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Evans: Build a new parliament on RAH site


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With 21 years until South Australia celebrates its 200th year since proclamation, now is the time to plan how the state will mark 2036.

Just as the Commonwealth built an iconic new Federal Parliament to celebrate Australia’s 200th year, South Australia should follow suit.

South Australia should build a new iconic building that showcases everything South Australian. It could be built on the old Royal Adelaide Hospital site and overlook the Botanic Gardens. This would extend the North Terrace cultural boulevard and provide closer links with the National Wine Centre.

With a new Parliament House as the centrepiece, the building could have five wings celebrating South Australia’s unique story.

The first wing would be a new world class celebration of Aboriginal art and culture. Within South Australia, we have some of the world’s best collections of Aboriginal art and items of cultural significance that are not displayed.

Through proper cultural consultation, we should take these collections and show the world that we are proud of our Aboriginal heritage.

The second wing would celebrate South Australia’s unique democratic and social history: our establishment by free settlers, the South Australian Company, the first place in the world to give women the vote, the first place in Australia to give Aborigines the vote.

An image from the SLASH design that won the State Government's design competition for the future use of the current RAH site.

An image from the SLASH design that won the State Government’s design competition for the future use of the current RAH site.

The secret ballot was developed in South Australia as was the Torrens land title system.

There are many more achievements, but our democratic and social reforms have shaped South Australia as one of the most stable democracies and freest societies in the world and this should be celebrated.

The third wing should celebrate South Australian innovation and entrepreneurship. Florey, Warren, Bragg and Bragg have all won Nobel Prizes. Tao won the Fields Medal for maths. Mawson explored the Antarctic as did Madigan. Wilkins, Oliphant, Thomas, Beadell and others have world class achievements that need to be there for all to see.

South Australian icons like Coopers, Haigh’s, Clipsal and others need to be showcased, as does our jump stump plough, Hills Hoist and photocopy technology developed in South Australia.

The fourth wing should celebrate our multicultural community – the story of migration to South Australia and migrants’ contributions and achievements in South Australia. I know we have a Migration Museum but it’s time to upgrade, expand and renew the celebration. South Australia’s wonderful multicultural harmony needs to be put up in lights and shown to the world.

The fifth wing should respect our military service and sacrifice. It should be the South Australian equivalent of the Australian War Memorial. The stories of our courage in all conflicts need to be explained and the heroics of our Victoria Cross recipients like Derrick, Badcoe and others honoured. It would also tells the stories of our prisoners of war like Lionel Matthews whose efforts in Sandakan are not well enough known.

South Australians will be surprised there is not one single place in South Australia where all the names of those who paid the ultimate price are displayed. It’s time there was.

Once built, each day Adelaide should hear the bugle of a remembrance service to remind us why we live in a free and democratic society.

The partially-completed Parliament House in 1928. Photo: State Library of South Australia

The partially-completed Parliament House in 1928. Photo: State Library of South Australia

These five wings would feed into the centrepiece – a new Parliament House. Just as Canberra’s new Parliament House is a tourist drawcard so should South Australia’s new Parliament House be.

This concept won’t be cheap. But with 20 years to plan there are 20 state and federal budgets to contribute.

There are also 20 years to ask significant South Australian companies, industries and individuals to contribute to telling the South Australian story. Rupert Murdoch, Santos, Coopers, the defence industry and multicultural communities plus many more are all worth having a Pale Ale with to ask about making a financial contribution.

The existing Parliament House now finds itself in the middle of Adelaide’s 24/7 entertainment precinct – it is surrounded by the Casino, Festival Theatre, Adelaide Oval and the Convention Centre.

The Parliament is only used eight months of the year and it adds nothing to the entertainment buzz of the city.

While keeping all its heritage in place, let it become jazz clubs, comedy clubs, theatres, restaurants, music venues and art galleries and add to making Adelaide an exciting place to be.

This concept will need bipartisan support: it will be too easy to play politics due to the expense.

Let’s set up a high powered group to deliver this project for South Australia and tell our story.

After 200 years, we are worth it and it’s a story worth telling.

Iain Evans is a former Leader of the Opposition and was Shadow Treasurer from 2010 to May 2014.

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