Page 5268 - Week 14 - Thursday, 19 November 2009

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then federal minister for the interior to the sage advice and thoughtful recommendations of the council. Fifty recommendations on matters of importance to Canberrans had been ignored by the commonwealth. The final straw was the closure, against the council’s advice, of Canberra’s government-owned and operated abattoir, a decision Jim Pead described as “an act of contempt for this council”.

In his book, Sparke describes the scene, the gallery of the council chamber crowded with appreciative abattoir workers and their families and friends, clapping and cheering as the members of the council, one by one, resigned, and then signed a manifesto of all they believed was wrong with the system, a system that left Canberrans with little say in their own destinies. The push for genuine and meaningful self-government was on.

That dramatic resignation was not the end of Jim Pead’s political career. The council was reappointed some months later. After 20 years chairing the ACT Advisory Council, Jim Pead was elected inaugural president when the council was replaced by a wholly elected, 18-member, part-time Legislative Assembly in 1974.

Still, that new incarnation, like its forerunner, was very much an advisory body with little actual political power. Then, as now, there were not too many votes to be had by treating Canberrans as fully fledged citizens. Jim Pead once said that Canberra, in his time in politics, was always, in his words, “subject to a minister’s views and whims, and those of his immediate family, his friends and cronies, and anybody—the cat, the dog—who liked to get into the act”. It is a lament that some among us might say has some resonance even today.

Over his decades in public life, Jim Pead was frequently the official face of Canberra at events of significance. He welcomed to Canberra the Queen and the Queen Mother, and heads of state of many nations. He represented the people of our city at the constitutional conferences in the 1960s. He saw Canberra grow from a handful of suburbs to a city with its own satellite cities.

Jim Pead was among the dignitaries at the inauguration of the District of Belconnen in 1966, a ceremony attended by heightened security given the shooting of the then Leader of the Opposition, Arthur Calwell, just days earlier at an anti-Vietnam war rally. Jim’s connection to Belconnen continued, and one of his greatest legacies was the bold establishment of the Canberra Commercial Development Board, which designed and built the Belconnen Mall. The mall was funded by a public float, fully subscribed. The notion was to operate a shopping mall and put the profits back into services to Canberra ratepayers. In 1978, when it threw open its doors, many locals knew the mall simply as Pead’s palace.

Ours has always been a city and a community in which ideas and their pursuit is a way of life. A publicly owned shopping mall, the first in the country, was a grand idea, an experiment that ended almost a decade later in 1986 when the commonwealth government abolished the Canberra Commercial Development Board and sold the mall to a joint venture between the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund Investment Trust and Westfield.

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