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
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
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
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
Authorised by Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield, Liberal Party of Australia, Parliament House, Canberra.