Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1997 Week 2 Hansard (27 February) . . Page.. 589..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
Given the high level of community interest in the future of the Acton Peninsula and the National Museum, and the considerable controversy over the land swap agreement and its budgetary implications, we do not believe that the decision to proceed with this land swap agreement should be taken by the Government alone. It is really a matter for the whole Assembly.
What is so important about this issue is that it involves a major physical asset of the ACT. The Acton Peninsula is a key location within Central Canberra and was identified as a prominent city landmark in the original Burley Griffin plan for Canberra. The hospital buildings on Acton have a market value which has been calculated at up to $80m. Many Canberra residents have strong personal attachments to the old hospital, having been born there, having been a patient there, or having had relatives or friends stay there or die there.
Given the sorry history of the National Museum, which was first proposed in 1975 - 22 years ago - but whose construction has been regularly put off by successive Federal governments, I do not have the same faith that other members in this place appear to have that the current Federal Government will actually proceed with the museum. Until I see the construction contract signed I will not be convinced. What a huge shame it would be if the Acton buildings were demolished now and the Federal Government turned around in a few months' time, as has happened before, and said they had changed their mind and the building of the museum was to be put off yet again.
Let me remind the Assembly that the Federal Liberal Government said in its election policy that a fully-fledged National Museum should be built at Yarramundi. However, once elected, the new Government initiated a further study into determining the best site for the National Museum and it came up with the conclusion that Acton Peninsula was a better site than Yarramundi, despite a number of earlier studies to the contrary. This conclusion was greeted with widespread criticism within the community which has not yet abated. The study concluded that building the museum on Acton would cost $125m, and the Federal Government is yet to commit the necessary funds. This can really happen only as part of the Federal budget.
However, once the Acton buildings are demolished, that is it; they can never be brought back. We have moved this motion quite deliberately to slow down this process. Given the past huge investment by successive governments in the Acton Peninsula buildings and the fact that it will cost the ACT Government $8m of taxpayers' money to demolish the buildings, we do not think that the buildings should be pulled down unless the need to do so has been proven absolutely and is agreed to by the Assembly.
The choice of Acton as the preferred museum site does not even seem to be clear cut. The siting advisory committee concluded that Yarramundi was a close second to Acton, but some of the assumptions made in the committee's assessment are very questionable. For example, they concluded that the cost to the Federal Government of building the museum on Acton was cheaper than building at Yarramundi; but they did not take into account the cost to the ACT Government, which will have to contribute $3m in infrastructure costs and $8m in demolition costs, as well as the opportunity cost of millions of dollars from not being able to use the Acton buildings for other purposes.