of problems connected with any unilateral declaration andI want to come back to them later. What I want to stress today is the purpose behind the Opposition’s presentation of this urgency proposal to the House. The Opposition introduced this urgency proposal to bring to public attention the Government’s failure to effectively police, control and conserve the natural resources of the waters of the Gulf of Carpentaria and the Great Barrier Reef. The operative word is ‘effectively’. We are concerned that these things he done effectively. The evidence very ctearly shows that the Government has not effectively done any of these things.I do not deny that the Government sent a patrol vessel to the Gulf of Carpentaria when information was received that a Russian fishing vessel was there. I do not quibble about the fact that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) finally arrived at the scene to discuss the local problems. He himself told us this in a spirited contribution in this debate before lunch. But the fact is that these things were not done effectively; they were done belatedly.
The first report of the appearance of the Van Gogh’ appeared in the newspapers on 1st July. It was not until 12th July that the naval patrol vessel HMAS ‘Attack’ was sent to the area. There was an element of bathos in these events when the patrol vessel just made the distance before running out of fuel. At one stage we thought that it might have to borrow fuel from the ‘Van Gogh’. It was not until 19th July that the Minister for Primary Industry arrived in the area. This is clear evidence of the sequence of events and it shows the Government’s belated interest in this area. The Minister went on to discuss the Great Barrier Reef and he suggested that the Government had been instrumental in establishing effective protection for this natural wonder of the world. He went on to try to substantiate this point of view by saying that for the first time ever a clam poacher - a Nationalist Chinese ship - had been apprehended, and that this Government had been responsible for apprehending it. How did the Government apprehend this single poacher? It sent out one police constable armed with notebook and pencil. This was the sole law enforcement agency that the Government could send to the area. I sincerely hope that we do not have to rely on the village constable in future to look after this sort of poaching of the natural resources of Australia.
What I wish to complain about concerning this aspect of clam poaching on the Great Barrier Reef is that it is quite clear that by the authority that we have under international conventions dealing with continental shelf rights it would be quite acceptable for Australia to legislate to cover the sedentary fish life, such as clams, on the Great Barrier Reef. The Government concedes this. On 30th May of this year the Attorney-General said that in fact the Government was drafting amendments to the Pearl Fisheries Act to cover this problem. But it is more than 2 years since this pouching commenced within the Commonwealth. Only now is the Government getting around to effecting some sort of suitable amendment to cover this sort of incursion on lo an area over which Australia, by international conventions, has authority.
The conservation of our fish life is very important. We do not see much evidence of the Government initiating efforts in Australian waters to develop rationally the fish life in the sea and to conserve it. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations has estimated that if the world’s catches, which double every 10 years, continue at the present rate the known resources will bc fished out in 15 years to 20 years. This is clear evidence that we need a conservation scheme. The Minister for Primary Industry on 12th July of this year wrote in n letter to me:
In fuel, we arc examining the need In restrict the number of processing vessels in (his fishery-
He was referring to the Gulf of Carpentaria:
So, a need exists to conserve this fish life and for the Government to accept its responsibility to do this effectively and not to dilly dally any longer. Yet, all we are receiving from the Government is excuses as to why it cannot take some action.
What is needed from the Government, I would suggest, is the establishment, with public capital, of a national fishing industry. We cannot sit back and wait for the inefficient private development of this industry in a piecemeal fashion. I use the word inefficient’ not to imply laziness but in the economic sense regarding a marginal return on a capital investment. The clear evidence in the major fishing nations today is that the development of a fishing industry on a major scale calls for substantial sums to be spent on capital development. The need exists to establish research institutes and training ships not only for the scientists who will be involved in discovering and mapping the fishing resources of the nation but also for training the seamen who will he manning the ships.
We need capital to establish processing and distribution works. We must provide decent boats of an efficient capacity with the latest scientific equipment so that we can maximise our return from the industry. There are problems in the private sector of the economy in raising this sort of investment. Mr Ellem, the secretary of the Australian Fishing Industries Council, is reported in the public Press on 1st August of this year as having said that there was a very great need for Australian fishermen to obtain financial assistance from the Federal Government. He went on to imply that, in fact, unless financial assistance were forthcoming it would be impossible for the industry to develop effectively to exploit the fishery resources in the waters surrounding this nation. Public money must bo supplied, but for public enterprise, as has been done in Japan, where a great fishing industry has been established, and in Peru, a comparatively backward country, which has gone from producing, 10 years ago, 500,000 tons of fish a year to producing in excess of 10 million tons of fish a year, or 15% of the world’s fish catch. Such development has been achieved in other countries. We can do it here, but in Australia we produce about one thousandth of the world’s fish supply.
I am not qualified to argue on the legal pros and cons of whether the Gulf of Carpentaria is or is not an historic bay, but I am qualified to speak as an ordinary layman. I am appalled that the Government, by claiming that it cannot assert authority over the Gulf of Carpentaria as an historic right, does nothing, lt uses this excuse as justification for doing nothing. Certainly there would be problems if a unilateral declaration of authority were made but surely the Government could institute negotiations with interested countries and then take whatever other steps were necessary to try to establish some sort of authority for Australia in this area. It is true that there is a great deal of doubt and conflict among legal men as to whether the Gulf of Carpentaria would be an historic bay or not. But, after all, doubt and confusion are the stuff of the law. The Attorney-General has become eminent as a lawyer on the basis of successfully questioning doubts in the legal annals of the Commonwealth. All that we ask for is some sort of effective action from this Government to protect, police, control and preserve the waters of the Gulf of Carpentaria and the Great Barrier Reef over which Australia can justifically exercise authority. Surely that is not too much.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– There has been no failure on the part of the Government as suggested by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). The Government has been extremely active in this field not only in the matter of negotiation to which the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) referred but also in preparing legislation. One of the matters of negotiation internationally is in relation to the seabed. But we do not continually talk about these matters. We move forward, looking after Australia’s interests in these fields. Honourable members on the other side of the House have no monopoly of interest in the protection and conservation of Australia’s resources in the Gulf of Carpenteria or on the Great Barrier Reef.
The trouble is that honourable members opposite do not improve Australia’s position by continually talking about this matter. The more honourable members opposite raise the position internationally of the interests of Australia in these areas, the more the Government is forced to state the present position of international law and to deprive itself of manoeuvring room.
The fact is that this is one of the most rapidly developing fields of international law. In 1953, when Australia issued a proclamation that it claimed sovereign rights over the continental shelf, this was regarded as a bold step. In 1958 the nations of the world agreed to a convention to the same effect, and Australia became a party to it. That convention is almost out of date today. When honourable members opposite are continually trying to put the Government into the position of stating what the present international law is they are doing no service to Australia.
Before I deal with the position concerning the law I wish to repeat a proviso which 1 stated on the last occasion when this matter was raised in the House. On 30th May 1968, as reported at page 1793 of Hansard, 1 stated:
I would not wish, by anything that 1 say today, when 1 come to discuss the legal position to foreclose the possibility in the event of changes in the international law of Australia taking some action to make wider claims other than those it is making at the present time.
Let me say a word or two about the Gulf of Carpentaria. The present position is that we are operating with a 3-mile territorial limit from low water mark. We are applying our fisheries legislation, to control fishing, to a further 9 miles, that is to say, 12 miles out from the shore. This applies not only to the mainland but also to the islands. We claim sovereign rights over the continental shelf which, in the Gulf of Carpentaria, extends throughout and beyond the entrance to the Gulf, the sea being relatively shallow to a considerable distance out into the Gulf. So far as this matter is concerned, the Government presently is considering the possible development of international law in this field. I notice that the country to which the ‘Van Gogh’ belongs recently has closed Peter the Great
Bay near Vladivostok. Whereas the convention allows a nation to close a bay or gulf entrance which is 24 miles across the entrance to the bay closed by Soviet Russia is over 100 miles across.
– What are you doing about the sedentary species? Do not slip away from that.
– We are looking very closely at this. The honourable member will hear about it if he listens and does not interrupt. In addition to the resources within my Department, the Government, as far back as January of this year and before the last debate, consulted a lawyer distinguished in the field of international law and recently has sought advice from a number of such lawyers. Australia’s position will be explored to the greatest possible depth. That work is now in progress. A similar position applies to the Barrier Reef as regards the 3-mile limit, the 12-milelimit and the continental shelf. As 1 mentioned during the last debate on this subject, our existing Fisheries Act applies to fishing to the extent of the 12-mile limit. Our Pearl Fisheries Act covers certain sedentary species. The Government at present is considering a proposal from the Department of Primary Industry to extend the sedentary species to which the Pearl Fisheries Act applies, and, assuming it is expanded, it will include clams, of which some honourable members have spoken.
– What about crabs and lobsters?
– It is interesting to note that the United States and Russia claim that crabs are a sedentary species but the Japanese dispute this.
– There are two kinds of crabs.
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston)Order! The fact that the honourable member for Cunningham is sitting at the table does not give him any right to interject. He will cease interjecting.
– There is another aspect regarding the Barrier Reef. We are in discussion with the State of Queensland about the control of minerals on the sea bed and the continental shelf, which includes those parts of the Barrier Reef that are under water. So we are not only covering the sedentary species in that area but we are also presently considering the possibility of legislation governing the minerals. These are matters that require a good deal of consideration. I do not think that anything would be gained by discussing the details while the Government is still considering these matters.
On the practical aspect, honourable members know the length of Australia’s coast line and they know our resources. The Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force have undertaken to patrol those areas important to Australia which have been indicated as being of special interest by the Department of Primary Industry and they have the resources to do it. Of course, this is a position that has developed within the last year or two and it must be watched closely by Australia so that we can adjust to whatever activity appears in this field. However, to suggest that the Government is not active in this field or is failing to take the necessary steps to protect and conserve the resources of Australia is quite wrong.
– Order! The discussion of this matter is now concluded.
Mr NIXON (Gippsland - Minister for tha
Interior) [4.14] - I move:
Mr Speaker, the Customs Tariff Proposals which I have just tabled relate to proposed amendments of the Customs Tariff 1966- 1968. Proposals 14, 15 and 16 formally place before Parliament, as required by section 273EA of the Customs Act, the tariff changes published in ‘Gazette’ notices dated 28th June, 26th July and 1st August 1968. Copies of the changes proposed were circulated to honourable members on those dates. However, for the record, I will detail the changes involved.
Proposals No. 14, operating from 1st July 1968, implement the Tariff Board’s report on bean seed and introduces several other tariff amendments which are of an administrative nature. The Government has accepted the Board’s recommendation that duties on bean seed be established at 35% preferential and general which is about the ad valorem equivalent of existing fixed rate duties on canning beans.
The Government has noted from the report that the industry is gaining momentum. Had it not been for adverse seasonal conditions, the local industry would have supplied approximately half of Australia’s requirements for canning purposes in 1967, and it is expected that the present crop will supply a substantially higher proportion. The report shows also that production of the culinary variety of beans has developed to the extent that growers can supply about half of the local requirement and it is expected that a further expansion of culinary bean production will develop.
The Tariff Board considered that by-law admission of the shortfall in local production could remove some incentive for canners and merchants to purchase local beans and repeated an earlier view that by-law entry should not be granted when the local crop is not adequate for all the requirements of the market. The Government is not, however, prepared to rule out by-law entry in circumstances where it is clear that this would not reduce the incentive for canners and merchants to secure local supplies of beans. Such by-law admission would be subject to the normal consultations with appropriate departments.
The other amendments covered by this proposal provide for further additions to the range of products on which Australia accords preferential rates of duty to imports from less-developed countries, the correction of an anomaly related to goods exported for repair and subsequent reimportation, removal of duties on catalogues and price lists printed in New Zealand and drafting changes in respect of steel wire, tractors, certain radio and television components, goods for the Commonwealth and the assessment of duty on parts for goods subject to fixed rates of duty.
Proposals No. 15, operating from 29th July 1968, follow the adoption of the Special Advisory Authority report on disposable hypodermic needles. The Authority found that urgent action was necessary to prevent serious damage to the local manufacturer of hypodermic needles pending the completion of normal Tariff Board inquiry.
The temporary duties are in addition to the normal duties and are equal to the amount, if any, by which the free on board value of the imported needles is less than $1.30 per 100 needles in the case of individually wrapped needles and needles forming part of disposable syringes, or less than $1.05 per 100 needles in the case of needles imported in bulk. Based on recent export prices from the main supplying country these additional temporary duties represent an ad valorem equivalent of 30% on needles imported in bulk and 37% on individually wrapped needles.
I refer now to Proposals No. 16 operating from 2nd August 1968, which implement the Tariff Board’s recommendations in respect of the first annual review of support values applying to industrial chemicals and synthetic resins. The report covers not only those products on which support values were introduced on 26th October 1966 following the Board’s report on industrial chemicals and synthetic resins but also products on which temporary support values were subsequently imposed following recommendations by the Special Advisory Authority.
Support values have been discontinued on 12 items, reduced on 22 items, increased on 3 items and unchanged on 8 items. The items on which support values or temporary support values have been discontinued are vinyl acetate monomer, 2,4,5T phthalic anhydride, dimethyl phthalate, diethyl phthalate, soda ash, alkyl phenol ethoxylates. secondary alcohol ethoxylates, certain butyl acetates and certain butyl alcohols.
In respect of ail other products the Board found that, disruptive low pricing was a feature of international trade and concluded that support value assistance should be accorded. Higher support values will apply to high density polyethylene ind polyethylene glycol. A separate support value will in future apply to highly concentrated DDT.
A further reference to the Tariff Board for the review of chemicals subject to support values, incorporating the review of chemicals carrying duties higher than industry rates, will be made later this year. I commend the Proposals to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Patterson) adjourned.
Reports on Items
– I present two reports by the Special1 Advisory Authority. The first of these reports, presented pursuant to statute, deals with disposable hypodermic needles. The second report which calls for no legislative action is in respect of twine, cordage ropes and cables falling within Paragraph 59.04.99 of the Customs Tariff 1966-1968.
I also present reports by the Tariff Board on the following subjects:
Bean seed (Phaseolus Vulgaris); and
The chemical industry support values review.
Ordered that the reports be printed.
Motion (by Mr Nixon) - by leave - agreed to:
That Customs Tariff Proposals Nos1 to 9 (1968) constituting part of Order of the Day 28, Government Business, be discharged.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
The purpose of this resolution is to enable each member of this House to express his own individual view and to express his own individual judgment as to where, when it is built, the new Parliament House should be sited. The Government has taken the view that a decision on a matter of this kind is one which should be made by individual members of the Parliament in their capacity as private members. We therefore propose that there should be an entirely free vote and that all members on our side of the House, whether in the Ministry or not, should cast their vote in accordance with their judgment and in accordance with their views as to where would be the best site for a House. Indeed, I understand that this view is shared by the Opposition and that this will be an expression of that kind.
– Hear, Hear!
- Mr Speaker, the resolution whichI bring forward is not brought forward at this time because there is an urgency in starting the construction of a new Parliament House. We still await and will receive a report from the joint select committee which will recommend to the House the facilities and the amenities which a new Parliament House should contain. And even when that is done it will be a matter for decision, this time by the Government, as to when the funds should be made available or can be made available in the light of other requirements for the beginning of construction. So it is not a matter of starting construction. But the resolution is brought foward because there is urgency in deciding where, when it is constructed, the House will be. This is so that other construction work - for example, the construction of the new National Art Gallery - can be begun by the National Capital Development Commission with full knowledge of where a site for Parliament House is to be reserved and where it is not.
At various times three sites have been suggested for the new building. One was Camp Hill, the small rise which is at the back of this House of Parliament and which was the site originally recommended by Burley Griffin but which, this House of Parliament having been built, Burley Griffin, as we would all agree, decided was not a suitable site for the construction of a House. So that left two sites remaining - one, Capital Hill, on which the flagstaff is erected, and which we all Know so welt, and the other the site down by the lake. These, therefore, I suggest are the two sites between which this House needs to make its selection today.
I do not think that at this stage I need to canvass in any detail the merits of the various sites, because most members have already had a chance to study the report brought down by the Senate select committee in 1955 and, indeed, a number of other reports and a number of supporting documents which over the years have been available to members of this House. Not only was there the 1955 Senate select committee report, which recommended that the House be built on Capital Hill, but there was later in 1957 a report by Sir William Holford, now Lord Holford, who visited Canberra and recommended the lakeside site. As a result of that report the National Capital Development Commission brought down a report, which has been available to members of Parliament, expressing and giving reasons for the suggestion that the House should be built on the lakeside. Not only is this, of course, a matter for planners such as those. The members of the House will also remember - indeed, I think remember’ is not the right word - will have well in their minds that the Joint Select Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House, drawn from both Houses and from both sides of each House, itself has reported and has given reasons and documents in support of those reasons for where it thinks a Parliament House should be. So that there has been, over a period of years, a great wealth of detail, a great wealth of argument, a great wealth of information placed before members.
For my part, Mr Speaker, speaking as an individual, I am convinced that the lakeside site is the best site on which to build the Parliament House, and I believe that future generations would look back on us as being silly should we choose any other site. That is an individual view, an individual judgment, and we are all entitled to such views. I have come to it because I envisage in this National Capital a national complex with the war museum and Anzac Parade in their present situation, with on Capital Hill a corresponding museum of peace and of peaceful achievements and an art gallery, and in the centre the National Parliament by the lake with the new National Library on its left-hand side and the new High Court buildings on its right. There is the centre of learning and of law, and half-way between the exploits of this nation in war and in peace is, I think, the site for a National Parliament for the future.
There has been some suggestion that there are technical disadvantages in building the House on this particular site. I do not believe, Mr Speaker, that that can be sustained. There has been and there is available to members of this House plenty of information to show that there is no danger of a flooding of the House on the site where I suggest it should be. There is available in that area some 47 acres of land with more available to be added in the future should that be required. On the alternate site at Capital Hill it would be necessary, if 47 acres of land were to be provided, to scrape away the hill, to lower it by some 70 feet, bringing its general skyline down to the level of the roof of the present Parliament House. But these are all matters which each member of this House will make up his mind on according to his own best judgment. Partly because of the technical considerations I have put before the House, partly because I think a national parliament should centre in the various arms of government and the various achievements of a nation and be removed from the through traffic which would not upset a parliament house by the lakeside, and I suppose partly, not only from judgment but from sentiment, 1 am, for myself, thoroughly in favour of the motion which 1 have moved.
– It properly falls to the Parliament to determine the site of the new and permanent Parliament House. The Parliament established a committee to report on the features of the new and permanent Parliament House. Pursuant to a suggestion made by my predecessor, the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell), the two former Prime Ministers conceded that members of the Joint Select Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House could inquire into the site and report upon it. The Committee did inquire into the site. It arrived at a majority decision on that subject. Last November it published that decision. Yesterday the report of the Committee on this point was tabled in each House.
In this matter the Opposition has taken the same attitude as has been taken by the Government. In all cases members of parliamentary committees are free to vote in those committees as they see fit. They did so in this Committee. It is exceptional for members of the two Houses to vote as they see fit on any question coming before them. This is one such case. It is very proper that it should be so. No matter of ideology or doctrine attaches to the site of the new Parliament House. It is a matter upon which individuals can form their own views. This is what will happen in this chamber and in the other place. There is no reason why in the Australian Parliament today, as in the French Constituent Assembly in the 1790’s, we should be divided on ideological grounds between the mountain and the plain. In discussing the mountain and the plain - the hillside and the lakeside in this debate - we are speaking entirely in technical, not ideological or symbolic terms. We are speaking as individuals. Speaking, therefore, as an individual, I express the view that I favour the lake site.
