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Cabinet papers: Broadening the way for objectors not to become Diggers

Former Australian defence minister Robert Ray in 1991. Photo: Peter Morris A women’s anti-conscription demonstration at Marrickville army depot on April 20, 1966.

Australia became the first and still only nation to recognise a right of selective objection to military conscription.

The cabinet agreed to allow people to claim an exemption from being called up to fight in a particular war or warlike operation as well as to war or warlike operations generally.

The sweeping changes to conscription were made by a cabinet comprised of many men and women who had joined the anti-conscription and anti-Vietnam War marches of the 1960s and 1970s.

During the Vietnam War, cases of conscientious objection were heard by ordinary courts, but the cabinet agreed that a new tribunal would be set up to hear cases of conscientious objection if conscription was introduced.

Government MPs were pushing for a law to prevent future governments from introducing compulsory military service without parliamentary authority.

In May 1991, Defence Minister Robert Ray told the cabinet that people who opposed the current provisions for conscription that applied when Australia was threatened might criticise the changes.

“But the proposal would widen grounds for conscientious objection,” he said.

When Tasmanian senator Michael Tate became Justice Minister he drafted a bill to amend the Defence Act in relation to conscientious objection. It was referred to the Senate standing committee on legal and constitutional affairs in 1983.

The most controversial aspect of the draft bill was the proposal to recognise selective objection.

In its submission to the standing committee’s inquiry, the Defence Department was totally opposed to altering any legislation relating to conscription.

A confidential Defence Department internal minute noted:

“If the proposed changes to eligibility for exemption on conscientious grounds are adopted, they should logically be available during service, whether compulsory or voluntary. In this context, should regular [volunteer] members of the Defence Force gain exemption and thus not be available to perform the duties for which they have been trained, any national investment which has been made in their training will have been wasted. Further, operational capabilities that are essential components of an effective national defence force could be rendered inoperative if specially trained personnel manning critical functions were granted exemption.”

The federal opposition opposed the recognition of selective objection, saying it was unworkable.

Senator Ray said selective objection would not include military service required in the event of invasion of the Australian mainland.

Cabinet records release

Cabinet records for 1990 and 1991 held by the National Archives of Australia became eligible for access from January 1, 2016. Information about the cabinet records, lists of the documents and copies of key cabinet documents, including selected submissions and decisions, are available on the Archives’ website (naa.gov备案老域名). Click on the “Collection” tab, then “Popular research topics”, then “Cabinet”.

Requests for access to records not already released may be made via RecordSearch on the Archives’ website.

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Cabinet papers: Falling off the sheep’s back

Shearers work on a fleece two decades after the end of the floor price. Photo: Nicolas Walker Stockpiled bales of wool at the Australian Wool Board workhouse in 1990.

If Australia ever “rode on the sheep’s back” the country fell off as the Hawke government forced the emblematic wool industry to be subjected to the same pressures that the end of tariff protection was having on manufacturing.

For more than a century wool had given Australia one of the highest standards of living in the world.

But competition from synthetics, rising costs and waning prices on the international market and the Australian Wool Corporation’s complex system to maintain price stability was poised to destroy the industry.

In fact, the Australian wool reserve price scheme, coupled with a dramatic decline in sales to Russia and China, had created a stockpile of wool so massive that it threatened to overwhelm the entire Australian economy.

An unsold stockpile of 188,000 bales in July 1989 passed 2.45 million bales by April 1990: the reserve price stood at $8.70 a kilogram.

The Minister for Primary Industries and Energy, John Kerin, argued to the cabinet in May 1990 that “there is a limit to which a prudent industry should go on taxing itself, and borrowing, to make itself into its own customer”.

Mr Kerin gained cabinet approval for what Australian National University historian Nicholas Brown called one of the Hawke government’s most radical portfolio reconstructions.

The minister favoured direct intervention in the wool marketing system should its leaders not respond to “pressure” to reform.

There was little sign they would.

By September 1990 he argued that “we have to put in place arrangements which will allow the industry to face up to its enormous adjustment problem”.

An inquiry initiated by Mr Kerin warned of “chaos” if the floor price was simply abolished. Instead he proposed statutory reforms to support the Australian Wool Corporation “trade its way out” in an orderly disposal of stocks, and then establish new agencies with separate responsibilities for aspects of the industry, including the repayment of debt.

