National Library of Australia’s Parliamentary Showcase
21 June 2018
Well Ryan, thank you very much for that introduction. And can I acknowledge your outstanding leadership of this important national cultural institution. You have put your absolute heart and soul into the role of Chair of Council. You have done all and more than has been asked of you. You will be recognised as one of the great chairs of the National Library of Australia. And on behalf of the Parliament and the Government, can I thank you for your service to the nation through that role. And Ryan, I have no doubt that there will be future opportunities for you to contribute to the national cultural life of the nation. And I look forward to those in the future.
I should also acknowledge the very generous donation announced this morning by Ryan on behalf of the Stokes family being $1 million for the support for the library’s fellowship program over the next decade. It’s incredibly generous. And thank you Ryan.
Can I also acknowledge the Director-General of the library, Dr Marie-Louise Ayres. And Marie-Louise can I acknowledge through you the staff of the National Library of Australia. I know that for all of you what you do is far more than a job. That it’s a calling. That you wake up every day chomping at the bit to do the work that you do. And can I thank you for everything that you contribute to the country. Thank you so much.
And can I acknowledge my parliamentary colleagues who are here and do that through the two parliamentary members of the library council, Julian Leeser and Claire Moore.
Well, ladies and gentleman today we pause to celebrate not only one of the nation’s most important cultural institutions, but also one of the most magnificent buildings in the national capital. As Ryan mentioned, almost a century ago, then Prime Minister Gordon did something which doesn’t happen often with the postponement of Question Time. Indeed, in the 14 years I’ve been in this building, the only occasion that Question Time has been postponed is to acknowledge the passing of a former Prime Minister. But such was the importance of that event 50 years ago. The first major building to be opened in the Parliamentary Triangle since the opening of Old Parliament House in 1927. It was also significant because it was the first time that the collection and the staff had all been together in the one building since the library moved to the national capital in 1927.
At that time, the building stood alone on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin. And you’ve probably heard that given our Washminster system that they say the waters of both the Thames and the Potomac flow into Lake Burley Griffin. And there is indeed something of a Potomac influence at the library building in that both the National Library of Australia and the Kennedy Centre echo each other in both their architecture and their placement next to the water.
Now with a project of this type it wouldn’t surprise you that the then Prime Minister Menzies took a very close interest in the architecture and the building itself. He was averse to a modern building and favoured something with columns. So he certainly got his wish. However, not in its entirety because as Marie-Louise knows, there are always budget pressures. And so one row of columns were cut to save $250,000.
But what we see is a beautiful building. I love it. I love Old Parliament House. I love the National Library. They are my two favourite buildings in Canberra. And one of the great privileges and joys I have is to be the temporary custodian, as Arts Minister, of these national institutions.
So we are here to celebrate 50 years of a wonderful building. But we’re really here through this celebration to acknowledge what happens within and beyond it. But the building is important. The building does help to convey to the staff and to the community, the important purpose of the library and its national mission. Its national mission as one of the important repositories of our knowledge and our history.
And I should acknowledge that the National Library is at the cutting edge of not only national institutions but international institutions when it comes to the digitisation of its collection and making it available to the nation. But also having the nation as part of that digitisation process.
And Marie-Louise, the work that you’re leading now as Director-General but that you led in your previous incarnation, through the establishment of Trove and the creation of a very formidable group of people around the nation called Troveites is something that we should celebrate and is a model for other institutions.
Thank you so much to the library for coming up to our House. It’s often hard for us to get away and to get down to you. But thank you. I know that this will be an annual event. Can I just again thank Ryan for everything that you have done as Chair. Marie-Louise, for the leadership you provide. And the staff for all that you collectively do for us. Happy 50th anniversary National Library of Australia building.
Authorised by Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield, Liberal Party of Australia, Parliament House, Canberra