I came to live in this city in 1928 when it was scarcely a city. It was accepted then, in the days before motor cars were prevalent - in the days when the settlement was quite circumscribed and when foundation stones were still extant - that Parliament House would be erected on what was then called ‘Capitol Hill’ but which has for the last 40 years been described officially as Capital Hill’. Over subsequent years, particularly since the lake came into being, I have formed the view that the lakeside would afford a better situation for Parliament House.
The Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House took advice from experts. No expert available in Australia whom any member of the Committee wished to call was not called. The evidence of the experts was quite plain: The lake site was preferable. It was preferable from the point of view of both traffic and construction. I cannot in conscience set myself against the views of the experts. There may be aspects which should countervail the factors of traffic and construction. It may be that we should undertake the additional expenditure involved in overcoming those aspects. Other objections seem to turn on the aspect of symbolism or focus. Frankly, I am not one of those who believe that government is more impressive if it is on a hill. In some English speaking countries this has been thought to be a necessary feature of the majesty of the law. Dublin Castle would be such an embodiment. I am more impressed where the popular chambers are seen to be on the same level as the people who elect them. If one seeks symbolism for the representatives of the people as against the Executive, I recall the great historical precedent of the five members who escaped from Charles I by water - by ths river. I have no faith that the Executive could overtake any fleeing members on the Molonglo with any present naval or coastguard equipment. But if one wants more recent examples there are the Palais des Nations at Geneva, the United Nations headquarters in New York and the Palace of Westminster on the Thames. If we pay heed to symbolism I think it is very appropriate that the Australian Parliament should be situated on a waterfront site. If one wants more poetic symbolism, there is the fact that we are the largest sea girt nation.
There is, however, another matter. Judging by the way people arrive and depart from Canberra these days and the way they travel around Canberra, I do not believe that Capital Hill is as much the focus of attention in this city as is the lake. I believe that a building on the lakeside would be much more the centre of this city, whose raison d’etre is the Parliament. Both sites are good in their geographical condition. Looking at the sites now - not 40 years ago - I believe that from the lake every prospect pleases: From Capital Hill I doubt it. Speaking as an individual I believe that for technical, historic and aesthetic reasons the lake site is preferable.
– The low church has spoken. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) have expressed their views on where the new Parliament House should be sited. It is a fascinating experience to see this unusual communion of agreement between these two gentlemen, but for my part, speaking as an individual, I was fascinated that the Leader of the Opposition should have said that no doctrinal or ideological view is involved in this discussion. That may well be, but I should like to impress on my honourable friend that there is a very distinct theological consideration to be encountered. I take the view that there is a singular danger in putting Parliament House on the lake shore because, alas, there are far too many people in this place who take the view that they, too, can walk on the surface of the water. I favour the Capital Hill site, if for no other reason than to lend support to the cynical view taken by many people outside Parliament that that would be closest that any member of Parliament would ever get to Heaven. So I say to the Leader of the Opposition that there is that point of view to be taken into account.
I am surprised that the Government did not agree readily with the suggestion made by the honourable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) that before deciding this matter we should first receive and consider the report of the committee which toured the world looking at Parliament houses. I suggest with great respect that the site of a parliament house and the character of a parliament house have a great deal in common. I would not have thought it awry if that report had been presented to the Parliament and then considered. Our procedure today is in striking contrast to the infinite consideration which was given to the siting of Canberra as the national capital.
The Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition have argued that numerous arguments and submissions have been put to a variety of committees. That may well be so, but to compare them with the arguments which were put to the committee that considered the site for Canberra reveals a singular difference, as I think both honourable gentlemen, on reflection, would agree. For example, one of the conclusions reached by that committee in relation to the Wellington site for the national capital was this:
In regard to health, the resident medical authorities gave Wellington a very good character, lt was admitted that the summer was hot, but the climate generally was bracing and the changes neither sudden nor violent; and that the winters were delightful, and the district very favourable for chest and renal complaints, and the rate of mortality below the average.
In contrast with that regard for infinite detail, we are now so impatient that we simply will not wait for the latest report of the committee on the new and permanent Parliament House. I think that this is a very great pity and that this needs to be said. My mind went back to the story that was recorded by William Morris Hughes when he wrote about the findings of the committee that investigated the siting of Canberra. I think his words are rather apposite on this occasion. The right honourable gentleman wrote that at that time the Government found itself in the position of a bridal couple returning from their honeymoon to be overwhelmed by enterprising real estate agents with offers of eligible sites for their home. So far as the new Parliament House is concerned, the real estate agents are offering two sites; we can take the lake or we can take the hill.
I disagree with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition when they say that Parliament does not have to consider the symbolism of its location. I disagree with the Leader of the Opposition when he says that he likes Parliament to be down with the people. With great respect to him, I think that is a rather quaint view. It may be the view of a red brick university or it may accord with the view of the Oxford University, but there are those who take the view that the community does like to look up to Parliament. Perhaps this is a mild form of symbolism, but nevertheless it is symbolism. 1 hope that honourable members will support the hill site. I hope that it does not hurt the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) as much as it hurts me when I say I think that in his circulated memorandum he has advanced most cogent argument as to why the new Parliament House should be on a hill.
– This is an unusual unity ticket.
– I am catholic in my attitude towards a great variety of things. I think the honourable member for Wills has given very cogent reasons and I hope that every honourable gentleman in this place will take them into account before adopting the views which have been expressed by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. I hasten to remind the House that these views were expressed by both gentlemen in their individual capacities and not as leaders of political parties. This question has nothing whatever to do with politics. To conclude where 1 began, 1 believe the question savours distinctly of theology.
– I propose an amendment, if I may appropriately do so at this stage.
-If the honourable member wishes to move an amendment 1 ask him to do so now.
– I move:
– I rule that the amendment is relevant to the subject before the House inasmuch as the discussion at the moment is on the site for the new and permanent Parliament House. If the motion moved by the Prime Minister were negatived, there would be no site. To this degree I rule that the amendment moved by the honourable member for Wills offers an alternative site for the new and permanent Parliament House, which is the subject matter now under discussion.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, speaking to your ruling, do I now understand that the amendment moved by the honourable member for Wills, should it be defeated, would result in the motion moved by myself being immediately put to this House?
– I suggest that in those circumstances the position would be exactly the same as it would be when any other amendment was defeated. Once the amendment moved by the honourable member was defeated the subject matter before the House would be the terms of the original motion. It would then be open for the debate to continue and for any other honourable member to move an amendment to the Prime Minister’s motion.
-I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. In the event of the amendment proposed by the honourable member for Wills being defeated and the Prime Minister’s motion being defeated also would it be in order for the House to carry a motion without provision for any site?
– Order! There is no substance in the honourable member’s point of order.
– I take it that the time occupied by that discussion will come out of the 20 minutes allowed to me, Mr Deputy Speaker.
– Firstly, I commend the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) for allowing the subject of the site of the proposed new Parliament House to be debated in this way. I think that this is a unique parliamentary occasion. I am glad that we are all able to take the opportunity to discuss the subject and cast a free vote on the motion in accordance with our own views, although we have limited time to put those views. There are some aspects of this project which are as yet unresolved and upon which we do not have adequate evidence. The House has been placed in a difficult position by the concentration on absolutes. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) said that the new Parliament House should be located down with the people. Most of the people of Canberra live above the level of Lake Burley Griffin. If that kind of symbolism is to be relied on, we should get out our contour maps and all the rest of the material available and examine the position very carefully.
I feel that before any decision on a site is made the House should have before it the full report of the Joint Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House. In a way I am saddened by the fact that this requirement has not been observed. I think that those members of that Committee who went overseas as a sub-committee - I. hope with some profit to the community - learned a good deal about problems of siting and constructing parliament buildings that so far no-one has resolved. The members of that subcommittee found that no parliament house has adequate space. We found that there hud been no planning for the large numbers of people who visit such buildings as well as for those who work in them.I believe that the Committee has in a way been treated discourteously.
I have some other points that I wish to put to honourable members. What evidence is before the House concerning the flow of traffic and the potential traffic in this area? It is now approaching 5 p.m. What is the traffic position in the region of this building at this moment, with streams of people making their way homeby car from the National Library, the Treasury building and other buildings in thearea? What evidence is before the House of the climatic conditions at the respective sites? This morning there was a layer of log about parts of Canberra. How often does this occur and how extensive are the fogs? I place these comments before the House to indicate my thoughts on the matter. I am not like the Prime Minister. I do not think that somebody who disagrees with me is silly. I believe that it is rational! and logical to place the new Parliament House on Capital Hill.
What do we know of the demands for the future. Members of the Committee found that increasing numbers of people were visiting all of the parliament buildings examined. Parliament has now become the symbol of nationhood. I believe that more people now visit Westminister than visit Buckingham Palace. About 7 million people visited the United States Congress last year. What do honourable members know of the size of the building that the Committee wants to have built? The House has not before it the full details of the Committee’s decisions on matters such as these. How big should the new building be? Does anybody know whether it has been decided that it should be as big as or bigger than the National Library building? The Leader of the Opposition mentioned the Palais Des Nations in Geneva. It has been decided to extend that building to a length of 1,600 feet. Would a building of that size fit on the lakeside site? The Palais Des Nations was built only 30 years ago; yet it is being enlarged. Has anybody measured the length of the buildings at Westminster and Washington? Both of them are becoming greatly congested. Have we before us details of a feasibility study of the engineering and other factors involved? I do not think that such a study has been made. The House should have more evidence to consider before it decides on the site. lt may be argued that the Committee heard evidence from experts on these matters. So it did. But in my view they were experts who were dedicated to the lakeside site. The Committee heard very little evidence on any alternative site. Who are the experts in this issue? This is a parliamentary matter and I believe it is up to the Parliament to decide. Parliamentarians are the experts. The new Parliament House will be the home of the legislature; it will be the workshop for 500 to 1,000 people; it will be a national architectural symbol; and it will be a place of pilgrimage and visitation for hundreds of thousands of people every year. Were these factors taken into consideration when the lakeside site was chosen?
What has been the experience in other countries? At Westminister the number of visitors is increasing year by year and the crowds cannot be coped with. At Ottawa, buildings have had to be erected for members of Parliament away from the existing parliament buildings. The same sort of thing has happened in Washington. About 30,000 people a day visit the Capital there. Will that be the position in Canberra in 100 years time? The logic of much of our own development indicates that it will parallel that of the United States of America. But what we must remember always is that no matter what symbolic value Parliament House may have in site and in the nature of the building, it has become a special symbol of people’s aspiration for self government. Only 6 or 7 countries have achieved the kind of stability, reasonable political equality, wealth and general development that this country has attained. For that reason we have to give the nation a parliament house that is symbolic, nationally and internationally. Therefore, we cannot rest on decisions which, I believe, will result in the future in overcrowding of our Parliament House.
I suppose that there are a number of sites in Canberra upon which the new building could be erected, but we are at present considering two sites. Both are beautiful in different ways. If the new building is erected on the lakeside it will be in an attractively secluded setting, and if it is erected on Capital Hill it will be splendidly prominent. An area of 47 acres is available at the lakeside site, whereas the area of Capital Hill inside the perimeter of State Circle is 130 acres. I believe that the most important factor to be considered is space. Every other parliament that we visited is constricted by some past decision that has limited or reduced its space. I have no doubt that the new building would be a beautiful sight if it were constructed on the lakeside. As a member of the National Library Council I saw the lakeside site in the first instance when I inspected the adjacent site for the National Library. I then considered that the new Parliament House should be on the lakeside, but after considering all the evidence, inspecting the Capital Hill site and visiting other places I am fortified in my resolve that Capital Hill is the appropriate site, as much for its symbolic value as for any other reason. There is plenty of space on Capital Hill; and Australia is a country of space.
As one of my colleagues has observed, every prospect pleases. However, if the new building is erected on the lakeside will it be visible from behind the National Library? What will be the effect on the National Library? An area of 130 acres is available on Capital Hill inside State Circle, of which 85 acres will be inside the proposed ring road. I believe that work on the ring road should be postponed until some decision is arrived at concerning the proposed site for the new Parliament House. On 4th August I wrote to the Prime Minister regarding work on the ring road at Capital Hill. This is the reply that I received:
I am assured by the National Capital Development Commission that the construction of the ring road will not prejudice the use of Capital Hill for whatever purposes may later be decided, including, if it were so resolved, the permanent Parliament House.
That is not true. The construction of the ring road will reduce by 45 acres the space available on Capital Hill. As I said earlier, the most important factors are access and space. T can think of no particular reason why a ring road on Capital Hill should be constructed.I do not think that people should have to drive through Canberra if they wish to bypass the city. The natural thing is for people proceeding from, say, Hall to Queanbeyan to go round the outskirts of the city in some way. This is a consideration to which we have given little thought so far.
With the resources at my disposal, all I could do was put down a few thoughts on paper. I had the document photostated and it was distributed the other day. The contours of the Capital Hill area range from about 1,600 feet to some 1,900 feet elevation, which is about 75 feet above State Circle. I do not think that there will be any engineering difficulties on that site. A country that has constructed a scheme such as the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme can do whatever is required on this site. I believe that Capital Hill will be the focal point of Canberra, although people do not drive up to the top of it much now. At present it is simply another piece of Australian countryside, of which we have about 3 million square miles.
All roads lead to it. lt would seem to me a simple engineering matter to go under State Circle and have underground parking to an almost unlimited extent inside the hill. From what 1 know of Australian engineering faculties, T can see no technical problems there. Of course, somebody has said that from the hill you see backyards. It might be worthwhile the legislature considering the fact that it is people, not lakes, that we are dealing with. In fact, the area within about 15 degrees of the arc there is what one might call suburbia. The area occupied by some 130 to 140 degrees of the arc - I did not measure it accurately - is taken up by the lake. The rest of it is taken up by the city. But then there is a great sweep of at least 1000 square miles of beautful Australia, of rugged and blue mountains, of the country for which we are making our laws, and the country to which people will come.
I believe there is some symbolic value in this site. I believe there is a great deal of symbolic value in the Parliament of this country. ButI do not think it needs so much to dominate as to be there for all to sec, as to conduct its operations in public view. This is a unique country. It is a country of light and space.It is a country which is still asking for an architect to produce in architecture those things which our artists and our literary people have produced in art and literature. Australian architecture has yet to produce this kind of spirit and light and space which are the unique factors and qualities in Australian life.
I would hope, therefore, that in considering this matter we will examine first of all the simple question of the kind of access we have to the site on the lake. ls it in fact going to be easy to visit, especially if one happens to be one of the thousands of people who drive to Canberra and want to park one’s cars somewhere nearby? T presume that until somebody designs a transport system better than anybody else has yet designed, we will still have to use motor car. One wants to be able to park one’s car somewhere when visiting Parliament House. I presume that there will be no technical difficulties in placing parking stations underneath the ground there. I do not know what might happen with relation to seepage and so on. I have no competence in that field.
ButI do believe that this offers us an opportunity. I suppose we are faced with what the psychologists call the difficulties of choice. I do not know the technical term for it. We have before us two very desirable sites. Not many people have had this chance. I do not suppose the choice of either of them would be a fundamental error but, for my part, I believe that the hill is the better of the two because of its space. There are 1 30 acres inside the ring of State Circle. That is an area much larger than anything else that is available. It is the centre or focal point of Canberra. After all, Parliament is the reason why Canberra is here. I favour the hill because I believe there are no technical difficulties in the way of making road access into the hill, under the hill or across the hill. There will be no difficulty whatsoever in making it available and accessible to everybody. Therefore, on all my evaluations, from the way 1 look at it, the hill is the logical choice.
But whatever site is chosen, we shall be offering Australian architects unique opportunities for space, for light and for something in architecture as clearly as Australian as Waltzing Matilda or the gum trees, and I hope we will not make the decision known unless we have evaluated all the factors that I have tried to put before the House and thatI know other honourable members on both sides of the House have to place before us.
– Before calling the next speaker I think I should clarify the reply I gave to the question by the Prime Minister with relation to the putting of his motion. If the amendment submitted by the honourable member for Wills is defeated the original motion will still be open to further debate. It may be that the House will vote immediately upon it. What I meant to convey was that, merely because the amendment submitted by the honourable member for Wills was defeated, that would not necessarily mean that the motion moved by the Prime Minister would be put immediately; but, the House having decided that the words sought to be omitted will now stand, it naturally follows that any further amendment moved can only be to add words relevant to the Prime Minister’s motion.
– I have heard the arguments advanced for both sites. But first I second the amendment moved by the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant). In adopting the elevated position on Capital Hill we would be following the advice of the late Walter Burley Griffin. I submit that it would be an ideal position, and it matters not whether it is Camp Hill or Capital Hill.
Here I remind honourable members of the view from that site. It is perhaps one of the most wonderful vistas in the world. I suggest that honourable members just take a walk outside this Parliament House and look over towards the Australian War Memorial. I ask them to envisage the new Parliament House erected on the lakeside. They must admit that it would obliterate this wonderful vista. I submit that it would be desecration to erect the new Parliament House on the lakeside.
Perhaps if we considered merely our own convenience and looked at it only from a selfish point of view, the lakeside would be the better site. But we have to consider the people of Canberra and the great inflow of visitors that we will be having. I say that we are in error in allowing the High Court to be built on the lakeside, for in doing this we are repeating what has been done with Sydney Harbour. The foreshores of the lake will become clustered with buildings and the purpose for which the lake was put there will be defeated. It is a great shame that this beautiful lake and the wonderful vista that we now have stand in jeopardy in future years because of the buildings that are going to be built on the lakeside. We must consider not only ourselves or the future parliamentarians but the people of Canberra and the visitors to this city when deciding upon the site upon which the new Parliament House is to be erected.
There are sure to be difficulties associated with the underground places that are to be built. I was going to refer to them as dungeons. Perhaps the authorities want some symbolism of the days when there were dungeons. There must be some engineering difficulties associated with seepage and the like which will make it more costly to erect the new Parliament House on the lakeside.
– You will not be here when it is built, anyway. Why should you worry?
– There is more possibility of my being here than there is of the honourable member being here. My forebears were very long-lived and I do not think the honourable member has any chance of being here with me. How often in the past have we seen that, with the effluxion of time, an area of land set aside for a university or a school, for example, has proved to be inadequate?
– Almost without exception this has proved to be so. We now have a wonderful opportunity to guard against this. I am still of the opinion, considering the big shopping centres of America at the present time, that even 130 acres is not sufficient to accommodate the thousands of cars that will have to be parked within the area. Let us consider this matter from a practical and commonsense point of view. We are to build a Parliament House that will have to suffice for hundreds of years. It shows lack of vision and lack of common sense to build it on 47 acres.
– My namesake, the honourable member for Ballaarat, goes behind me and says: ‘Nonsense’. Of course, years ago people said it was nonsense if anyone had vision. Let us display some vision in this matter. We have an opportunity to build the new Parliament House either on 130 acres or on 47 acres. If we were to build it on 47 acres, claustrophobia would be most pronounced in the future. Let us dispassionately view this matter. Let us consider the people. After all, the people have as much right to enjoy the lakeside as have parliamentarians, although there is one advantage in having parliamentarians on the lakeside: They can jump in the lake from time to time if they so desire. We have to take everything into consideration and have regard to the area, the elevated position and the fact that this wonderful vista from the front of Parliament House will be utterly destroyed if we build the new Parliament House on the lakeside. 1 go so far as to say that the present area between the National Library and the proposed High Court building should be preserved for all time for posterity. I appeal to my colleagues on both sides of the House to vote in favour of the Capital Hill site.