The view from Finance was blunt: there was no justification for “market support in the modern world trading environment”.

Prime Minister and Cabinet agreed, noting that such medicine was particularly deserved by an industry that “has shown very little inclination to accept the realities of a market situation”.

Mr Kerin’s argument that growers should receive payments to “ease the shock of transition” was countered by Finance that “price falls … are part and parcel of the farming enterprise”: why should the wool sector be any different?

In September 1990 the cabinet agreed to suspend rather than terminate the floor price, and to offer “a strictly limited scheme of income support” calculated with reference to the demonstrated need of individual farmers.

By April 1991, when wool prices had held up better than expected, a further submission secured the abolition of the floor price by July.

Cabinet records release

Cabinet records for 1990 and 1991 held by the National Archives of Australia became eligible for access from January 1, 2016. Information about the cabinet records, lists of the documents and copies of key cabinet documents, including selected submissions and decisions, are available on the Archives’ website (naa.gov备案老域名). Click on the “Collection” tab, then “Popular research topics”, then “Cabinet”.

Requests for access to records not already released may be made via RecordSearch on the Archives’ website.

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Cabinet papers: The last King of Cocos loses his palace

Oceania House on the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. Photo: 老站出售panoramio老域名出售 The Cocos Islands.

A broadside view of the wrecked German raider Emden after her encounter with HMAS Sydney near Cocos Island. Photo: Charles Edwin Bean/Australian War Memorial

An unidentified seaman on the quarter deck of HMAS Sydney looks at the wrecked German cruiser Emden Photo: Australian War Memorial

The last remnant of colonial grace and favour, the ancestral pile of the Clunies-Ross family on the Cocos Islands, fell to modern Australian in 1991.

The Hawke government agreed to pay $1.55 million to buy Oceania House, built from materials shipped from Scotland on a promontory overlooking the main Cocos lagoon, and its grounds, the vestige of the days when the family ruled the islands as their own private fiefdom.

They had hung on to the house and bit of land as their dynastic sole island possession after their former labourers voted to become part of Australia in 1984.

A Scottish merchant seaman, John Clunies-Ross, settled the islands in 1827 and used Malays brought to serve in a previous English settler’s harem and indentured labourers to work on palm plantations.

In 1886, Queen Victoria gave the family the islands “in perpetuity”. The male of each new generation declared himself King of the Cocos Islands.

Over the years the Clunies-Ross chain of islands in the Indian Ocean, 2700 kilometres north-west of Perth, saw HMAS Sydney fight the German cruiser Emden in 1914 and visits by Charles Darwin in 1836 and Queen Elizabeth II in 1954.

But a year after the Queen’s visit, Australia took administrative control from Singapore.

Subsequently, constant media coverage in Australia of the Clunies-Ross family and their virtual slaves ensured the family’s days of empire were numbered.

The Clunies-Ross feudal style of rule upset many Australians but it endured for three decades until Malcolm Fraser’s government in 1978 forced the family to sell for $6.25 million or face compulsory acquisition.

The Clunies-Ross were allowed to keep the home and land.

But in 1983, a year before the Act of Self-Determination voted 229 to 28 (with two informals) in favour of being integrated with Australia, Canberra reneged and told the family to leave.

John Clunies-Ross won a High Court of Australia case that found resumption of Oceania House was unlawful.

But the Hawke government ordered that the family shipping company which had been bought with the sale of their island birthright could not be awarded any government work and Clunies-Ross went bankrupt.

In March 1991 Territories Minister David Simmons told the cabinet that the government had promised to purchase the property for them as part of negotiations during the lead-up to the Act of Self-Determination and did not want to be seen as using the house as a carrot for a pro-Australia vote.

“If purchase is not agreed, the Commonwealth may be seen to be going back on an undertaking to purchase the property given at the time the Cocos Malay people voted for integration with Australia at a United Nations-observed Act of Self-Determination,” he said.

“The government could argue that circumstances have changed since then. Declaring North Keeling Island a National Park or Reserve will have strong support from environmental interests.”

Pulu Keeling National Park was declared in 1995, long after Oceania House was sold to the Australian government and John Clunies-Ross left Cocos and went into exile in Perth, broken and impoverished.

