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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 3 Hansard (26 March) . . Page.. 670 ..

MS FOLLETT (continuing):

Mr Speaker, this is a serious matter. Canberra was created as the seat of government. That is its primary purpose. I think it is only appropriate, in those circumstances, that the Prime Minister has his official residence here in Canberra. There are a number of aspects of that matter which I think are worth drawing attention to. The first of these is that, I am told, the refurbishment of Kirribilli House to make it suitable for the Howard family is going to cost a quarter of a million dollars. So, the Australian taxpayers are paying a high price for this somewhat churlish decision of Mr Howard's.

However, more significantly as far as Canberra is concerned, the national capital status has always been very much supported and, indeed, enhanced by whoever was the Prime Minister. I would like to draw particular attention to the attitude and the work of the late Sir Robert Menzies when he was Prime Minister. Sir Robert, as a Liberal Prime Minister, was absolutely adamant that Canberra must have the status of a national capital, should be supported as such, and should be developed and regarded appropriately by all of Australia. So, I regard Mr Howard's step as very much an attempt to downgrade the national significance of Canberra. I acknowledge, Mr Speaker, that it is just an attempt at cheap populism by Mr Howard. He thinks he will win some support in New South Wales by sticking to the Sydney residence.

What if the next Prime Minister is, as seems incredibly likely, from Western Australia? Are we going to see a Prime Minister's residence established in Perth, at whatever cost to the taxpayer? It is a silly decision, Mr Speaker, and I think it does no credit to the incoming Government or indeed to the Canberra community and our history and status as the national capital. I think it also sends warning signals to all of us about how Mr Howard might regard Canberra in the future. If he is unwilling to accept Canberra's legitimate role in national affairs, then is he also unwilling to accept Canberra's needs in terms of funding, in terms of the creation of employment, in terms of public service management and maintenance, and so on? This is a very poor message that we have had, as Canberra citizens, as the community that resides in the national capital.

So, Mr Speaker, I think that what we have here from the new Prime Minister is, as I say, an attempt at cheap populism, a bit of a political point-scoring exercise. But it is my hope, and my grave concern, that we will not see this kind of attitude to Canberra continued, so that we see a further downgrading or a denigration of Canberra. I think that would be extremely regrettable.

Dr Bob Brown

MS TUCKER (5.13): I will not keep members long. I just want to announce that we have heard today that Dr Bob Brown is definitely going to be joining us in Canberra, with the Australian Greens. We are delighted to welcome him to Canberra. I think he will be a great presence in the Federal Parliament, and we look forward to working with Dr Brown on many issues.

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