– I support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) and oppose the motion moved by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and supported by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). On the surface it appears that a democratic procedure is to be followed in this House and that an open vote is to be allowed to members on both sides of the House. But when one examines the position one sees how the dice are loaded. The National Capital Development Commission has put forward a proposition only in favour of the lakeside site. It has not advanced a proposition in favour of the Capital Hill site.
The Prime Minister, the Leader of the Government which controls the financial strings of this country, has advanced and supported the proposition that the official position for the new Australian Parliament House should be on the lakeside. This shows the hypocrisy in saying that members on both sides of the House will have an open vote. I am grateful to honourable members opposite who have stood up and spoken in favour of the Capital Hill site as against the lakeside site. There is an absence of honourable members on the other side of the House and, in fact, the honourable member for Ballaarat (Mr Erwin) is walking around to make sure he has the numbers. He is asking: ‘Have we the numbers to support the lakeside site?’ Honourable members who seem to have made up their minds on this question have read only the arguments in support of the lakeside site which are contained in the document issued by the National Capital Development Commission.
We are to make an historic decision. We are to make a decision which will have to hold for possibly the next 100 to 150 years. Three years ago when I was in the United States of America and saw the building which houses the United States Parliament, which the early pioneers in the United States had planned more than 100 years ago, I thought of the magnificent foresight which they had displayed. They built a symbol of national character in order to try to mould a nation. I have travelled throughout many countries. Wherever I have gone I have inspected the buildings which house the parliaments. I have seen the Supreme Soviet, the Kremlin, in Moscow. I have seen the parliament houses in Rome and in five of the six countries of the European Economic Community, the exception being France I have seen the mother of parliaments in London. It is a magnificent building but it is totally inadequate for the number of members. 1 have inspected the Parliament House in Ottawa. I have Inspected parliament houses in many other capitals in the world. When honourable members make their decision I ask them to remember that it is not a parochial decision. It is a decision which will hold for one century and possibly a century and a half ahead.
The Leader of the Opposition referred to the question of symbolism. 1 do not support symbolism or even cultism. I support the cultivation of national character. When honourable members are considering the question of where we are to build the new Parliament House I ask them to determine what is in the best interests of the Australian national character. In my view, the new Parliament House will have a great deal to do with the national character of Australia for generations to come. When Burley Griffin first planned Canberra he thought that it would be a city of some 70,000 people. Now it is thought that by 1980 it will be a city of 355,000 people and that by the turn of the century the population will be 500,000.
Only a couple of decades ago it was thought Australia probably would have a population of between 10 million and 20 million people. We know that with the natural resources which we are finding in Australia we will become one of the great nations in the world. Because of the natural resources that are available and because we are moving into the scientific age we know that we will be able to develop this nation. In this nuclear age we will be able to distil water with atomic isotopes. We will be able to use trace elements to produce food to feed the population not only of Australia but of the rest of the world. Therefore we must think in terms of greatness, not in terms of smallness. In our planning there has been too much thinking in terms of smallness. The National Library which was officially opened today is the only building in Canberra of international architectural standard.
Lord Holford said that in his opinion the lakeside should be the market place and consequently the new Parliament House should be built on the level of the market place. I am putting another point of view. We are a young nation. I ask honourable members to remember that Australia is a vast country and we do not want Canberra to become a cluttered national capital. We want a capital with plenty of space. My view is that we should build our new Parliament House on Capital Hill.
I will give my views on the Capital Hill site. I am not trying to be dogmatic in this regard because I know the difficulties that are involved. We have the National Library - that magnificent architectural achievement - on the southern side of Lake Burley Griffin, and to counter-balance it we will have the proposed High Court building. There should be an unimpeded view between Capital Hill and the Australian War Memorial. In my view this present Parliament House, which is not a well-constructed building, will not last for any great time and will have to be demolished. That would leave an unimpeded view between Capital Hill and the War Memorial, with a clear run down to the lakeside. As I have said, the new Parliament House should be on Capital Hill and there should be just a green stretch of lawn down to the lakeside and a clear view up to the War Memorial. There would then be four focal points. Parliament House, where we pass our legislation, would be on Capital Hill. Our place of knowledge, the National Library, would be another focal point. Then there would be our High Court where, I hope, wisdom and justice would be dispensed. On the far side we would have the War Memorial where we would pay homage for sacrifices made. The space in between would not become overtaxed; we would not have this cluttered feeling. I suggest to Government supporters, who seem to be fixed on the lakeside site-
– Not one Government member has spoken in favour of the lakeside yet.
– The Prime Minister did.
– I am grateful to those Government members who are supporting the Capital Hill site. We can convince honourable members who have closed their minds in support of the lakeside site only if we can get them into the chamber to hear the arguments in favour of Capital Hill. Those honourable members have seen only the documented evidence prepared by the National Capital Development Commission in support of the lakeside site. They have not heard the case for Capital Hill. I am not arguing with honourable members on the Government side who support the Capita] Hill site. AH I ask of those Government members who are interjecting is that they go outside and bring into the chamber their colleagues who favour the lakeside site so that they may hear the case for Capital Hill. I ask representatives of the National Capital Development Commission over in the corner to listen, or even to read the words of Lord Holford as set out in his report entitled ‘The Growth of Canberra’. Lord Holford said:
The problems that face the development of the Government Triangle do not seem to me to consist in finding sites, but in keeping its communications clear and in creating not only fine buildings but also a distinguished and enlightened setting for them.
I ask honourable members to look at the report which was compiled by the National Capital Development Commission and which has been tabled here. In my opinion the convention centre, which is building No. 26 on the plan of the Government triangle, should not be constructed. The national gallery, which is project No. 28 on that plan, is another building which should never be constructed. Nor should the new Parliament House be built on the lakeside. I repeat that we should restrict buildings in the Government triangle and that the new Parliament House should be on Capital Hill so that from it there will be an unimpeded view. We must determine to build a national building. The decision on the siting of the new Parliament House relates to the erection of a building with character. Honourable members should support the Capital Hill site and defeat the recommendation brought forward by the Prime Minister. As 1 suggested during question time this morning, this decision is being bulldozed through. Let us consider this aspect. During the last recess a group of parliamentarians representing both sides of the Parliament went overseas to examine all aspects of parliament houses.
– They were members of the committee inquiring into a new and permanent Parliament House.
– As the honourable member for Wilmot said, they were members of the committee inquiring into this project. An all-party group was selected to go overseas to inquire into all aspects of parliament houses, including sites and the availability of services. That group has returned to Australia. I ask whether any honourable member has seen a report tabled by that group? A meeting was held hurriedly a night or two ago at 9.30 p.m. to decide what the group’s recommendation should be. That meeting was not attended by many honourable members from my side of the House. For instance, Senator Devitt, a Labor Party senator who went overseas on this tour, did not make a report to that meeting. At our Parliamentary Labor Party meetings he has expressed certain positive views on his attitude. So has the honourable member for Wills. He has certain views but they have not been expressed to this committee. I say again to honourable members on the Government side, and to the Prime Minister, that they are rail-roading this decision through.
In many ways 1 have a great deal of respect for the National Capital Development Commission. In many respects it has done a magnificent job, but it cannot be autocratic, lt should not try to force this decision through at this time because this decision is to be final and will last for a century. Therefore I believe we should not proceed with this recommendation. As I suggested to the Prime Minister during question time this morning, this debate should have been postponed to give this House time to look at the evidence available from members who recently travelled overseas.
Again I challenge honourable members on the Government side and the National Capital Development Commission by asking: Where is the case in favour of the Capital
Hill site? A case has been put forward for the lakeside site but there is none before us for the Capital Hill site.It seems to me that the Government, the establishment, is trying to force through this recommendation in favour of the lakeside site. I hope that all’ honourable members will accept the challenge. I hope they will not become part of the rubber stamp of the establishment. 1 hope honourable members will express an independent point of view and will make an independent decision. 1 hope those Government supporters now in the chamber will challenge their colleagues whose minds are fixed in favour of the lakeside site and who are at present outside the chamber and are not listening to the arguments in favour of the Capital Hill site. I ask all honourable members to support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Wills.
– For the first time for as long as I can remember I join with the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) and the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) on a matter which has nothing to do with party politics but which has a lot to do with this nation’s history. T hope other honourable members will make up their minds individually on a matter which I, together with other speakers such as the honourable member for Mitchell and the honourable member for Moreton, think is of great importance to this country. It is a matter which is not to be taken lightly on somebody else’s say-so. 1 favour the Capital Hill site because, although it is not the site selected when the original planning was laid out - the original site selected was Camp Hill - the permanent Parliament House was to be on a prominent height looking across, as the honourable member for Reid said, one of the finest vistas I have ever seen in any capital city in the world, and I have seen a few. I agree that perhaps this present building may fall down later on. I do not recommend that it be demolished. Some people object that we will not be able to get a clear view if the new Parliament House is set on Capital Hill. They say that that site would not be as prominent when viewed from Parkes Place which, they say, is the centre of Canberra. I understand that Parkes Place is this green sward in front of the existing Parliament House.
From 1927 until 1955, when a Senate Select Committee was appointed, there was not much interest in the final site of Parliament House. In dealing with a site for the permanent Parliament House that Committee reported that the erection of the provisional Parliament House and the King George V statue had impaired Griffin’s plan for the parliamentary triangle. Since then the statue has been removed. I have not yet found out where it has gone. The Committee recommended that the permanent parliamentary buildings should be sited on Capital Hill. That was in 1955. Why was that decision changed? The reason was that the then Prime Minister was rather Westminster minded and he appointed a town planner from England to come here and advise the Government. As soon as the town planner saw the waters of the lake he was reminded of tea on the terrace at the Houses of Parliament at Westminster, where one looks out over the muddy waters of old man Thames and, if the tide is out, over the muddy flats. That seems to bc the only reason why the site was changed.
The Commissioner of the National Capital Development Commission, Sir John Overall, appeared before the Joint Committee. On three or four occasions during the course of his evidence he stated that the lakeside site was better than the Capital Hill site because traffic considerations would give rise to very great difficulties on Capital Hill. He said there would be very great difficulties in providing suitable places where people could assemble. He said that 100,000 people could assemble at the lake site. He then dealt with mass demonstrations. Who wants a space outside Parliament House where 100,000 can assemble in a mas? demonstration? Sir John must have been thinking about Taqua Ali, a professional demonstrator in London, who will arrange a demonstration against anything for £300. I cannot see why Parliament House has to be alongside the High Court, unless honourable members feel that if they are arrested for breach of parliamentary privilege perhaps the High Court will make a quick decision.
I understand that soundings with regard to the foundations on the lakeside site have been taken. When I was Minister for Works and we were trying to finish what was then a white elephant, the administrative building, every time the Molongo River flooded we had to pump out the basement. Tests have been made. Apparently modern techniques can overcome the problem - at considerable cost, I expect The report lists physical conditions, exposure and flooding and states that Capital Hill is rather exposed to cold winds whereas the lake site is exposed only to what comes off the lake. If anyone has been up early on a frosty winter morning, as one or two of us have, and seen the fog rising off the lake like steam off a boiling cauldron, they would not think it is the healthiest site in Canberra.
The report contains some interesting statistics with regard to flooding. The water will rise to the top of the lake wall only once in 60 years. The water will cover the lower bench only once in 10 years and will cover the intermediate bench to a depth of 4 feet only once in 1,000 years. How does anybody in Australia know what will happen in 1,000 years? There is something funny about some of these statistics. A three storey building is proposed down by the lakeside. It will be overshadowed by the buildings on either side. It will be like a concrete island. On one side will be Lake Burley Griffin’s waters and an ocean of parking spaces will surround the other three sides. I draw honourable members’ attention to the Services buildings and to the area around them surrounded by parking spaces. We do not want Parliament House to be surrounded by parking spaces. The traffic problem at the lake site will be greater than the problem at the Capital Hill site. A problem exists already during peak hour traffic because of the present number of visitors. That problem will be increased if the new Parliament House is situated near the Law Courts and the Treasury administrative building. The new site will be not only a concrete island in the centre of a sea of parking spaces but will be the centre of a vortex of the worst traffic jam seen in any Australian city up to the present time.
For these reasons I feel that the lake site is a mistake. Capital Hill was envisaged as the site. That decision was changed only on Lord Holford’s recommendation, which I do not think was a good one. At Capital Hill there is plenty of area to expand but there is not such an area at the lake site. The honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin), the honourable member for Reid and possibly others have said that we have the most wonderful vista in the world. They have asked whether we are going to block it so that nobody can see the lake. Perhaps somebody will invent a new, automatic device so that, if you do not like the member who is talking, by pressing a button, you can send the member straight into the lake. It has been said that to remove some of the hill at Capital Hill would be costly. A lot of dirt in front of this building has been removed already. I have just visited the Snowy Mountains team at Tak in the ranges on the Burma-Thailand border. I saw the amount of dirt that has been moved in 12 months by a few Australian engineers and a lot of Thai drivers. I do not think that the removal of dirt creates much of a problem.
I agree with the honourable member for Moreton that it is far better to follow the biblical statement ‘I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills whence cometh my help* than it is to put the new Parliament House down in the market place, which in modern cities is nothing but a concrete canyon. The House should be the dominating feature of Australia’s magnificent capital and should have room to expand. It should not be jammed down where traffic problems will be terrific. Underground parking spaces are envisaged. Even if they are flooded only once in 60 years, it will still be a bit of a mess. It will not be any more expensive to put in underground parking spaces at Capital Hill than it will be to put down three floors of basement at the lake site. I appeal to every honourable member to think this over for himself and not be led astray by the recommendation made by Lord Holford.
Evidence was given to the Joint Committee by Sir John Overall and Mr Roberts of the NCDC that the first consideration should be a dominating site. The Commission seemed to be obsessed with having space in front of the building for 100,000 people. This is not necessary. Mr Roberts said that Capital Hill would be the obvious choice, but then mentioned several points. He said that it would be the centre of a traffic island. I say that the lakeside site would be the centre of a sea of traffic. Secondly he said that a lot of levelling would have to be done on Capital Hill. I say that a lot of levelling has been done on the lakeside site. Thirdly he suggested a long horizontal building. I ask: Who wants a long horizontal building as a parliament house? I thought we would have better architects than that idea suggests. Where in the world is there a long horizontal building as a parliament house? I do not know of such a building. Mr Roberts said that on Capital Hill parking would present problems. We have dealt with that. He mentioned underground tunnels. If we are to have underground tunnels, perhaps we should help Sydney and Melbourne to build their underground railways before we start building tunnels here in Canberra.
I do not want to speak at any greater length. I strongly support those honourable members on both sides of the House who have said: Think for yourselves’. I say: Think of Parliament House on the hill, dominating the capital, as against down on the lakeside in the midst of a sea of traffic. Do not forget that there will be only one entrance, not two. Do not forget that if you intend to have your tea on the terrace you will not be able to put a heavy traffic lane between the terrace and the lake’. From every point of view, this House should make a decision in the national interest for a building that will be symbolic, as the parliamentary buildings in many other countries are. The building should be one of which we all will be proud. I hope that the decision of the House will be for the Capital Hill site.
– Most honourable members to whom I have spoken in the lobbies on this matter are not concerned so much about whether the new Parliament House will be on the lakeside or on Capital Hill; their only concern is whether they will be in it. I intend to oppose both the motion moved by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and the amendment moved by the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant). I believe that the amount of money to be expended - at present it is expected that $30m will be spent on the construction of the new Parliament House over a period of 10 years - could parallel the spiralling cost of She Opera House in Sydney, for which the original estimate was about $8m and which will now cost more than $100m.
My reason for opposing the motion and the amendment is that I believe that many other matters, particularly matters in my electorate, have a top priority in the spending of money. In my electorate I have some primary schools that are more than 100 years old. They should be demolished and new ones should be constructed. If they were in some of the more salubrious suburbs that some honourable members on the other side of the House represent, those honourable members would be screaming to high heaven. It is also well to remember that in the industrial areas, most of which are represented by members on this aide of the House, many thousands of pensioners are searching for housing. We know thai New South Wales, under a scheme introduced by a Labor government years ago and continued by the Askin Government; is providing units for aged people. Scores of aged people come to me month after month seeking accommodation. In addition, scores of thousands of people in Sydney, although they live within a few miles of tha General Post Office, do not have sewerage. Yet we are proposing to spend this money on a new Parliament House.
If I am lucky enough to be re-elected, I am prepared to rough it in the present building for the next few years. I can assure honourable members of that. I believe that if construction of a new building is a matter of the convenience of members of tho Parliament we should put the convenience of the bulk of the people in Australia before their convenience. I am quite comfortable here. As I stated before, in my opinion many needs in the States have a much higher priority than has the erection of a new Parliament House. We all know that every State Premier has been screaming to high heaven over the years about not receiving sufficient money for education and other matters. Yet we propose to spend at least S30m - the cost will probably skyrocket to double that amount before the building is completed - on a new Parliament House. For those reasons I intend to vote against the motion and the amendment. Whether the site be on the lakeside or on Capital Hill, I intend to oppose the erection of a new Parliament House.
(5.45)- First of all I would like to express appreciation to the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) for the action they have taken in making the vote on this subject a free one. I think al of us agree that this is one of those subjects that should be brought to a free vote. The Prime Minister went on to say that it was a subject in which the right of a free vote extended to Ministers. So firstly, I would like to say something about the position of a Minister in taking part in such a free vote.
I was a member of the Cabinet which in 1958 made a decision in respect to this matter, and under the doctrine of Cabinet responsibility I adhered to that decision and observed it as being the decision of the Cabinet of which I was a member. What has now happened, as I see it, is not that Cabinet has decided to rescind or in any way to revoke its earlier decision but that it has decided that this is not a matter that will rest on the Cabinet’s decision; that it is a matter that will rest on the Parliament’s decision. So we have a new situation. As we have decided that this matter is to rest on the Parliament’s decision, Ministers, in their personality as members of the Parliament, will take part in that decision regardless of what may have been their decision as members of the Cabinet.
Taking part in this debate as a member of the Parliament, I will be supporting the Capital Hill site. It will not take me very long to state my reasons for doing so. I think I can claim to be thoroughly familiar with the topography of Canberra, to have watched very closely the growth of Canberra over the last 36 years, to have walked ridden or driven over a very large part of it and to have observed it from all angles. So I am familiar with the topography of Canberra. I can also claim to be familiar with the various reports that have been presented both by the expert people and by the parliamentary committees. I have read them and given close attention to them.
The first point that seems to me to be important is what has been referred to as the symbolical argument. I believe that it is important that the building in the central position in the National Capital should be the National Parliament building. That is an expression of our parliamentary democracy and an expression of the fact that the reason why Canberra exists is fundamentally so that the Parliament can meet here and, as a product of the parliamentary system, so that the Executive can function here. So I believe that the most central, the most significant and, if I may use the term, the most distinguished position in Canberra should be allotted to the National Parliament. It is open to discussion whether Capital Hill is the most central, the most significant and the most distinguished position. Some people are inclined to say that the site by the lake fulfils all’ of those requirements. But, to my mind and and in my judgment, if one is looking for a central position from which to give symbolical expression to the dignity and special position of the Parliament in the National Capital, Capital Hill is that place.