Cabinet records release

Cabinet records for 1990 and 1991 held by the National Archives of Australia became eligible for access from January 1, 2016. Information about the cabinet records, lists of the documents and copies of key cabinet documents, including selected submissions and decisions, are available on the Archives’ website (naa.gov备案老域名). Click on the “Collection” tab, then “Popular research topics”, then “Cabinet”.

Requests for access to records not already released may be made via RecordSearch on the Archives’ website.

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Cabinet papers: One and two cent coins cashed in

This 1990 one cent master coin was one of the last produced before Paul Keating decided to withdraw this denomination.Australia’s long usage of copper coins ended when the Hawke government stopped the production and issue of new one and two cent coins.

Treasurer Paul Keating told the cabinet in July 1990 that the purchasing power of both coins had become “practically nil”.

Both coins were introduced with decimalisation on February 14, 1966, replacing the penny and halfpenny. The original reverse designs remained unchanged for 24 years. Many countries, including Norway, Sweden, France and New Zealand, had recently withdrawn lowest denomination coins from circulation.

Mr Keating said most consumers regarded them as a nuisance.

“The coins cost more to produce than their face value,” he said.

“There is likely to be some false concern initially that the proposed change will add to inflation. Changes to coinage and notes give rise to opposition, but it is usually short-lived.”

Both coins were withdrawn from circulation in February 1992.

Cabinet records release

Cabinet records for 1990 and 1991 held by the National Archives of Australia became eligible for access from January 1, 2016. Information about the cabinet records, lists of the documents and copies of key cabinet documents, including selected submissions and decisions, are available on the Archives’ website (naa.gov备案老域名). Click on the “Collection” tab, then “Popular research topics”, then “Cabinet”.

Requests for access to records not already released may be made via RecordSearch on the Archives’ website.

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Cabinet Papers: High cost of renovating Old Parliament House

Libby Stewart, senior historian at the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House in October 2015. Photo: Melissa AdamsNational Capital Authority dodged a bulletA Capital plan for Canberra’Firm attitude’ needed against APS wage claimsDisputes over building new Parliament HouseTension in cabinet over plan to build massive new building for DFATCut ACT funding and listen to the howls of protest

The Hawke Government baulked at the high cost of renovating Old Parliament House, despite predictions of revenue from tourism and functions such as weddings.

In March 1989, it was reported Cabinet would consider a proposal to remodel the building, at a cost of $25 million.

In 1988, when members moved to the new $1 billion Parliament House, Cabinet agreed to retain the Old Parliament House building “essentially in its 1927 configuration” by removing the rear extension and annex, but again deferred major works because of the high cost of removing asbestos.

The building, formerly known as the provisional Parliament House, was closed to the public as the costs of renovations were reconsidered.

In June 1990, Cabinet accepted a recommendation in principle that it should become part of the National Museum of Australia and be used as a constitutional and political museum.

However, Cabinet papers released by the National Archives of Australia show ministers slowed the plan, at a meeting in August 1990.

The submission from Administrative Affairs Minister Nick Bolkus​ said there had been parliamentary and public criticism the building “has been left to deteriorate”.

“Its inaccessibility to the public can be avoided, concerns about protecting the heritage value of the building can be allayed, criticism from the building industry in a time of low level building activity can be avoided,” the submission says in support of funding renovations.

The Finance Department said procedures established by Cabinet to control building costs meant firm costs should be available before ministers are asked or agree to commencement of the work.

Detailed design and commencement of work should be deferred until the 1991-92 budget at the earliest, it said.

Treasury supported the development in principle but believed the funding should be more staggered.

The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet pointed out Cabinet procedures required that no proposal be brought before Cabinet unless details of user needs are finalised and costings are developed to at least the preliminary estimates stage.

“Initial design work (costing about $1m) is necessary before preliminary cost estimates can be prepared,” PM&C said.

Cabinet agreed to Senator Bolkus’s recommendation for $1.35 million to develop more accurate costings for the project and to obtain estimates in the “limit of cost” category.

However, he had also sought agreement in principle for funding of $36 million in following years for the project.