I turn from that commencement of my argument to look at the various reports that have been made. Someone has said very truly that most of the material that has been presented has been by way of advocacy of the lakeside site and that very little has been presented by way of advocacy of the Capital Hill site. A number of statements of a technical kind about the shortcomings of the Capital Hill site have been made. There has been no advocacy of the Capital Hill site but only advocacy of the lakeside site. It also seems to me that most of the advocacy of the lakeside site is advocacy that is based on town planning considerations. The sort of positive argument that is presented is that this completes the town planning scheme, that this helps to fulfil a town planner’s dream. But this in itself is surely not a strong enough argument to sweep aside the opinion that at least some of us hold that Capital Hill is a place that is central and significant and should be the site of a parliament house.
I also find that some of these technical arguments and bits of technical information that are contained in the reports have the appearance of being not pieces of evidence that lead towards a conclusion that the lakeside site is the best site, but they are rather arguments that have been thought up to reinforce the choice of the lakeside site and so many of them have the appearance of afterthoughts. But I will not elaborate them. If one chose one could go through the various papers and express doubts about the strength or validity of this or that opinion or this or that set of facts, but I can summarise by saying that on my reading of the technical reports and of the town planners’ observations I find them unconvincing either as a case in favour of the lakeside site or as a dismissal of the Capital Hill site, and I find in Capital Hill some advantages. There is, first, the advantage of its being in a central place with access all round, not access from what is virtually one approach with a blocking off on the water side. I also find an advantage of considerably more area and I am quite unconvinced by the arguments that have been presented about the difficulties of levelling, the difficulties of tunnelling, or the difficulties of actually using the site. That surely is a challenge to the architect, a challenge to the engineer, a challenge to the town planner.
Another advantage that I find in the Capital Hill site is that to my mind, much more than the lakeside site, it is a site that will put Parliament House in the community. The lakeside site will put Parliament House in proximity to offices housing public servants during working hours. It will put it in proximity to great institutions but not in the midst of a dwelling, living, active, working Australian community. It will be a place rather more esoteric, rather more isolated from the community, rather more on its own, rather more special and separate, to my mind, than a site on Capital Hill in the midst of the whole Canberra community. And so, for these and other advantages which I see, I am in favour of the Capital Hill site, and according to the way in which the various motions or amendments are presented I will cast my vote in favour of Capital Hill.
– The statement of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) that pleased me most when he was addressing the House on this question was that there was, of course, no intention to build a new Parliament House in the immediate future. But the satisfaction that I got from listening to that remark was dampened considerably when he went on to say that if the Parliament decided upon a site the
Government would choose the time to commence the building of the new Parliament House.
– It might not be the Government then.
– As our friend says, it might not be the Government in those days. I am not so concerned about who will make up the Government I am concerned about the time at which it will start to build a new Parliament House. I have heard many remarks denigrating the chamber in which we are now assembled and the Parliament House of which it is a part. I have heard the remark that the present building should be demolished in order that there may be built another Parliament House that would provide an uninterrupted view of an artificial lake that cost many millions of dollars to create. But I do not agree with these things. I agree with the honourable member for Watson (Mr Cope) that there is an order of priorities, and while there are slums in Fitzroy I do not stand for palatial buildings being constructed in Canberra. I believe that while there exist people who are not getting the requisites of life we are not in a position to spend unlimited sums upon the construction of a new Parliament House.
– Which seat is yours in the Parliament?
– The seat that I now represent is Scullin. The seat that I formerly represented does not now exist. But I represent the views of the people of Australia. If a plebiscite were held in Melbourne on the question of whether slums were to be eliminated, or whether an underground railway was to be constructed in that city to facilitate the flow of traffic, or if a plebiscite were held in Sydney on the question of whether underground railway facilities to solve the traffic problems of Sydney were to be extended prior to the construction in this city of a new Parliament House, what would the result be? An overwhelming majority of the people would assert that the order of priority demands that essential requirements for the daily life of the communities of the vast cities in this country should be met before a new Parliament House is constructed.
The present Parliament House could continue to serve the people not only of this generation but also of another generation. 1 would nol object if the only purpose of the proposition that is put before the House today were the reservation of an area of land whereon, in the dim and distant future, there could be erected a vast structure in keeping with the ideas of our friends who have spoken here and who apparently think that if one vast structure is erected in the capital city of the Commonwealth nobody will see the slums in the back streets of Fitzroy, in the city of Sydney and elsewhere. 1, however, come from a district of that sort. J represent the people who live there and who in the vast majority of cases will never even see the city of Canberra. They will never come to this place because they can afford neither the time nor the money.
Therefore J take the attitude that has been stressed by the honourable member for Watson. 1 will oppose the propositions in respect of both sites, not because 1 think land for a future Parliament House should not be reserved, but because I think that if this is done the Government will consider it a green light to enable it, in the not too distant future, to scrap this Parliament House and build another which wil’l probably cost an astronomical figure. As the honourable member for Watson said, it will bc like the Sydney Opera House. Already thousands and thousands of dollars have been spent in preparation of the scheme for a new Parliament House. The new building will start out as an edifice costing several million dollars. As the honourable member for Watson said, it will probably need to be an edifice costing hundreds of millions of dollars. The people of this country at the present lime cannot afford to have an impost of that nature put upon them.
Sifting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before the sitting was suspended I was saying that the Prime Minister had said that if the site for a new Parliament House were decided by this Parliament tonight the Government - nol the Parliament - could proceed with construction of the new building when it thought fit. From the remarks made by many honourable members it would appear that the earlier such construction begins the better. Recently a delegation from this Parliament conducted a very expensive investigation in many countries to learn what facilities were required in a Parliament House to be constructed in Australia. If a new Parliament House is to be constructed 20 years hence, or even 10 years hence, what was the purpose of sending a delegation of parliamentarians around the world at considerable expense?
– Did you go?
– No, I did not go and I believe that the only justification for the delegation must lie in the fact that someone envisaged the construction of the new Parliamentary House at a relatively early date. Certain honourable members spoke of a building which would have every facility and would be the envy of the world, an architectural masterpiece. It was also stated that it should be on a hill towards the rear of the present Parliament House, which building would have to be demolished because it would restrict the view of the lake from the new Parliament House. That is an absurd proposition to advance. Here we have a Parliament House which was constructed relatively recently, a magnificent building well equipped to suit the purposes of Australia for at least 20 or 30 years to come.
– When was it constructed?
– It was occupied in 1927 and that is not long ago. If the honourable member went to a place called Sydney he would see there a Parliament House that was constructed over 100 years ago. He would see there a Legislative Council chamber that came out from England as a prefabricated building almost with the First Fleet. It is still serving the purposes of a Parliament. If the honourable gentleman went to Melbourne he would see there a structure that has been in existence for over 100 years and is still serving the purposes of a Parliament. My contention is that anyone who comes to this National Parliament building must be of the opinion that it is a better structure and better suited to the purposes of a Parliament than are any of the State Parliament Houses in the Commonwealth.
– Our friends can say rubbish’ as much as they like. I have been in those Parliament Houses. Would the honourable gentleman say that the Legislative Council chamber in New South Wales, the prefabricated structure that came out with the First Fleet, can be compared with the edifice that we have here? Of course not. My contention is that there are more urgent national needs to be satisfied. Melbourne needs an underground railway system and Sydney needs extensions to its present underground railway system. A railway is required from Whyalla to Port Pirie in South Australia, slum clearance is necessary in all the big cities of Australia, homes must be built not merely for the aged but also for all sections of the community, educational and hospital facilities are required and rehabilitation services must be provided for our men returning from Vietnam.
– And pipelines for irrigation purposes.
– As the honourable member for Mallee says, pipelines to carry waters for irrigation through the Mallee and elsewhere in Victoria are also required. I claim that the provision of those things is much more essential and more urgently required than the building of a new Parliament House, the honourable member for Watson and I are emphatic that all the grandeur that is Canberra will not be seen or enjoyed by most of the citizens of Australia. The National Library which was opened today cost $8m without taking into account the cost of books. A Parliament House with the facilities envisaged by some honourable members would cost immensely more.
– How do you know?
-I have seen the structure that cost $8m. To construct a Parliament House with the facilities that have been suggested and to demolish the present building would cost nearly as much as the amended cost of the Sydney Opera House. That undoubtedly would be the position. As I have said before, I oppose the selection of a site for a future Parliament House because I think that once a site is selected the question of when and how the building is to be constructed ceases forever to be a matter for the consideration of the Parliament and becomes merely a matter for the consideration of the Government which, at a moment’s notice, could cause construction to commence.
I have before me documents -I do not know whether they are official - which were placed upon my desk during the suspension of the sitting. They indicate that from the time authority to proceed with the construction of a new Parliament House was given, about 8 years would elapse before the building would be available. The design and preparation of contract documents would take about 4 years and a similar period would be required for construction. A building which will require 4 years for the preparation of plans and specifications and another 4 years to construct will be indeed an immensely costly structure. As I have said previously, it is not suggested that we should not make provision for a site, but I object to the provision of a site being regarded as a green light to the Government to proceed, when it so desires, with whatever type of structure it considers necessary for the purposes of a Parliament House of the Commonwealth of Australia, no matter how costly.
It is all a question of priorities. While there are slums in Melbourne we cannot afford a grandoise building in Canberra. While we need an underground railway system in Victoria and an extension of the present underground railway system in Sydney, while we need urgently the railway from Whyalla to Port Pirie in South Australia, while we need more homes not only for the aged but also for the general population of this country and while we need educational and hospital facilities we are not entitled to discard a structure of the nature of the present Parliament House as unsuitable for the purposes of a Federal legislature and replace it with a structure which will cost the community a fabulous amount. I know that honourable gentlemen who live in Canberra want all kinds of structures of immense cost and great architectural beauty in this district. But I live in a place called Brunswick and represent people who live in Fitzroy. The honourable member for Watson (Mr Cope) represents people who live in Redfern. Their desire for architectural and aesthetic beauty is as great as that of the people of Kooyong or anywhere else. But the people in the areas I have mentioned do notget it because all the capacity and wealth of this community is to be expended here in Canberra. On behalf of my constituents, 1 desire to make a calm and very reasoned objection.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker. If this is to be a free vote in the House with each member voting as he thinks fit, why has the Government distributed this propaganda document to every member in this place which deals only with the lake site and not the Capital Hill site?
– Order! The Chair is not concerned with what the Government does within the House in regard to the distribution of information. The Chair is concerned that the debate be carried on according to the Standing Orders and that process will be followed. There is no point of order.
-I wish to make a personal explanation. I should explain to the House that the Government did not distribute the literature. I personally distributed it. If honourable members look at the last page of the document that was circulated, they will sec the arguments canvassed for the lake site as well as those canvassed for the hill site. A complaint was made earlier in the debate that no-one had distributed anything in favour of the hill site. A charge was made against the National Capital Development Commission that it had been biased and unfair in its approach. In order to show that there was no bias, and so that honourable members could judge the merits of the case on the facts presented to them, I had this information distributed. ‘
– I rise to order, Mr Speaker. As this is an unusual type of debate which will culminate in a free vote, is it possible under the Standing Orders that when you call the various speakers you call them as speaking for or against the proposal?
– Order! There is no substance in the point of order. It would need the wisdom of Solomon to know what the decision was on either side of the House, and I am afraid I do not have such wisdom.
- Mr Speaker, your modesty suprises me. If I were to do something unique, it would be to get on my feet and take the opposite view to that put forward by the last twelve speakers. 1 would like to do this and I welcome the opportunity to do so. Before I launch into my arguments and my idea about the way in which honourable members should make up their minds as individuals, I would like briefly to deal with the points raised by the, the honourable member for Scullin (Mr Peters). I shall do this very briefly. I expect the honourable member’s memory would go back somewhat longer than mine. 1 trust this is so. In this caseI expect him to remember the attitude of the Australian people to a central government and to the building of anything at all in Canberra, over many years. He will remember what happened. I think that today people by and large recognise Canberra as the focal point of the Australian government. They recognise that this nation and the Federal Government have built something worth while and something of which they can be proud. It is something that people can identify with the nation. 1 believe that the honourable member will find that the job of the Committee, of which I am proud to be a member, is to look well into the future and to provide for exactly the conditions that the honourable member for Scullin mentioned. The Committee has looked at the problem of making ample provision for full accommodation for an increasing number of members as well as for an increasing number of visitors. The Committee has drawn up a graph to show these variations. The Committee has made provision not only for the next 40 or 50 years but indeed for a lot longer than that. I believe it would be most regrettable if anyone took a short term view of the proposition before the House tonight.
If I might lead from that, I would now like to say a few words in regard to my friend the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) who is also a member of the Committee. I admire three qualities about the honourable member. Firstly, I admire his sincerity; secondly I admire the fact that he has thought about this matter; and thirdly I admire him for something that a number of members have not done tonight. He has fully studied the facts. However, when it comes to a preference as to the site of the House, I belong to one group and he belongs to another. This is the way it must be. I do not know whether the House thinks that the honourable member is brilliant or not. The salient point is that this is his judgment. The House will judge whether his judgment is right and mine is wrong, or vice versa.
If I might get to some of the woolly remarks I heard earlier, may I for a start refer to the argument that the new Parliament House should be a symbolic form and concept and that the focal position should be taken into consideration. If honourable members would like to have a look at the very first photograph in the yellow volume that has been well distributed, they will find two aerial photographs. The fact that they are aerial photographs destroys some of the value in terms of perspective. But the point 1 make is that if a person goes almost anywhere in Canberra to a position of vantage, such as on the hills, they get precisely the same impression as that conveyed by the aerial photographs. In fact, from these vantage points Capital Hill almost looks like a depression and the focal point unquestionably is the isthmus which is surrounded mostly by water. This is also the impression that hits one in the aerial photograph. The isthmus and not Capital Hill appears to be the centre of Canberra today.
Many people in this House tonight have for many years taken the view that the Capital Hill site was the correct site. I know of several members who have adopted this attitude and I can see them in the chamber tonight. Those who have changed their minds have done so because 1 believe they have appreciated the change in Canberra itself. They have seen 1964 go by. They have seen the planned population maximum of Canberra of 75,000 people exceeded. They have seen the changes in traffic and have also seen the projections of traffic flow for the future. With a great deal of respect, I differ from the honourable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes). I thought the honourable member’s argument was an excellent one except that it applied to the wrong site. If the arterial flow through Canberra is directed round the Capital Hill as the central point, in the years to come traffic flow of unprecedented density will occur around that site. To argue that there is a restriction in the ability of traffic to flow around the lake site is, in my humble view, and contrary to the argument put forward by the honourable member for Chisholm, totally unreal. The lake nile is an area where the huge density of main capital city traffic flow is not apparent. If honourable members like, it would be a quieter area. This area would not have the noises created by buses, trucks and com,merce. Indeed, in my view we would have an area that not only would be the focal point but would also be the symbolic centre of Canberra as such.
The honourable member for Chisholm also spoke about the dangers associated with flooding in the future. This happens to be a point that I took up at some length on the Committee. We demanded further figures and further proof in the form of random sampling of figures to determine the likelihood of floods. I think anyone who has taken the trouble to have a look at the levels of flooding over various years must be impressed by the figures put forward. They must be impressed by the probability indicated by those figures. That is not to say that it is impossible to imagine that at some time in the future flooding will occur, but if it does great areas of Canberra and of the land surrounding Canberra will also be flooded. To sum up, it is not a realistic proposition. If it were realistic, the honourable member for Wills would not be as pleased as he is about the opening today of the National Library. It is in the same situation. Its basement will be used to store valuable documents. It is an unreal proposition and is an attempt to use a fringe argument to shoot down a magnificent concept. I do not for one minute seek to deny that they are both extremely good sites, but the progress and expansion of Canberra has had a lot more effect on the Capital Hill site than it has had on the alternative site.
I have noticed that there has been a certain amount of loose thinking about the required area of the site. I agree with the honourable member for Wills in his claim that we must make provision for proper space and light. I think that was the withered phrase he used. It is good thinking. But what is the position today? The area occupied by this House is 6.5 acres. The surrounding gardens take the total area to 20.5 acres. The area available on Capital Hill as a site for a new Parliament House is approximately 135 acres. Competent experts have informed me that it would be necessary to build an inner ring road around the site to cope with the arterial flow of traffic to and from the new Parliament House, focusing at that point on Capital Hill. In that event there would not be 135 acres but 85 acres available for the new Parliament House. However, that still would be ample room.
The site available at the lake shore extends for about 47 acres. It is easy to fall into the trap of comparing that with a full scale site on Capital Hill, without worrying about an inner ring road. Let us look at it another way. The site on the shore of Lake Burley Griffin provides a surface area nine times as great as that occupied by this House, not taking into account the wing on either side. T trust that no honourable member would think it realistic to plan for the future a Parliament House covering nine times the area of this building. A Parliament House two and onehalf times as large as this building would probably be as large as any government would be likely to wish to build in years to come. There is ample area at the lake shore site to provide for gardens equivalent to those surrounding this building. This is the correct comparison to make, not that of a hilly block as being marginally bigger than a flat block. I would like to think that honourable members have taken note of that point.
I wish to raise two more points. The first point is of some importance. If we aim to act responsibly and to make sure that the new building is the right one, we must have ample opportunity to obtain the advice of competent architects throughout the world. We must be sure before a final decision is made that the world’s best architects are given an opportunity to submit architectural plans and designs. We must explore every avenue and make sure that the best methods are brought to bear in building the new Parliament House.
If it is decided to build on the Capital Hill site it will be necessary to erect a building corresponding to a medium sized skyscraper. It will be necessary to go for height. If it is decided to build on the lake shore it will not be so important to go for height. This afternoon at the opening of the National Library I met a very competent architect who is a former Lord Mayor of Adelaide. I put to him my view as to the height of the new building and asked him for his assessment of the possible degree of elasticity of architectural design. I asked him to tell me to what degree the design of the new Parliament House would be limited if it were to be built on Capital Hill. He said that in his view it would involve a considerable limitation of architectural possibilities. I put it to honourable members that we should include all possibilities in our consideration if we are to achieve the best possible result. If we are to allow for 100% variability for the best possible architectural designs, to be judged after a worldwide competition, I submit that we must vote for the lake site. Otherwise we will inhibit the imagination, vital drive and performance that architects wish to bring to bear in such a worldwide competition.
I do not think it would be worthwhile to repeat again and again the arguments as to how much of Capital Hill1 would need to be excavated. Such matters have been covered adequately. However, I point out to the honourable member for Wills that if he wishes to see erected a Parliament House to which people can come to demonstrate, he should vote to provide them with an area where they may feel they can meet members of this Parliament on equal terms. In that case he would not want to have the demonstrators going to Capital Hill where they would be forced to look up at the clouds with the feeling of awe that would be inspired in them if the honourable member chanced to be coming out of Parliament House at that time. For over 18 months the honourable member for Wills has strongly put to the Committee as the best of his arguments the suggestion that the people should be made to feel that they can demonstrate in an area outside the House on, might [ say, level ground. I ask honourable members to take note of that particular line that the honourable member for Wills has used so often.
The final point I wish to make is that this has been a most enjoyable debate. I must admit that I have enjoyed watching the discomfiture of some honourable members as they have entered and ‘eft the chamber during the afternoon.It has been good fun. Anyone with a bit of Irish blood in him must have enjoyed the discomfiture of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), who proposed the motion, and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), who supported him, when the following fifteen speakers spoke against them. We have to take a serious decision. What we decide tonight, if the matter is decided tonight, will point the way to future planning for many generations to come. So far asI am aware, no competent authority inrecent times has spoken in favour of the Capital Hill site.
The honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) referred to the National Capital Development Commission.I hope he did not mean to imply that the executive arm of the Government was joining the NCDC in trying to steamroll their ideas through this House. It seemed to me that the arguments of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) squashed that rather amazing concept. The honourable member may honestly believe that that is the object of the Executive and the NCDC.
However, those who have had an opportunity to examine this matter thoroughly, who have really gone around the sites and studied the evidence, can take no other point of view than the one I have propounded this evening. I hope, Mr Speaker, that this is the view that the House finally will take.
– This is by far the most far reaching decision that this Federal Parliament in Canberra has ever had to make.
-Order!I realise the nonpolitical nature of this debate but at the same time I think honourable members should be prepared to listen more silently than they are listening to those people who wish to offer a point of view. I ask the House to come to order and to desist from the frivolity that is evident in this chamber.
– I listened to the honourable member for Scullin (Mr Peters) in complete silence, and then he scoffed at my first words. He was talking about a Parliament House that would cost$1 00m. which is a shocking exaggeration. Once the decision on the site is made that decision will be irrevocable. The laying of the foundations will mean the beginning of a construction which will stand for the next 400 years. That is the life of the building that the Joint Select Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House of which I was a member had in mind. It envisaged a House that would last for 400 years at least without any major alteration or extension. This is one reason why I say that the decision we make as to the site is one of the most important we have ever made. It is a decision for keeps. It cannot be changed once the Parliament House is built. No decision has been so permanent since the Parliament, away back before World War I, decided that the National Capital should be established at Canberra, astride the Molonglo River.
Now I come to my next point. I do not think it would be just or in harmony with the spirit of a free vote in both Houses if a decision on the site made in this House were to be vetoed in theSenate. I believe this would only result in delay and confusion, and it could easily happen. I submit that a decision will have to be made by the Government on this issue and I believe the fair and proper way to have a free vote of both Houses is for the total votes in both Houses to be added together. If this is not done the Senate couid make a decision by a free vote in that chamber which would completely reverse the decision made by a free votein the House of Representatives. Where would we go from there? I say it is ridiculous and a waste of good public time and our time to be debating this issue in the House of Representatives if an opposite decision is going to be made in the Senate and I urge the Government to have a good look at this aspect of the matter. A deadlock is no answer.
Many arguments have been put forward in favour of the Capital Hill site, but only two of us, apart from the two Leaders, have spoken in favour of the lake site. I am a lakesider, not a hillbilly. I should like to refute one or two statements that have been made. It was stated in the House this afternoon that Griffin favoured Capital Hill for the permanent Parliament House. He did nothing of the kind. Griffin discarded the possibility of placing Parliament House on Capital Hill because he considered that the fact that it consists of two Houses precludes making ft a focal feature. He, of course, went for Camp Hill, which is the little hill between here and Capital Hill. That proposition also has obviously been discarded because the temporary Parliament House was built on this site. I am sure, therefore, that Camp Hill cannot be considered for one minute. The other two sites, therefore, are the ones that have been occupying our minds this afternoon and tonight.
Lord Holford, of course, made a decision about this in 1957. He did not favour Capital1 Hill for the Parliament House of the future. The Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House - and this is where a lot of confusion has arisen - started meeting some time about the middle of last year, and it made a decision, first of all, about the site. It did not have to do so. This was net in the charter handed to it by the late Prime Minister, Mr Harold Holt. But the late Prime Minister, and, I think, Sir Robert Menzies, suggested that we should look at the site proposition and make a decision on it. There was no suggestion that it would carry much weight but it would at least show the opinion we had formed as to the site. We made our decision after a whole day of meeting on 28th November last year, so all1 this talk about another meeting being necessary to decide where the House is to go, simply because some of our members went overseas, is completely irrelevant. They did not go overseas to find out where we should put the Parliament House; they went overseas to find out what sort of amenities and facilities should be provided in the Parliament House. So honourable members cannot put that one over. The site decision was made by us in November of last year and we do not have to make it again. The final decision is one for the Parliament and it is not our decision at all.
Three areas are envisaged in the Parliamentary triangle. One is the Parliament zone by the lake. The second is the conference zone, which includes this House and Camp Hill behind it. The third is the historical and cultural zone on Capital Hill itself. I think one of the best perspectives one could see, looking down the axis of the triangle to the War Memorial1, would have the War
Memorial at one end, a peace memorial in some fitting form on Capital Hill at the other end, and Parliament House in a line joining these two features. We would then see the symbols of war and peace and Parliament. Parliament would be h the middle. Well, we are always jammed between the upper and nether millstones of peace and war, so it seems that this would be a good place for the Parliament House.
One honourable member suggested that the lake site would be a very good one for those of us who might advise our political opponents to go and jump in the lake. Let me give my reasons for choosing the lake site. This decision was made a couple of years ago when I was on the committee that planned the south wing extensions to this House in 1965, and nothing has happened since which would cause me to change my view. Certain information was provided for us then, and from that I formed my decision that the lake site is the best one, taking all things into consideration, including the projected 400 year life of the building. If we decided to build on Capital Hill we would first have to take the top off the hill, and once the top is removed from a hill that hill loses its significance. It would be necessary to take at least 30 to 50 feet off the hill to provide a big enough area on which to build the House, without building it out over the edges of the hill, which I think would be quite ridiculous. The second reason is this: The cost of the new building will be about $30m, spread over 5 years. The honourable member for Scullin (Mr Peters) was horrified at the thought of incurring some fabulous cost, but the planning people have estimated the cost of the sort of building we have been studying at about $30m. That amount would be spread over 5 years so that about $6m would be voted each year. But if the new Parliament House were built up on Capital Hill it would cost nearly $2m more because of the excavation and tunnelling that would be necessary on that site. The lakeside site is all ready for the Parliament House to be built. No excavation has to be done, not one square yard of earth has to be moved and not $1 has to be spent. The foundations could be laid tomorrow on the lakeside terrain.
The third reason is the most important. Capital Hill as a desirable site for Parliament House was destroyed when the present
Parliament House was built on this site between 1924 and 1927. If you go up Capital Hill and look, without prejudice and without preconceived ideas, at where this Parliament House is situated you will know in your own heart that the outlook spoils Capital Hill immediately as a site for the permanent building. This Parliament House is in the forefront of the vista from Capital Hill.
– Camp Hill, not Capital Hill.
-I think the honourable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) ought to give me a go and listen to mc even if he disagrees with every word I say. This is supposed to be a democratic Parliament where we can speak our minds whichever way we think. When we look from Capital Hill towards the War Memorial, right in the centre of the triangle we see the kitchen area and the backyard of this Parliament House. The outlook is immediately spoiled. I am not one who would suggest that we demolish this Parliament House to make the view suitable and right for a new Parliament House on Capital Hill. The people of Australia would soon dismiss any Government that initiated a move as outrageous as that. This House is a beautiful building. It is architecturally magnificent, in my opinion, from any point of view except the kitchen and backyard area. To have it. removed or destroyed would be a sin indeed. It will be used for conferences and offices once we go into the new Parliament House, which I hope will be in 1976 or 1977. But, to my mind, this place has destroyed any claim that Capital Hill once had to have the new Parliament House built upon it. Another point I want to mention is that the Capital Hill site overlooks two large hostels, Hillside Hostel and Capital Hill Hostel, to the north and south respectively. In addition the site overlooks the backyards of homes in the inner suburbs of Canberra. Also, from the National Library area, where we were today for the official opening, a new Parliament House on Capital Hill could not he seen at all.
The next thing I would like to mention is that the lakeside site is close to the new Library and the administrative buildings. A walking tunnel could be built from the new Parliament House to those buildings. But the Library would be approximately a mile away from a Parliament House on Capital Hill. Access to the hill site is not good. The ring road which has to be built will take up about 30 acres and because of the outer road around Capital Hill being used at the moment the area will always be noisy and rowdy. As the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) said a while ago the volume of traffic around Capital Hill will increase as the years go by. So the constant roar of traffic will be all around. This is a very significant consideration when determining the site for a parliament house. Noise is not conducive to concentration. In this respect the lake site is far superior. It is secluded and quiet. The two bridges across the lake are to either side and are well away from the site. These two bridges carry the main traffic flow across the lake. The new House site is directly between the bridges but well away from the main traffic lanes. This is very important.
The area of the two sites has been bandied about too. There are 80 acres at the lakeside site and 85 acres at the hill site when the area for the ring road and other excavations is substracted. Mr Roberts, in his statement, said:
A major transportation study has established that the Parliamentary area can be isolated–
That is the one down near the lake - from noise and traffic congestion and at the same time provide ready access to the Parliament and to its supporting buildings for senators and members, office workers and for the large number of visitors to the area.
I do not think the Capital Hill site would be suitable for the public. Pensioners would have to walk up a hill to Parliament House. A lot of people would be walking to the place and not travelling by motor car. These people would be affected quite a lot.
– How would the senators get up there?
– Yes. They would not have a hope. I think the hill would be too steep also for the mass public rallies that we can expect in a free country. At the lakeside site there are plenty of areas for demonstrations. Honourable members should remember that the new building will have to be from four to six times the size of the present Parliament House and that we are planning for a structure to last 400 years or longer. I hope that the members will finally decide that the site for the new Parliament House shall be at the lake.
- Mr Speaker, before the sitting was suspended, the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) made reference to a meeting that he said was hurriedly called at 9.30 p.m. last Tuesday. 1 am afraid that his remarks tended to give the impression that this was some furtive kind of arrangement and that some members of the Australian Labor Party did not have the opportunity to go to the meeting. I think that the opportunity should be taken to correct this impression if it be lingering still in the mind of any honourable member. In point of fact, all members of the Joint Select Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House were notified of the meeting. If one or two Opposition members were unable to go, certainly that was unfortunate. But to my certain knowledge, the Secretary of the Committee sent a notice to every member of it. The purpose of the meeting simply was to obtain the permission of the members of the Joint Select Committee to release information about a certain part of its discussions. As honourable members well know, it would be contrary to Standing Orders for anybody associated with a joint select committee to do this unless approval was first obtained from that committee.
I would have preferred the debate on the site of the new and permanent Parliament House to have been postponed, if this had been felt practicable, for a little longer. I have the honour to be a member of the Joint Select Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House. 1 was fortunate to be one of the members of that Committee who went overseas recently to see other parliament buildings. I would have preferred the debate to be held later in this session so that the debate on the site might have been linked with the general debate on the report to be tendered to this Parliament by that Joint Select Committee. I believe that wc would have had a better framework within which to concentrate our thoughts in this debate. The discussion would not have tended to be rather onesided, as I feel this debate has been - in a sense, though perhaps not in the full context - in the minds of some honourable members. This afternoon I thought that there was a degree of subjectivity in approach rather than a degree of objectivity. This was a pity because it showed too great a tendency on the part of some honourable members to rush into the debate without having taken the opportunity of studying with some degree of care the papers that had been circulated to all honourable members yesterday.
I regret very much also the criticisms of the National Capital Development Commission that were made this afternoon by certain honourable members. I feel that this charge of bias against the Commission, alleging that it is in favour of the lakeside site, is most unfair. It is incorrect; 1 believe that it is totally unjustified and I reject it. I believe that the analysis that has been submitted by the Commission results from a vast amount of careful and objective thought and work and planning by the senior officers concerned over a considerable period. There is nothing whatsoever in any of the discussions with senior officers of the Commission that 1 have heard as a member of the Joint Select Committee, nor is there anything, I believe, in any of the papers that have been circulated to us for the purpose of this debate, to suggest other than a high degree of ability and of objectivity on the part of the officers who have presented these papers for our guidance. Needless to say, the members of the National Capital Development Commission who have been given this task are men highly qualified and eminently suitable for the joh that they have been given.
I agree wholeheartedly with my colleague, the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles), who spoke a short time ago in this debate, concerning the concept of this project as seen from an elevation on the other side of Lake Burley Griffin. The members of the Joint Select Committee had the advantage of making ground inspections. I feel that this is necessary for any honourable member who wishes to see the whole picture. From an elevation on the other side of the lake, it appeared that a building on the Capital Hill site would be sitting right on top of the present Parliament House. That would not be a very pleasing architectural feature of the landscape. Looking at this area from an elevated site on the other side of Lake Burley Griffin, we had the impression that the lakeside site was the most obvious and central topographically suitable site for the new and permanent Parliament House.
Mr Speaker, I would have thought that a debate in which honourable members will be allowed to vote according to their consciences would have been free from interruptions by honourable members. I am astonished that certain senior honourable members for whom I have the highest and most profound respect have seen fit to make constant criticism of other honourable members while those other honourable members have been speaking in this debate. I think that this is deplorable.
One honourable member - I do not wish to name him, because I do not wish to criticise any honourable member by name - speaking before the sitting was suspended made the statement that Capital Hill was originally chosen, as the site of the permanent Parliament House by Walter Burley Griffin, the designer whose plan for Canberra and its subsequent development was accepted. Even a superficial study of the papers that have been circulated to us would demonstrate the fallacy of that statement. It serves only to underline what I said earlier. Many of the fifteen or so speakers who have taken part in the debate today - I exclude the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) - 1 am afraid did not take the trouble to study their brief very carefully; otherwise some of the fallacious statements that I have heard would not have been made.
The plain fact is that the papers reveal that Burley Griffin specifically discarded the concept of the Capital Hill site. I need not elaborate on that point. I do not propose to take time to do so. It is all in the papers. I agree very much with the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) who, speaking before me in this debate, pointed out what the members of the Committee observed in certain places overseas. This is that in planning a building on a certain eminence one must be very careful that it is so constructed and so placed that it will not be looking down on the roofs of adjoining buildings or of adjoining houses. That point, I felt, was well taken by the honourable member for Wilmot. As I listened to him, my mind went back to a certain part of Geneva where we had brought home to us the undesirability of having the new Parlia ment House so sited that from it people would be looking down on flat roofs, kitchens or some other architectural features that were not very pleasing to the eye. I think that the aesthetic side as well as the practical side of the matter is very important in these considerations.
I come back for a moment to Walter Burley Griffin. Most of the development of Canberra has been in accordance with his original concept of the capital. Camp Hill, of course, was his choice for the permanent Parliament House. But it does not need an in situ inspection of Camp Hill to bring home to one the fact that that hill must be ruled out straightaway. Camp Hill, as all honourable members know, is the hill immediately behind the present Parliament House. Trie only way in which Camp Hill could be utilised as a site for the permanent Parliament House would be by the demolition of the present Parliament House. That, of course, would be totally wasteful and undesirable. Nobody would agree with such action.-
I believe that not enough emphasis has been placed on the importance, aesthetically and otherwise, of Lake Burley Griffin. Reference has been made to the fact that the Senate Select Committee which was appointed in 1955 to report on the development of Canberra, and which presented its report in 1957. came down in favour of the site on Capital Hill. But we must not overlook the fact that in those days Lake Burley Griffin had not taken shape. The lake was not there. Instead there was a rather unpleasant hollow which used to become flooded when there was heavy rain. As you will remember, Mr Speaker, the north side of Canberra was isolated from the south side of Canberra on those occasions. Now we have not only a very fine and expansive lake which is a beautiful feature of Canberra but also two very fine bridges - Commonwealth Avenue Bridge and Kings Avenue Bridge.
Reference has also been made to Lord Holford. 1 regret very much that one or two honourable members who referred to him did so in what seemed to me to be somewhat .derisive terms. This was a pity and was wrong. My understanding is that Sir William Holford, as he was at the time he was first consulted by the Government in 1957 or 1958, is regarded as one of the most eminent town planners in the world. One or two of the senior members of our Committee were privileged to have talks with him again in London while the Committee was there recently. Speaking of the possible site on Capital Hill for a new Parliament House, Lord Holford said:
Symbolically and actually it is completely out of place.
I as a layman am prone to take a good deal of notice of professional men, particularly eminent professional men, who make such positive statements as that when dealing with their own field. I am influenced by the thoughts, the experience and superior knowledge, technical and practical, of men of the standing of Lord Holford and others who have made statements regarding the new Parliament House.
The Committee was given a lot of advice, but it is not for me to go into that or to anticipate points that will ultimately be included in the report of the Committee. Suffice it for me to say that I am completely satisfied that the lakeside site is the practical and aesthetic site having regard to all considerations. I know it is not possible to please everybody. That is just one of the facts of life. But it is wrong for honourable members, as one or two did this afternoon, to throw cold water over the comparison of sites that was prepared by the National Capital Development Commission and tabled, I understand, by the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon). It is a very careful, brilliant and objective analysis snowing a comparison of the Capital HJH site and the lakeside site under the appropriate headings, such as Area. Much has been said about area. 1 think my friend the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) is a little hard to please if he cannot be satisfied with the 85 acres that will still be within the inner ring. He would be hard to please if he were npt satisfied with the 47 acres between King Edward Terrace and the lake or the 75 acres between King George Terrace and the lake. To be critical of the amount of space available on either site is to be a little bit over particular, having regard to the number of acres and the coverage of the present Parliament House, including the ancillary services, such as the tennis courts.
I will not go right through the analysis, but 1 do beg honourable members who have not already done so to apply their minds to the comparative table. It is a comparison of the Capital Hill site and the lakeside site under such headings as area, foundations, physical conditions and traffic flow. Something has already been said about traffic flow. I have heard and read enough to convince me that in relation to traffic the lakeside site is the better site in the long term. Access has already been mentioned and this is dealt with in specific terms in the analysis. Parking is another very important aspect for consideration. Underground parking must be a big feature and obviously underground parking under the Capital Hill site would be very much more costly and very much more difficult than it would be under the lakeside site.
Under the heading ‘Siting’, as honourable members will see, reference is made to prominence of the building and to future expansion, which is of basic and critical importance. It seems to me on the facts as I see them here that future expansion is much easier and much more likely to take place on the lakeside site than on the Capital Hill site. The honourable member for Wills quite rightly stressed in his remarks that in many places overseas we were told that the authorities wished that they had more room, that they had planned in a larger way and that they had taken a longer view. I agree with him on this. But I do not agree with him that the Capital Hill site provides more scope for future expansion than the lakeside site does. I believe that the reverse is true. Then, of course, there is the question of ceremonial occasions, of public ceremonies. Crowds of people will want to attend and approach Parliament House. The landscape is another factor. This is all set out in great detail and, I believe, with great objectivity. I repeat that this analysis has been prepared most carefully and most objectively by the National Capital Development Commission.
This is a unique situation. We have the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition completely at one on the proposition that is before the Parliament. Many honourable members on either side who normally are quite diametrically opposed to each other in most debates are in agreement now. I conclude by appealing to those honourable members who have not yet bent their minds to a real study of the papers and in particular of the comparisons of sites to make an objective analysis and to vote objectively according to their consciences and not emotionally or speculatively when the time comes, as I believe it will on Tuesday next.
– The tenor of this debate so far would seem to indicate that the lakesiders are a bit uphill. The great majority of honourable members who have spoken favour the site on Capital Hill. I believe that a much less vocal vote is ranged behind the views expressed by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). There certainly is no urgency about a decision to build a new Parliament House. The present building can be made satisfactory for the purposes of the Parliament for another 20 or 25 years. There is no real need at present for a new Parliament House. In fact I would envisage the construction of the new building being put in hand during the lifetime of the first Daly Ministry and at that time I will be graciously pleased to send a message to Mr Speaker recommending an appropriation of revenue for the purposes of legislation authorising the construction of the new building.
I find it hard to understand why so much heat has been generated in this debate. It seems to me that those favouring the Capital Hill site and those favouring the lakeside site have, in a phrase, gone at it hammer and tongs, and 1 cannot really see why so much heat should be generated. I am also intrigued to know how the Parliament will resolve the question that is before it. As has been mentioned by the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie), if, as seems likely, this House votes for the lakeside site and the Senate votes for the Capital Hill site, how will the question be resolved? Does it become then a matter for Government decision or do we have a joint meeting of the two Houses to resolve the question with another free vote? This is an aspect towards which the Prime Minister and members of his Cabinet will have to direct their attention, because the distinct possibility is that the two Houses will be at variance on the views they reach in a free vote in the two chambers and the question will be: How is the problem resolved? The question is one that has to be solved by members voting individually in accordance with the decisions that they have arrived at on the evidence that has been placed before them and, to some extent no doubt, on the arguments that they have heard advanced in this chamber. It is not my purpose to seek to persuade anyone to vote as I propose to vote. 1 think that all of us arc quite capable of assessing the evidence that has been placed abundantly before us. This matter has not just suddenly arisen. It has been under discussion in this place for years. It has been a common topic of conversation among members and senators over a long time. The arguments for and against the two sites that we are now discussing have been very well put before the Parliament and every member has an opportunity of making up his mind. I have certainly studied everything I can find on this question.
I have lived in this city for some 22 years and have worked within this building for 20 years. I have looked at the sites and 1 come down very firmly on the site by the lakeside. As far as I can assess from what has been put before me this site is the most suitable for the establishment of a new Parliament House if and when such a new Parliament House has to be built. But while clearly there is no urgency about the building of a new Parliament House, there is urgency about determining the site on which it will be erected when a decision is made to build, because quite obviously until a decision is made no use can be made of the alternative site - the one that is rejected by the Parliament. The National Capital Development Commission must have a decision from this Parliament if a site is to be reserved for the construction of a new Parliament House so that it may proceed with the plans for the development of the other site.
I am not recognised in this city as one who automatically or readily agrees with the National Capital Development Commission. I am in frequent contact with the Commissioners and with the senior officers of the Commission. On committees of this Parliament on which I sit I have had both the Commissioners and the senior officers giving evidence, supplying information and answering the questions of committee members. I have had experience of the way in which these gentlemen have put their evidence forward to committees. Before committees on which I sit, the National Capital Development Commission, on the proposed siting of a new Parliament House, has put evidence completely impartially. Its representatives have put forward all factors affecting the Capital Hill site and all factors affecting the site on the lake’s edge, weighing those for and against in relation to both sites. Under questioning the Commission’s representatives have indicated that they favour the lakeside site but the evidence that they have put forward, and which has been referred to by other speakers in this debate, has been put forward fully, fairly and completely impartially. I personally deprecate any suggestion that the National Capital Development Commission is trying to railroad any decision through this Parliament or over the heads of Ministers.
I do not want to take any more time than this. 1 do not propose to try to convert anybody from a belief that the Capital Hill site is the best to a belief that the site by the lake is the best. 1 believe that I should state my own view. From what I have seen, from the evidence I have been able to study, and from the opinions I have heard expressed by men who are expert in their field, 1 believe that the lakeside site is the most suitable. Strangely enough this question has not aroused any great controversy or any great discussion in the community of Canberra itself. This rather surprises me. I have not had representations from one constituent on this vital question of the siting of the new Parliament House. That may seem strange in a community which lives with government and which is prone to seek opportunities to criticise and to criticise when opportunities present themselves. There have been occasional letters in the ‘Canberra Times’ and expressions of opinion have been voiced on the radio and television but I think they probably have cancelled each other out. Certainly I can detect nothing in this community which comes down on one side or the other. As I say, 1 am rather surprised that in this community the residents have not been more vocal on this particular question. It may be that they have a lack of interest in the siting of the new Parliament House - a lack of interest, in general in the community. However, I hope that whatever this House decides it will be matched by a decision in the Senate because 1 foresee all sorts of difficulty if this House decides, as I believe it will decide, on the lakeside site, and the Senate decides, as I believe it will decide, on the Capital Hill site. In those circumstances wise government would say: ‘All right, the question for the time being is buried and we will not touch it for 20 years’.
– Like a number of previous speakers I am in no hurry to leave this particular building. I think it is a most attractive structure with a very distinctive personality of its own. It has become a landmark and it is a place that many honourable members would bc reluctant to leave for various reasons. However we must face the fact that it is now obsolescent. It is less able to fulfil the tusks required of it and the time will come when it will become inadequate. 1 think it should be made quite plain that honourable members are now making the initial decision as to where a new Parliament House will be constructed when it is needed. We have in our possession a document very kindly supplied by the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) which purports to be a fair comparison between the two sites - the Capital Hill site and the lakeside site. I must admit that I am fully in agreement with the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) when he said that the points in this document have been directed towards a certain end. They are slanted and flavoured and not completely objective. I draw attention to paragraph 4 of the table of comparisons. This paragraph relates to physical conditions. The author is very fair in his comments on flooding because he says that flooding will be no problem on Capital Hill. However when the matter of exposure is considered we read, about Capital Hill:
Exposed - Subjected to unimpeded winds - Bleak.
One immediately conjures up the impression of some parliamentary ‘Wuthering Heights’ with lightning flashing, sleet swirling around and windows and shutters rattling. T believe this is coloured language and that it indicates a desire on the part of the person who prepared this document to persuade in a particular direction the people who read if. ft is definitely not an objective document, and 1 think we should recognise this.
Therefore, from the outset I should like to say that I favour the Hill. It is very interesting to note that the original hill party was a rather heterogeneous group, but it did prevail over the people of the plain and I will not be at all surprised if history does not repeat itself on this occasion. But let us consider the basic factors involved in making a decision. I believe they are threefold. Firstly, and not least importantly, there is the symbolism of the thing; secondly, there is the practicability of the respective designs; and, thirdly, and also very importantly, there is the aesthetics of the two concepts. Firstly, in regard to symbolism, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) made the point that we as parliamentarians should be on a level with the people of this city. But I do not believe that this is correct thinking. As a matter Of fact the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) very - rapidly pointed out that most of the people in Canberra live on a higher level than Parliament House in any event and this removes the point of that concept. We are not, in fact, considering the members of Parliament. I think we would be very naive if we imagined that we were not on the same level as our constituents. Australia is now a very sophisticated country and we are fully aware that our place is not one whit higher than that of our constituents. But we must agree that the vast majority of the people of Australia put the concept of a free parliamentary democracy on something of a pinnacle. It would be correct symbolism to place the parliamentary buildings, in a relatively elevated position. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) said that it was very fitting that we have the courts of law and the National Library on either side of the Parliament House but I still believe that the concept of a free Parliament should be on a higher plane than this.
Aesthetically it would be most unfortunate unduly to clutter the area around the lake. Today the Prime Minister opened the National Library, which is sited on the lakeside, lt is one of the most beautiful buildings in Canberra, lt would be a pity if such a magnificent building were not allowed to stand on it own and thus show to advantage. The buildings surrounding the proposed lakeside site are all fairly high and if a parliamentary building sited on the lakeside were to be seen from anywhere south of the lake it would need to be a very tall building. Perhaps it could be seen from the other side of the lake. Finally it has been suggested that a museum could be erected on Capital Hill. It would be a rather grim bit of symbolism to have a museum dominating this city. This would be a false concept.
Now let us consider the relative practicality of the two sites. We have been told that to enable adequate construction to take place Capital Hill would have to be lowered 70 feet. No-one will convince me that Capital Hill would need to be lowered to this extent. If you examine a contour plan of Capital Hill you see that at most 25 ft of earth would need to be removed from the top. Having regard to modern engineering techniques, 1 would be surprised if much of the hill at all had to be removed. Today’s earthmoving techniques are very sophisticated. We constantly see earth being moved from point A to point B in Canberra. One suspects that it is then returned on occasions to point A. However, it is obvious that earthmoving techniques are adequate to cope with any’ problem that may arise. If it were necessary there would be no difficulty in removing soil from the top of Capital Hill, but 1 honestly do not believe that this would be necessary. Modern building techniques would be quite capable of handling the construction of a Parliament House on Capital Hill.
Access to the area has been mentioned. Traffic engineering is at a pretty advanced stage. I do not think this matter would present any problem in the Capital Hill site, lt would take a lot to convince me that access to three sides of a rectangle, which you would have on the lakeside, would present Jess of a problem than access to a complete circle. Bear in mind that a great deal of space near the lakeside site would be occupied not only by buildings but also by a great rash of car parking areas.
Traffic noise has been referred to. Those who favour the lakeside site and who seek to bolster their argument by pointing to traffic noise have completely overlooked the fact that in the vast majority of cases traffic noise is propagated horizontally. Traffic noise does not tend to rise vertically nearly as much as it spreads horizontally.
So, a building erected on the same level as traffic would be subjected to more noise than a building on an elevated site, particularly as the area beside the lake will be subject to heavy traffic density - at least as dense as the area around Capital Hill. In any event, the argument about traffic noise is largely a specious one for the simple reason that most buildings are now constructed in such a way that traffic cannot be heard from within the building. So we can ignore the argument about traffic noise being a factor. At least the Capital Hill site will be a little higher above traffic fumes and the Canberra fog which, as the honourable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) pointed out, is very dense around the lake, particularly at this time of the year.
We should be very careful in examining the recommendations of planning experts. They are good servants, but they can be bad masters. I think that on this occasion they have not taken a sufficiently lofty view of the problem which they were considering. It would be a pity if the area by the lakeside were to be cluttered with too many buildings, none of which will show to great advantage.
Let me say a few words about aesthetics. I refer firstly to the original concept of Walter Burley Griffin. The honourable member for Ryan (Mr Drury) pointed out that the Capital Hill site is not Burley Griffin’s original concept. This is true, but his concept was for an elevated position, not far from the Capital Hill site. I think we can say that basically the proposal to build on Capital Hill does not deviate greatly from Burley Griffin’s original design, whereas to build on the lakeside site would deviate very considerably from Burley Griffin’s original design. The vista which we have from our present building across to the Australian War Memorial would be destroyed if a building were erected on the lakeside site. This unimpeded vista across the lake to the War Memorial was one of Burley Griffin’s original concepts. The present view of Parliament House from the north side of the lake, with the back drop of Capital Hill, is very beautiful. I derive considerable pleasure from it and would be surprised if others also did not derive considerable pleasure from it. If Capital Hill were surmounted with a sufficiently well designed building and landscaped adequately with pleasant parks and gardens it would be a site to inspire the overseas visitor as well as Australians. It would be a site most attractive to the viewer. So I think there is everything to be said for the Capital Hill site from the point of view of aesthetics.
The possibilities in utilising the top of the hill are boundless. Somebody said that a building on Capital Hill would look into private backyards but he overlooked the fact that the diameter of Capital Hill is about half a mile. Moreover, there is no dense housing in the immediate vicinity. Most of the housing nearby is of very high quality, and there would not be many unsightly backyards near Capital Hill, assuming that any could be seen. The overall panorama from the top of Capital Hill is most magnificent. As the honorable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) eloquently pointed out, from the top of Capital Hill one can look for many miles across the beautiful hills and valleys of our native countryside. A glorious perspective will be lost to us if we are short-sighted in this matter and camp on the rather more fuggy area beside the lake. From every aspect there is everything to be said for the site on Capital Hill - from the point of view of symbolism and from the point of view of practicality, bearing in mind modern techniques. Aesthetically the hill wins every time over the lakeside. I trust that the House will consider this matter in the light of my remarks.
– In its report on the development of the central area of Canberra, including aspects related to the new Parliament House, the National Capital Development Commission pointed out that Walter Burley Griffin most peculiarly decided that there should bc a capitol on Capital Hill, but a capitol in American terminology usually means the National Congress or a State Congress. Burley Griffin apparently meant Capital Hill to be a place for an historical museum. Nevertheless, if you examine the map accompanying the report you will see that everything converges on Capital Hill. Every road and the bridges present vistas leading to the site of Burley Griffin’s capitol, which was not part of the parliamentary buildings.
I think his reason for rejecting Capital Hill because Parliament had two Houses is one of the strangest reasons. What does it matter if the Senate and the House of Representatives both have to be housed in the Capitol?
The honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) spoke about an architect friend of his who said that if we have a building on a hill site is must be a semi-skyscraper. There is no doubt that what Burley Griffin had in mind was something like the Capitol iti Washington. Personally I cannot see any reason why it has to be in this modern box type architecture that architects seem to be unable to escape from today.. Why can it not be a building of commanding height which is not a match box with holes in it? In other words, we could have a classic style of building such as the Americans have in the Greek style in their Capitol.
The honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) came back to a very strange reason, as some others did, in favour of the lake site. I am not going to condemn the lake site because of what he said, but he said that we wanted a place where demonstrators, 100,000 strong, could demonstrate outside Parliament. Do we want Parliament legislating under the pressure of mobs? If we do then we should do something about the internal design. We should make it like the French National Assembly was in French revolutionary days, with howling mobs of Jacobins screaming down at the Girondists on the floor of the Assembly, and we could call it direct democracy with people legislating under pressure. I do not say that this suggestion condemns the lake site, but it is an odd sort of reason for the honourable member for Wilmot to advance.
I think there is not the slightest doubt that the choice of the lake site is a complete shift in concept. I have not the competence or the impertinence to criticise the technical knowledge of the National Capital Development Commission, but this question of site does not rest upon technical knowledge. Officers of the Commission have absolutely a civil service concept of the Parliament and so they put it down on the lake alongside the Treasury buildings, alongside the High Court and alongside the National Library as one building in a group. It is time that it was explained to them that absurd though Canberra may be, absurd as might have been the decision that we were going to create an artificial capital, the decision was made and the capital was made for the Parliament. Parliament was not made for the City of Canberra; the City of Canberra was made for the Parliament. The whole of Griffin’s concept, whether he shifted it forward to Camp Hill from Capital Hill, or whether it remained on Capital Hill, was that it should be a focal point of the whole city. But the whole struggle- of this civil service concept is to get the Parliament down among a lot of other buildings. This is why I reject the idea of the lake site.
What are we sitting in today? Some have suggested that this is a fine building. I have nothing against it. Sir Robert Menzies used to say that it was reminiscent of a chocolate factory. I do not agree with him. I think it is quite a good building, but it is a monument to the perpetual half measure Crown colony mentality which prevailed in the Bruce Page Government, the sort of thing that set a Minister in that Government. Hughes, denouncing Canada in his book ‘The Splendid Adventure’ because Canada had appointed an Ambassador to Washington. Hughes said that this was breaking up the Empire. That was the whole concept behind their Government, and, if I may say so, the honourable member for Scullin (Mr Peters) reflected that concept today. It is a concept which means that Australia cannot have a good building and that we must be colonial and shrunken. Although the honourable member is an apostle of radical finance, he says that a good housing scheme and a good parliament house are alternatives and that we cannot have both.
– I did not.
– The honourable member said that if we build a good parliament house then his constituents down in Richmond would not get good houses or slum clearance. I am all for slum clearance everywhere. 1 do not believe for 10 seconds that building a decent House of Parliament here would stop a government from engaging in slum clearance too. 1 think it is completely false to put these things up in juxtaposition as alternatives. They are not alternatives.
– The honourable member is off the subject.
– Of course he is off the subject.
– I am answering the contention that we should not spend large sums of money on a parliament house. I do not expect to be in Parliament when this new Parliament House is built. But 1 do strongly believe that the Australian people, having repeatedly insisted that the capital of Australia should not be in Sydney or Melbourne and constitutionally requiring the commonwealth Government to build a national capital, should get what they have asked for over a period of time. I do not believe that the Australian people today go crawling round with this colonial mentality that everything should be second-rate. It was quite disastrous that the Bruce-Page Government did not have the imagination to build a permanent parliament house adequately. That Government put up what we find in our Australian experience is a temporary building that goes on lasting like the New South Wales Parliament House or the New South Wales Legislative Council.
Of course, I can understand that we can all become tremendously attached to an inadequate building. I suppose that over a period of time the Parliament will be enlarged and it will need more and more facilities. Members of Parliament sat in this chamber in the days when a typewriter was regarded as a revolutionary piece of equipment. They used to sit down and write their answers by hand. That was the concept people had in those days, lt was certainly economical. Nobody was employed. We spent nothing on anything. We all sat round with unutilised resources and that was called economy. This kind of concept, I think, is underlying the beliefs of those who oppose the construction of a new and adequate parliament house. For all I know, future members of Parliament might sit with computers alongside them. They might feed information into the computers and obtain valid answers. There are some who suggest that members of Parliament should be abolished and each constituency be represented by computer, into which information would be fed and it would come up with the right answers. But whatever happens, the Parliament House that we are now occupying has facilities which were inconceivable by the Parliament of 1901.
The honourable member for Scullin talked about the present Parliament House being a better building than any State Parliament, lt is not a better building than the Parliament House of Adelaide or the Parliament House of Western Australia. It is certainly not a better building than the Parliament House of Victoria. When 1 consider that small communities built edifices such as St Mary’s Cathedral and St Andrew’s Cathedra] in Sydney, and the Parliament House in Melbourne which rose up as a magnificent structure in Greek classical style among a lot of poor buildings, I find that the contrast between the generosity of those small communities and the meanness that developed in some of their successors in much richer communities is very startling. If we as a community spent the proportion of our resources that the colony of Victoria spent on its Parliament House, we would not get an Opera House at a cost of SI 00m; we would get a Parliament House worth about S200m. The resources of the community put up that Parliament House in Victoria - a building which was adequate to be the national Parliament of Australia for 27 years and could again adequately hold the national Parliament of Australia for another 27 years if the decision had not been made between 1925 and 1927 to move to Canberra. 1 hope that something grand will be placed on the lakeside site, but I think it is absolutely absurd to have a Parliament down by the lake and to have every vista going to some other sort of building - a state pavilion or a folk museum as has-been suggested - with all the converging lines of bridges, and everything else going on in a relevance that was never even thought of when the city was originally designed.
I say that this plan of Griffin’s with circles joined by the lines of the bridges and nearly all the other streets to other concentric circles or octagonal shapes, clearly showed where he intended to put the Parliament. And it was not down alongside the lake. I think the lake conception is the lesser conception. As soon as it was proposed, we heard explanations. We heard it was linked with the British tradition where Queen Elizabeth the First used to travel in a barge from the Tower of London to the Parliament of Westminster to open it and it was suggested that the GovernorGeneral was going to come round the lake in a barge to open the Parliament in Canberra.
Then, as the honourable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) said, there is the idea that just as in the Parliament of Westminster members are able to entertain their constituents on the terrace and have afternoon tea overlooking the waters of the Thames, so we should be able to entertain our constituents on the terrace and have afternoon tea overlooking the waters of the lake. The lake was clearly designed to be an ornamental feature. It was not designed to be the site of the Parliament. It may be true to say that Griffin shifted his concept to Camp Hill, but that was not a radical departure from the original concept. His reason for shifting it is quite strange. There were two Houses, and he therefore apparently seemed to imagine that there must be two buildings. There is not any reason that I can see why the Senate and the House of Representatives should not be on different floors, so there is no reason for the building to present the dispersal that he appeared to fear.
I strongly favour the retention of the logical position of the Parliament. It should be at the focal point of the converging lines of the city, on a commanding site visible along every major vista.
– We have heard a great number of views tonight, some of which have been expressed with more vehemence than others. I rise to participate in the debate hoping that there will not be much heat engendered by what I have to say because, in some respects, the violence which I have heard tonight reminds me of the Lilliputians who went to war over whether an egg should be opened at the big end or the little end.
I agree that we have two magnificent sites on which to build the Parliament House for the future. What I want to give to this House tonight is not so much a strong personal view, although I have a view, but part of my experience at a time when I was Minister for the Interior. I had the honour to be the Minister in 1958 when Lord Holford was completing his report and the National Capital Development Commission was setting forth on its task. For 5 years thereafter 1 had the honour to work very closely in association not only with the National Capital Development Commission but also with the very many architects, designers and other people who you might say had a true sense of judgment and of aesthetic values in relation to the development of the national capital. I refer particularly to the National Capital Planning Committee, which is not well known in the city but which plays a very important part in relation to the planning undertaken by the National Capital Development Commission and which is widely representative of what I believe is a very high capacity in skill and aesthetic appreciation in the Australian community. Those remarks will present the background to what the House will hear from me.
Over the years, in spite of the scorn that has been poured out on planners by some speakers, the Commission has done a magnificent job. In no area has its effectiveness been expressed better than in the quite remarkable development that has taken place in the central triangle of the city. Planners have been scorned as being just public servants who make a mess of things. What are we doing tonight? We are deciding on a site. We do not intend - at least I do not think it is intended - to set about building the new Parliament House in the near future. Most honourable members who have already spoken apparently would be quite content with this building for a long time. It is agreed that a decision on the site of the future Parliament House must be reached. Why? Presumably so that the planners can make a mess of their surroundings, if one judges by what one hears about the planners and their misdeeds. I put it to the House that, so far as the central triangle in Canberra has been planned and developed to date, we have a magnificent area as the centre of the National Capital.
All the original alternative concepts of the site for a permanent Parliament house went by the board in 1927 when this building was opened. Up to that time Camp Hill had been accepted as the proper site. I do not think there was very much doubt about it. The Parliamentary Public Works
Committee in 1923 supported Burley Griffin’s view that Camp Hill was to be the ultimate site. That idea ended in 1927 when this building was opened, as it presents a permanent obstruction to the use of a site on Camp Hill. Nobody pretends that it will not be a permanent obstruction. Let us look at what happened after 1927; I think it is important. We all have prejudices and personal feelings about this. We are deciding, as several speakers have remarked, for future generations. Not many members of this Parliament will sit in the new Parliament House. We have to have regard not only for our own likes, dislikes and prejudices; if we have any respect at all for the people who have achieved something in this community, we must look at the views of experts.
In 1955 the Senate Select Committee chose the site on Capital Hill - there is no doubt about that - in spite of the fact that there was a minority report opposed to that site, lt must be conceded that that Committee did not have before it the sight of a lake in existence or of the development of the central triangle to the present stage. Those of us who were here not so many years ago will remember what a dreadful, dreary wilderness there was in the middle of the city when the old Commonwealth Avenue bridge was the only bridge across the flood plain.
The present development of the central triangle and the opening up of the axis from the War Memorial through to Capital Hill have, I believe, opened up a new vision for the people of the city and of Australia. I think that in 1957 Lord Holford could see something of this. He said that the Capital Hill site was out of place symbolically and actually. His view was not accepted blindly by the National Capital Development Commission, which, as has been stated, viewed the situation objectively. After due consideration, the Commission followed Lord Holford’s view, as did the National Capital Planning Committee, which was not a committee of public servants. I make haste to point that out. The Committee is widely representative of Australian aesthetic values.
I believe that we have to pay some regard to the considerations posed by Lord Halford. He put the symbolic case that democracy depends on history and tradition; that it must grow in a climate in which it can grow; and that at all times we need to be reminded of what were its beginnings and how it has developed. I believe that in this sense symbolism is important architecturally. In old times the hilltop was the fortress of the tyrant or the temple of the gods who were to be worshipped and obeyed through the mouths of their priests. Man, working out his own destiny, met in the valleys. They were the peaceful places where men could come and go without fear of molestation and where traders and citizens could meet and talk as equals and move about freely as free men. Those were the beginnings. I hardly need to remind honourable members of the Pnyx and Agora of Athens, the old Roman Forum and many of the other old classical places of the world.
The symbolic importance of the lakeside site becomes even more significant when one considers the placing of the adjuncts to the Parliament, lt must be realised that the Parliament does not live and work in isolation or in a vacuum. It must be served by servants as well as by its members. 1 thought my colleague, the honourable member for Bowman (Dr Gibbs), would have had some sense of the real anatomy of the living heart of a system that needs nerves, brains and sinews to make it work.
My colleague, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck), expressed the view that the Parliament should be among the people and not among the offices of the Executive. That is a view, but I respectfully disagree with it. Parliament, as the living heart of a democracy, has to be served by its nerves, brains and sinews. It has to provide the driving force and the human will to send the nation forward. But it has to be flanked on one side by the National Library - the repository of recorded knowledge - and on the other by the High Court, which upholds and interprets the lawful will of the Parliament. It has to be set in the centre where the public servant can be perpetually reminded that he and the Executive are there to serve the people through the Parliament.
The Minister for External Affairs shrugs off easily the argument about having to slice about 50 feet off a large part of the top of Capital Hill to provide the proper type of massed building that will be needed. He says that he remains unconvinced by that argument and that all it poses is a challenge. One could rather more easily, and I think with slightly more logic, say that the matters of road access and parking that he mentioned as difficulties are not convincing difficulties. They are disadvantages that merely present a smaller challenge in design and layout problems, rather than the real challenge and the real difficulties that are presented by having to erect a building that would start at about the roof level of the present building.
What kind of a building do we want? Is it to be a tall feature on a high hill? I do not think that is a representation of our national heart. I would hope that the building has to represent solidity of character, energy and strength of purpose and has to be a strong mass on a grand scale rather than a tower-like structure. This also serves to solve many practical problems arising from the practical layout of a Parliament House which has to serve a bicameral system and in which we cannot, out of respect for our Constitution, site one chamber above or below the other, in spite of what the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) said. It helps to solve the problem of future additions and enlargements. I am not satisfied that even if we build a Parliament House for 400 years we will need not to change its nature and structure during that time. So, Sir, on all of the evidence and all of the experience I am in favour of the lakeside site. I am delighted to know that for once I find myself in complete agreement with the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory, because for many years as Minister for the Interior I disagreed with him. He has lived closely with the problem. He has seen Canberra grow and develop, as I did during that very fortunate time. I am entirely with him and on my own judgment and from that experience 1 entirely support the lakeside site.
– I must confess at the outset to being a hill man and not a lake man in this argument Also, I hope that the argument is about where a Parliament House will be built, not when a Parliament House will be built.
I am fortified in believing that this is so by the statement that has been circulated. The answer to hypothetical question No. 8:
How long would it be before a new Parliament House could be available? is:
About 8 years from the time authority to proceed is granted. The design and preparation of contract documents would take about 4 years and a similar period would be required for construction.
Surely, therefore, at this point of time it is not an argument as to whether if we spend $Xm on building a new Parliament House we are going to deny $Xm to some other purpose. The other element that seems to have been imported into the debate is that one should be objective rather than subjective in assessment of the sites. With all respect to the kind of information that has been produced - there seems to me to be a summary of it on the final page of the document circulated this evening entitled ‘Parliament House - Comparison of Sites’ - There are arguments for and against the Capital Hill site and the lakeside site, and in the finish how anybody comes down objectively rather than subjectively on this issue is a little beyond me.
I am a subjective man, if you like, as far as the Capital Hill site is concerned. I may say also that I am a middle-aged subjective man as far as this situation is concerned. 1 ask any honourable member to conduct a simple experiment. I suggest that he walk down from the front steps of Parliament House without an overcoat and proceed - if he is able to proceed by reason of the light - to the edge of the lake and find how little distance he has to go before there is a sudden drop in temperature. It is all very well for the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) and his experts. I look at the comparison of sites. The fourth entry relates to ‘physical conditions’. Maybe 1 am physically unconditioned. I am not one who is about to go to serve in the Army; I am one who hopes to be able, even after redistribution, to serve some years yet in this Parliament Under the heading ‘Physical conditions’ are two sub-headings: (a) exposure and (b) flooding. Capital Hill is described as being Exposed - subjected to unimpeded winds - bleak’ but in relation to flooding there is no problem. The lakeside site is described as ‘Reasonably sheltered except across lake’. What would be the reason for putting the Parliament House on the lakeside site unless it was to enable people to look from it across the lake? At least one frontage of the building must overlook the lake. With all respect to those who advise about things of his sort, I ask: Who makes an objective decision on that basis between the hill which is exposed, subject to unimpeded winds and bleak, and the lakeside site which is reasonably sheltered, except across the lake? Surely the purpose of building on the lake site would be to be beside the lake. It seems to me to be almost absurd to put as an objective argument in favour of the lakeside site the suggestion that it is reasonably sheltered except across the lake. Apparently there could be minor difficulties with flooding on the lake site. But there would certainly be no problem with flooding on the hill site. However, that is not the point that ultimately I want to make. My point is that this evening we have to decide in favour of one site rather than another site. Until we decide upon a site we really cannot plan to do anything with either of the sites.
A number of comments which have been made tonight about cost suggest that construction on the hill site would be dearer than on the lake site. I ask: For whom will it be dearer? Surely the Government will not leave the hill site vacant. If the Government does not build the new Parliament House there surely it will build something else which wilt be subject to the same sort of cost factors, unless, of course, it intends to do what it has done on other occasions - give the most magnificent sites to private enterprise to develop. The most blasphemous comment I have ever heard was that the Hilton Hotels organisation was to be allowed to build on the Mount of Olives, outside Jerusalem. I hope there is no suggestion that Hilton Hotels will get Capital Hill if the new Parliament House is not built there. I suggest that if greater building difficulties will be experienced on the hill site than on the lake site those same difficulties will be associated with whatever other building is constructed on Capital Hill.
I have been fortified this evening by the sturdy common sense of my colleagues on both sides of the House. They do not believe that so-called objective information should be given to us on this matter. If it is objective, fair enough; but we have been given objective information in relation to both sites, and I suggest, with all respect, that ultimately we will have to make a decision on subjective grounds. The general view seems to be that for the future development of Canberra, in terms of the grand concept of a national capital, the most eminent site for the new Parliament House is Capital Hill. I suggest that if no pressures had been brought to bear in the first instance there would have been a far greater vote in favour of the Capital Hill site than will be the case. With all respect, I think that some votes on this question are being pressed. The Minister for Air (Mr Freeth), who has just spoken, feels that he cannot let the Cabinet down, although this afternoon one of his colleagues, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) was courageous enough to state that he had his own views. All members will have a free vote, and it has not been suggested that members of the Cabinet must vote as a block. I think that is fair enough. Nevertheless it is a difficult matter.
This afternoon one of my colleagues saw fit to castigate one of his colleagues. I will not do that because I think we are all entitled to our point of view on this matter. However, I hope that ultimately the House will cast a majority vote for the Hill or, to use the words of a former leader of this Party, the ‘light on the hill’. That was a phrase that he used. I am afraid that he is not here this evening as he had to go somewhere else. He described the lake to me earlier as a mosquito ridden bog. That description is possibly fair enough. But an eminent professor of the university in this city described the lake - and I think it is a local term rather than his - as a ‘foggy bottom’. I repeat again that, as a middle aged man contemplating this sort of situation, however bleak and exposed Capital Hill may be, I still prefer the bleak exposure to the rather artificial conditions that have been created around the lakeside in this city.
I am one who believes that Lake Burley Griffin has made this city a better place than it was. It seems to me to give the city character and integrity, to bind it together as a unit. On the other hand, I think one needs to be very careful about the suggestion that the lake is an ideal place for all the prominent buildings. I attended the opening today of that magnificent building, the National Library, as did many other honourable members. At least the National Library is not a place where many people will spend day after day. But the Parliament House is such a place.
I listened to some honourable members speak this afternoon. Whatever attitudes we may have about the public coming to see us and hear us - andI think they should - primarily a Parliament House has to be regarded as a working place for those who happen to be members for the time being of the House of Representatives and of the Senate. Whether the chambers are adjacent or whether we call one upstairs and the other downstairs does not seem to matter greatly. I do not think that is the concern of the Parliament this evening. Our concern is, as I said at the beginning, not how much a building is to cost but where a building is to be erected. Until we make that decision we cannot develop either of the sites. Once we make a decision that Parliament House will go on site A rather than site B, then site B can be developed for some other purpose. This still leaves open the question as to when the Parliament House on site A will be finished and it also leaves open the question of how much it will cost.
I hope that honourable members will contemplate this matter subjectively and, if they like, aesthetically. I hope their view will be that a city that is built upon a hill, or a building on a hill, cannot be hidden and that it will become a symbol in this country. I believe that a democratic government is the best form of government yet devised. It is something that people should look up to. It is something that they should endeavour to participate in. I see nothing wrong with having symbolism. I am sure that a light on the hill will be better than a submerged cathedral alongside the lake.
-I will not delay the House long because I know there are many honourable members who want to speak on this subject. There is one thing that has come out of this debate which shows what a good thing democracy is.I refer to the fact that people who think in similar terms politically can differ violently on a subject such as this. The subject matter that we are debating tonight is an important one. As the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) said so ably, we are not deciding whether to construct a Parliament House but where it will be constructed. This will be a lasting decision. I would have liked a little longer to study the evidence of experts but I think practical common sense can be a guide.
The honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) said that the joint delegation which travelled overseas to study this matter and to report to the Parliament was representative of every Party. It was not representative of the Country Party. Perhaps that could be a reason why we are a little more uniform in our thoughts than are our colleagues in the coalition, or. the Opposition.
I do not agree that the National Capital Development Commission is not entitled to hold a particular viewpoint. After all, the Commission is an advisory body and it is not unreasonable that it should favour one site or another, but I must say with the greatest respect that the Commission is testing my credulity to the utmost when it states in the document to which the honourable member for Bowman (Dr Gibbs) and the honourable member for Melbourne Ports have referred that the lake shore is subject to infrequent flooding - once in 60 years to a certain height, once in 80 years to a certain height, once in 150 years to a certain height, once in 300 years to a certain height and once in 1,000 years to a certain height. Such a prognosis of the height that an artificial lake fed by a stream will reach, based on information which has been available for not longer than the past 80 years, is a little more than I can accept in its entirety notwithstanding the fact that I deal rather frequently with people who make fairly wild guesses of what will happen on Saturday afternoons.
What Burley Griffin had in mind many years ago, and what anyone should have in mind today in deciding where the new Parliament House should be placed, is that it should be in a focal position and so situated as to remind the people of its importance. If we travel around the world and see the parliament houses in various capital cities - I have seen a good many of them - we will notice that they are always placed in an elevated position. That is perfectly true also of religious denominations which endeavour to gain the most elevated position consistent with other factors.
– They have a lot of competition.
– That is right, and we are in a much better position because we are choosing between two possible sites. Certain honourable members have given a great deal of prominence to the fact that the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) are in agreement on the site. I think it is well to remind ourselves that we saw a similar situation some IS months ago in relation to a referendum but an overwhelming majority of the people disagreed with both of them, so their opinion should not necessarily be the one to guide us.
– One matter which was the subject of the referendum was accepted.
– That is correct. 1 amplify my statement by saying that a particular point Id relation to the government of this country was not accepted. The honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) mentioned the practical objection to the siting of the new Parliament House on Capital Hill that it would have a view of the rear of the present building. That could be overcome by the planting of trees and shrubs.
The subject has been covered adequately from almost every angle so I will not delay the House any longer.
We should not look at this project on a short term basis. This is something on which we should look into the future. I think there has been confusion about whether we may be doing something constructive for the community. I agree with the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) that Capital Hill, which can be seen from many points about the city, is the focal point in Canberra. Trying to be as objective as 1 possibly can be, taking into account all that 1 have heard tonight and all the information that I have been able to glean, and taking into account the possible position in the future, I come down strongly in favour of the Capital Hill site.
– Unlike some honourable members, I do not intend to go into raptures about the proposed site for the new Parliament House. I have sat here patiently tonight and listened to quite a lot of nonsense. I agree that a site for the new Parliament House must be selected. But a lot of honourable members have overlooked the question of when the new building is to be constructed. Two sites have been mentioned. What is happening is that a lot of politicians from all parts of Australia are at present debating possible sites without any reference to the people of Canberra.
– Why should we worry about them?
– lt is all right for the honourable member to say that. The people of Canberra have been left out of the argument altogether. There are about 100,000 people in Canberra; yet about 180 politicians from all parts of Australia will decide where the new Parliament House will be. Most of us will not be here when it is completed. The people of Canberra will have no say in the matter.
– We represent the people who are paying for it.
– The residents of Canberra contribute quite a lot, too. I would object to politicians, in this House deciding what will happen in the city of Sydney. I am sure that the residents of Canberra have their own opinions on the matter. I suggest that the practical and commonsense course would be for the Government to conduct a referendum amongst the residents of Canberra when the next Federal election occurs and let them decide which site they would like for the new Parliament House. I do not think that politicians should decide on a site as most of them live many miles away from Canberra, and, in any event, some of them will not be here very much longer.
The present building has received a lot of criticism. 1 have been a member of this Parliament for 19 years. I admire the highly skilled work that has been put into this building, and especially this chamber. When 1 walk outside on to the front porch, I admire the view across the way. I think that most of the people in Canberra do, too.
That is one of the reasons why I think they should have the final say in a decision on the site for the new Parliament House. One honourable member has said that the new building should be on Capital Hill, for the simple reason that most Australians love to look up to their local member. Imagine the vanity of that person. What a swelled head he must have. As I understood the honourable member, he said that people would like to put him on a hill for the purpose of looking up to him. I am quite satisfied to walk down the streets of my electorate on the same level as the people there, on the footpath. When they say, ‘How are you, Dan?’, that satisfies me. I do not want anyone to look up to me. I wish to be dead level with the people in my electorate. There has been a lot of stupid talk in this debate. Many different schemes have been referred to, but the first consideration should be the well being of the people. My choice is for the site on the shore of Lake Burley Griffin.
– Simply because I enjoy a waterfront view.
– You must like fishing.
– I do not like fishing, but I think the most appropriate place for the new Parliament House would be on the shores of a beautiful lake. In my rough way I often admire the magnificent view of Canberra when I am approaching this city in an aircraft to attend this Parliament. I think the most beautiful view in Canberra is across Lake Burley Griffin. That is one reason why I choose the site at the side of the lake. It is all very well for us to talk, but the decision should be left to the people of Canberra to make and not to 123 politicians from all over Australia.
– I think honourable members will agree with me that this has been an interesting debate. Perhaps it is a good thing that occasionally we should be able to speak entirely without party control in a free debate. The way that this debate has ranged has shown, among other things, that this kind of approach, good though it is occasionally on a matter such as the site for a new Parliament House, probably would be impracticable in the general conduct of the business of this House. I want to take this opportunity to do something which I do very rarely; that is, to agree with the honourable member for Scullin (Mr Peters). I believe that there is no real urgency at present about the building of a new Parliament House. With some additions, this House should be capable of meeting the needs, not of us, but of the parliaments for some time to come.
Indeed, there is something to be said for retaining the historic and traditional features of this building. Although perhaps some things are wrong with it and could be better planned, as parliaments have been meeting here since 1927 a tradition has been gathered around this building. We should not lightly abandon it, even though we may have an idea of a much grander building to be erected at some future time. I agree wilh the honourable member for Scullin that this is not really the time to be thinking of building a new Parliament House, lt may be that at some time later on-
– When it is found necessary to provide extra employment in the building trades throughout Australia projects of this character can be more reasonably entertained. But I agree entirely with the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) that it is urgent to reach a decision now about a site - not because we need to build a new Parliament House immediately but because the planning of Canberra and the erection of other buildings may be impeded if we do not make a reasonably quick decision.
I do not feel very strongly about either site but on balance I tend to prefer the lake site, for a number of reasons which are not perhaps of tremendous consequence. The point is that if one has to make a decision one must make it on margin. First there is the question of vista. Lord Holford, or Sir William Holford as he then was, had the idea that the open vista across the lake would be better, from an architectural point of view, if it were closed off by some kind of building on the lake shore, whether it be a Parliament House or some other kind of building. Indeed if we maintain his existing building which is now used as our Parliament House, as we must, any vista from the top of the hill will be marred by that building. On the other hand if we later erect a monumental building of some kind on the lake we will have two closed courts, as it were, which would be architecturally good.
The second point may not be decisive but it may weigh a little. It is the point of traffic and access. There is no doubt that problems of traffic and access would be lessened with a lakeside building as compared with a building on the bill. This is not something entirely determinate but it is something which, on margin, may show a little in favour of the lake site.
Then there is the third point that the lake site is closer to the new National Library which was opened today. As a member of the Library Committee of this Parliament for many years in the past I realise that it is necessary to have quick and ready communication between the collections of the National Library and the smaller collection of the Parliamentary Library. Often 1 have found, as I know other honourable members have found, that it is necessary to make a quick reference to something which has arisen in the course of a debate. There is no time for delay in those circumstances and there is some advantage - perhaps not a decisive one but a marginal advantage - in having the Parliament House situated adjacent to the National Library. Indeed the concept of a Parliament House, a National Library and a High Court together in a complex down by the lake does have some kind of attractiveness.
To me these do not seem terribly decisive arguments. I am not strongly swayed in either direction. But on balance these arguments do seem to me to indicate that the lake site is the better one. I think some of the arguments that have been brought forward in favour of the hill site are fallacious. We are misled, perhaps, by thinking too much in terms of the American example in Washington, where traditionally the Capitol Building is on the hill. While this may be all right in Washington, we must keep in mind that each country makes its own traditions and has its own way of looking at things. It seems to me that the traditions we have around this place should be preserved. I would like to preserve for some time at least, for our time at any rate, this existing House. But if this cannot be done I think we should break as little as possible with the kinds of traditions that have been established in this place. As I have said, these do not appear to me to be completely overwhelming arguments. They are arguments on margin. On margin I think very little can be said in favour of the hill site but that something can be said in favour of the lake site. I repeat what I said at the beginning. I have found myself in the unusual position of agreeing with the honourable member for Scullin in believing that this is no time to consider the building of a new Parliament House; but it is time to consider the delineation of a proper site for a new Parliament House.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make an explanation.
– Order! Does the honourable member for Mitchell claim to have been misrepresented?
– No. 1 was taken up the hill by the honourable member for Mackellar. He said: ‘This is the place, Les, for the new Parliament House. Old Bob wants it down on the lake, but you stick to the hill.’
– I am glad to know that the three parties in this Parliament have agreed to make this a non-party matter in relation to which everybody will be free to vote as his conscience directs. I was impressed by the speech made by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck). 1 believe that he set a very healthy example for other Ministers to follow - an example which private members from both sides of the House also have set. It seems to me, though, that the honourable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) was perfectly correct when he said that the views expressed so far for and against the two sites have been slanted strongly in favour of the lake site. I am prepared to say now that I believe that the responsibility for this rests not with the advisers of the Government or those who are planning this decision but with the people who have sought the information from the advisers.
I sought information from the advisers on this subject and I found that they were just as ready to support points of view I put to them on alternative methods of dealing with the hill site as I imagine they were when preparing the information contained in the brochure we have been discussing. 1 venture to say that the information contained in the brochure prepared by the National Capital Development Commission was requested in its present form by the Minister for the Interior of the day and not in the form of a document setting out objectively the case for and against the respective sites. I suggest that they were instructed to obtain a case that was heavily weighted and unfairly slanted against the hill site. Let me give some examples. Item 1 in the annexure to the brochure shows that the area within the inner ring covers 85 acres. Nothing is said about extending the area to State Circle. Why on earth it was not possible to show on the document how many acres were available by extending the area to State Circle instead of limiting it to the inner ring is beyond me, especially since those who prepared the document saw fit to give us the acreage that could be obtained by extending the area between King George Terrace and the lake, the whole of which would not be used or could not possibly be suitably used for the purpose in question. We have been told repeatedly by the people who prefer the lake site that 50 feet of earth will have to be sheared off the top of Capital Hill in order, if you carefully examine what they say, to get 47 acres of flat land at the top of the hill. But 47 acres of land on top of Capital Hill is not needed. All that is needed at the top of Capital Hill for the actual site of the building - again, this is according to the information given to me by the advisers today - is no more than 10 acres. This is allowing for a building four times as large in area as the present Parliament House and allowing also for a building only four storeys high.
Yet. according to the honourable member for Angas, if the new Parliament House is built on top of Capital Hill it will need to be a very tall building. If his architectural adviser is correct, the building would not be of four storeys but possibly would be of eight storeys in which event the area would be reduced from 10 acres to 5 acres and the amount to be shorn off the top of Capita] Hill would be reduced correspondingly. ] am told now by the advisers here that if one is prepared to plan an area suitable for a Parliament House four times the area of this Parliament House and if the new Parliament House were a building of eight storeys, as the architectural adviser to the honourable member for Angas says it would need to be, and a suitable area were provided for the assembling of ceremonial parades, the construction of this building would require the shearing off of no more than 30 feet and possibly no more than 25 feet from the top of Capital Hill.
The remarkable thing is the way in which these heights are spoken about. We are told that if 50 feet is taken off the top of Capital Hill we would be down to the level of tha roof of the present Parliament House. If we forget that the new Parliament House will possibly be a building of eight storeys this does make it appear that not very much has been achieved by way of elevation. The plain fact of the matter is that it is not necessary, according to the advisers, to have a whole 47 acres shorn off to the one level. It is possible - and indeed it would lend itself to greater architectural possibilities - to have a new Parliament House on two levels or maybe even three levels.
Something has been said during this debate to the effect that we would need to have areas where large gatherings could congregate. Somebody said that 100,000 people would have to be accommodated. Does anybody seriously suggest that we will ever have 100,000 people congregating at the one time in front of Parliament House? If that happens I shall be taking to the water because if there are that many people there,I can assure the House that they will not be there for any good purpose. If we are to allow 100,000 people to congregate in front of the new Parliament House, it serves us right if they take to us as I think they would be entitled to take to us. It is absolute, utter rubbish to talk about large areas being necessary for the people to demonstrate their democratic wrath against what members are doing inside the Parliament. We might as well follow the tradition in Japan where the Japanese populace, if they dislike what the Japanese Parliament has done, urinate on the doors of the building. Therefore, it would be a good thing to have the new Parliament House by the lake so that the contempt of the people for Parliament could trickle into the lake. The whole thing is absolutely ridiculous.
How serious and well paid men could possibly get up and put forward a view like thai is absolutely beyond me.
I find that the Minister for Social Setvices (Mr Wentworth) is one of the most accommodating persons in this Parliament. I have had a great deal of admiration for him. I still have. This was especially so when he was a private member. I had this admiration because of the way he used to use the Parliament as a kind of non-party vehicle for expressing his point of view. He now says that he does not think that this is much of an idea and that we ought not to do this too often. I seem to have a vague recollection of the honourable gentleman back in 1965 expressing grave doubts about the lake site. Now he tells us that on balance he thinks that there is something to be said for that site. My dear friend, the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie), was equally absurd, I think, when he said that provision would have to be made for pensioners to walk up Capital Hill to the new Parliament House if it were sited there. Why, the pensioners have never walked to this place while I have been here. The pensioners have always ridden here in motor cars and buses and they could still ride to the top of the hill or to the lake in motor cars or buses if they wanted to do so. So that is an utterly fallacious argument that ought not to sway the decision in favour of the lakeside site.
Then the honourable gentleman, who seems to be rather gullible when it comes to getting advice from these experienced men, said: ‘It will be terribly noisy up there’. But the honourable member for Bowman (Dr Gibbs) skittled that argument when he pointed out very correctly ‘hat the higher the position the less the noise, because noise tends to travel horizontally and not vertically. Therefore, even a person who was living in a tent at the top of Capital Hill and had no means of stopping the outside noise from getting in would not be subjected to as much noise as he would at the level of the lake. So that is a fallacious argument. In any event, we all know that if a dozen bulldozers were working outside this building nobody in here would hear them. The men outside might hear us but we would not hear them.
So it is stupid to put up a proposition that debates would be interrupted by the noise from outside.
Then we are told that the Capital Hill site overlooks dense housing areas. Why docs not the honourable gentleman who made that statement, instead of heeding some document prepared by the Minister or his advisers-
– I have been up there. It is a pity the honourable member did not go there and have a look.
– For a gentleman who spent some time in the Church, I am surprised that he was able to say that he saw dense areas of population from the top of Capital Hill. I went there today and I could not see dense areas of population. I looked around from all four corners and all i could see in any direction was a magnificent vista of lakes and hills and of very expensive buildings. I saw, for example, the American Embassy. To call the American Embassy and the other magnificent embassies densely populated areas is stretching the Queen’s English a little bit too far.
Another magnificent observation was made in the statement circulated by the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon), who is now at the table. To support his preference for the lakeside site, he said that it has the great advantage of being close to secretariat and administration buildings. He said that they are within easy walking distance of the lakeside site. Could anyone imagine the Minister trotting off to any building, even if it was within 100 yards, and asking for a docket or a file from the officers there-‘’ Of course not. If he travels anywhere, even for that distance, it is in a black limousine; he does not walk. The argument about being within easy walking distance of the administrative centres is so much ‘cockypop’ and I hope that no-one will be misled by it. The honourable gentleman knows perfectly well that if a Minister or a member of the Parliament wants to know anything from a department, he has, even in this outdated building, a device called a telephone. If he picks it up and dials a number he can talk to officers in another building just as effectively as he could if he trotted across the lawn, knocked at the door and said: ‘May I have speech with you?’ This argument, too, is utterly ridiculous. No matter what test one applies to the fictitious argument that the honourable gentleman puts before us, it does not stand up to examination.
The argument of the Minister for Social Services that the lakeside site is adjacent to the National Library is in the same category. If we want a book from the Library we can ring up and have it brought here. Most of the books I want now are brought here because I find that the Parliamentary Library has been so denuded of the books that I need that the officers must still send for them and have them brought here. And they are brought here reasonably quickly. I often find more honourable members sitting down having cups of tea, to say the least, than are sitting in the Parliamentary Library, which is only 15 yards away, studying documents. I am greatly encouraged tonight by the support I have had from honourable gentlemen on the other side such as the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) and even my young and very gallant friend, the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Andrew Jones) who keeps encouraging me to ‘stick it into them’. I think he means the Ministers.
-Order! I would remind honourable members of certain remarks made by Mr Speaker earlier. Unless the House comes to order some honourable members might be listening to the debate by means of a modern method of telecommunication.
– I have not much time left in which to discuss this matter. I wish I had another hour to deal with it. However, let us examine some of the points in the attachment to the special report on the site for the new Parliament House. A comparison is made of the Capital Hill site and the lakeside site. It is suggested that there is some soft material on the hill site whereas down by the lake there is no mention of soft material at all, so the latter is ideal for foundations. I venture to suggest that the author of this comparison is not familiar with foundation work. Today 1 asked a leading authority in Canberra a question about the foundations and he said: I have bored a hole 10 feet down, and it seems all right’. Is this the sort of thing we are expected to accept - the boring of a hole 10 feet down, and the attitude that because shale or some other form of reasonably hard material is encountered that is a guarantee that the earth structure will be strong enough to bear the weight of the kind of building we need?
A comparison is made of the earth works that will be necessary in the site preparation. Extensive earth works will be necessary on Capital Hill. Of course, if 50 feet is to be sheared off the top of the hill, the earth works will be extensive, but it is not necessary to do this work. I emphasise that. Even if it were necessary, it would not cost a great deal of money with the modern equipment that is available. 1 remind honourable members that a hill was removed from in front of this Parliament House. Months were spent in levelling the area, but the effort was not wasted because we now have a broad expanse of green lawns that give an unbroken view from the top of Capital Hill right across the lake to the Australian War Memorial. Who wants to block out the view of the War Memorial? I do not want to do so. I am not one who can be regarded as a jingo. However, I have a great regard for those who fell in serving this country. I believe that the view of the edifice that commemorates them and demonstrates our pride in them should not be detracted from by any structure.
Another reason advanced in support of the lakeside site is that if a person went up on a high enough lookout he could see the Parliament House by the lake. Evidently that is preferable to being able to see Parliament House from almost any part of the city by looking up at Capital Hill. It is suggested that if a person gets on top of Mount Ainslie or Red Hill he will be able to see Parliament House if it is built by the lake. What utter nonsense. What specious argument we have had to listen to in support of the lakeside site. The unimpeded winds on Capital Hill were mentioned also. How many members stand on the roof of this building and experience the unimpeded winds there? How would anybody inside Parliament House know whether there was a wind outside? He would not know. This type of argument is nonsense. What does it matter whether there is wind outside? Do we close Parliament down just because it is windy? Apparently it is suggested that we would have to do this if we built on Capital Hill. The whole argument is absolutely ridiculous.
However, it is admitted by the Minister that one thing can be said for having Parliament House on Capital Hill: It cannot possibly be flooded. This has been said rather regretfully. But it is said that, down by the lake, once every 1,000 years there will be flooding 4 feet above the level of the present lakeside wall. How do we know that the 1,000-year period will not be up next year? When does the 1,000-year period date from? If it dates from 999 years ago we can expect the flooding next year. If it dates from 899 years ago we can expect that within 100 years time Parliament House will be inundated with a 4-foot flood. What utter and ridiculous nonsense we have had to listen to.
It has been said that we cannot have the new Parliament House on Capital Hill because too many cars go by that location. It is said that it would be better to have it isolated down near the lake where no-one could get near it. It is said one minute that the lakeside site is better because it is more accessible to the 100,000-strong mobs that will assemble there, and then it is said that we cannot have Parliament House on Capital Hill because there it would be more accessible to motor cars.
Another virtue claimed for the lakeside site is that people could arrive there by helicopter. How many pensioners are likely to arrive by helicopter? How many helicopters would be needed if 100,000 people wished to come to Parliament House by this means of transport? What utter rubbish people put into their reports in their endeavours to get us to accept the lakeside site. What is to stop helicopters landing on the top of Parliament House on the Capital Hill site? Nothing. It is claimed also that if Parliament House were built beside the lake people could come by boat. How many boats would be needed to bring 100,000 people to assemble in front of Parliament House?
The report states that conditions are not ideal for the provision of underground car parking on the Capital Hill site. Why not? Why would a site on the top of the hill not provide better conditions for underground car parking than a site beside the lake, where you would have to dig almost below water level? The advisers, while admitting that it is not their function to design the ultimate building - that is reasonable - say that the building would probably have four storeys above ground level and two or three below ground level. I would not like to think what would happen to the three floors below ground level when the 4 feet flood comes after 1,000 years. I would not like to have my car parked in one of the below ground level parking areas if the 1,000 years is up next year or in 10 years time.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr Turnbull) adjourned.
-I have received advice from the Leader of the Government in the Senate that he has appointed Senator Buttfield to be a member of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I move:
Several honourable members who have recently entered the Parliament have approached me seeking an opportunity to study proposals and plans for the future development of Canberra. I invite any honourable member interested in this matter to attend in room L56 at 11.30 on Tuesday morning next when members if the National Capital Development Commission will be present to assist honourable members in this matter. Plans and models of Canberra will be on display. I am not trying to pressurise anybody in any way. I simply issue a sincere invitation to honourable members who have spoken to me and to other interested honourable members.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.53 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Australian Capital Territory:
er asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows: 1 Yes.
– On 30th April, in reply to a question without notice by the honourable member for Indi (Mr Holten),I undertook to make inquiries as to whether a statement could be issued indicating what the Commonwealth-State Officials Committee on Decentralisation has been studying and what it has reached in those studies. I now provide the following statement of the Committee’s position as at 14th June 1968:
STATEMENT CONCERNING COM MONWEALTH-STATE OFFICIALS COMMITTEE ON DECENTRALISATION
The following is an account of present studies being co-ordinated by the Commonwealth-State Committee on Decentralisation.
Studies of the Costs Involved for Firms and Individuals in Locating in Various Areas
These studies are being carried out principally in New South Wales and Victoria, and are aimed at finding out why firms made particular decisions about locations and the nature of the particular costs flowing from such decisions.
A Report of the Victorian Study is being prepared by (he Division of State Development of the Victorian Premiers’ Department. It will be completed shortly.
The data collected in the New South Wales Study are being processed by computer. Analysis of the data and preparation of a Report will follow the computer processing.
Studies of the Relative Costs (Public Costs) of Providing Public Services in Various Locations, including Big Cities and Small Centres
The broad study is broken into two parts; one concerned with the examination of the historical costs of past development, the other concerned with estimating the costs of hypothetical future development.
In New South Wales work on both parts was launched in November 1966. The ‘Historical Costs’ studies are in course of computer processing at the New England University. The ‘Estimates Study’ was set aside, however, until late 1967, pending the receipt of information from the State Planning Authority but work is now proceeding on this study. Additionally some twelve local government bodies are completing hypothetical estimates of public costs. These should be completed within 2-4 months.
The Victorian Studies were launched, in the light of the New South Wales experience, in September 1967. Most information for the ‘Historical’ part has now been collected. Bui as the methodological problems involved in the forward ‘Estimates’ part are greater, no substantial technical work has been undertaken pending further progress in New South Wales.
Studies of Labour Conditions and Characteristics
The studies in this broad field relate to the following matters:
The availability of unused labour in a representative selection of country towns.
Relative rates of labour turnover in comparable firms - metropolitan as distinct from country.
Relative award and over-award wage rates payable in metropolitan and country areas in comparable occupations.
The relative productivity of labour in comparable plants in metropolitan and country areas.
The position of these studies is respectively:
A draft report has been completed and is under revision; it is expected that that the report will be forwarded to the Technical Sub-committee by the end of June.
The report has been completed and was circulated to the Technical Subcommittee on 27th February 1968.
Work is proceeding; about half of the questionnaires sent out have been returned completed.
AH the questionnaires sent out have been returned and work is proceeding towards the preparation of a report.
Studies of Some Papulation Trends
Certain data, which are yet to be published, from the 1966 census are required before the studies will commence.
Other Research Projects
City Water Supply Costs Study: The University of New South Wales was commis sioned for this study in January 1968 and work is proceeding.
A sociological study has been commissioned by the New South Wales Department of Decentralisation and Development and an outline of a study of the costs of traffic congestion has been submitted to the Chairman of the Commonwealth-State Officials Committee.
The studies that have been undertaken so far involve, either jointly or separately, the Commonwealth, New South Wales and Victoria. The other States are awaiting the outcome of these investigations as a guide to action which might be taken by them.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply, upon notice:
– The Minister for Supply has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s questions:
Details of employment at the Government Aircraft Factor)’, Avalon, in each of the past ten years are as shown in the chart below. Concerning parts 1 and 2 of this question, the figures show the position as at 3 1st July in each year. As to parts 3, 4 and 5, the figures show the position for the complete calendar year, except for 1968 where all figures for that year show the position as at 31st July:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 August 1968, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1968/19680815_reps_26_hor60/>.