“There is a significant level of interest from politicians, the media and the public that OPH should not be left to deteriorate and that it should be accessible to the public,” the submission says.

A Cabinet minute for the meeting of August 6, 1990, notes only that ministers agreed to $1.35 million.

One iteration of the plan was for the historic building to be, as well as a political history museum, the Australian Electoral Commission’s education centre, a government information and exposition centre and headquarters for the Australian Heritage Commission.

“The Senate chamber and King’s Hall have also been used for functions, the House of Representatives bowling green is in constant use by the New Parliament House Bowling Club, the Senate rose gardens have proven a very popular venue for weddings,” the Cabinet papers say.

“There is currently a low level of activity in the building trade in the ACT with the result that prices are stabilising and advantage could be taken of the competitive building environment if the redevelopment commences in the 1990-91 financial year.

“Were it to be left unoccupied, the current level of funding of $1 million per year for the care and maintenance regime could escalate.”

The submission notes that an earlier submission, in December 1987, provided for complete refurbishment of the building, internally and externally, and its redevelopment as a parliamentary and electoral exhibition and education centre, at a cost of $54 million.

“The current cost option is the result of a substantially reduced option,” the 1990 submission says.

It contains a ministerial statement for Senator Bolkus to read to Parliament, which says the first stage of redevelopment involves removing asbestos, demolishing the southeast and southwest wings, removing the temporary annex and restoring the site.

“On the main or King’s Hall floor of the building, the National Museum of Australia will operate a Museum of Australian Political History,” the prepared statement says.

“With visitor levels expected to be in the vicinity of 750,000, provision will be made for tourist information, a shop for souvenirs, and refreshments.

“The aim is to have the former members’ dining room used again, this time as a public restaurant for Australian and overseas visitors to enjoy.”

It was reported in November 1992, that Senator Nick Bolkus was to announce a plan to refurbish parts of the building for a political exhibition, at a cost of $1.25 million.

Old Parliament House was the venue for the 1988 constitutional convention and is now home to the Museum of Australian Democracy.

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Crystal ball reveals 2016’s highs and lows in business

Michael Pascoe is all-knowing.January

Senator Eric Abetz declares a Day of Shame over Tony Abbott not being named Australian of the Year. “Monckton warned me – it’s the United Nations World Government again,” the Tasmanian senator says.

At his first official function as Ambassador – an Australia Day barbie – Joe Hockey lauds the McDonald’s all-day breakfast as the sort of innovation Australia needs. Embassy staff quietly ask guests not to tell him it’s already available here. February

After the year’s first RBA board meeting, governor Stevens says “chilling out” is working well for the economy by reducing speculation. To assist, the RBA board will only meet quarterly.

The UN General Assembly declares thermal coal a hazardous substance. Environment Minister Greg Hunt says: “If coal’s a hazard, all you have to do, to get rid of it, is burn the stuff.” March

The Bureau of Meteorology says 2016 is already on track to take 2015’s Hottest Year Ever title.

Under instructions from Minister Hunt, BoM apologises to Alan Jones for using alarmist language and re-scales expectations for 2016 to perhaps be Least Coldest Year.

Missing person report is filed for Opposition Leader Bill Shorten. April

ASIC and ATO jointly announce a royal commission into banking/finance/superannuation industry and promise a no-holds-barred crackdown on executive expenses rorting and multinational tax dodging.

The sharemarket plunges. An ASIC spokesperson asks why no journalist noticed the date on the release, April 1. “This was a perfect example of “if it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t true”.

After six months of holding his head with a slight tilt to the left, while smiling beneficently through media conferences, Prime Minister Turnbull experiments with a slight tilt to the right. “Innovation is what we’re all about,” he says. May

RBA governor Stevens announces “chilling out” policy is being replaced by “hanging loose”. RBA board meetings are to be bi-annual.

Treasurer Morrison’s first budget solves spending and revenue problems by privatising and outsourcing e.g. ABC is to be sold to Foxtel, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to the IPA, the Health Department to a consortium of tobacco and drug companies, the Defence Department to Donald Trump; Centrelink clients will be auctioned off for body parts.

Tasmanian Senator Abetz declares Tony Abbott a genius. “The budget proves my leader is actually running the government from his hideout in the Brindabellas,” he says. “Morrison is his puppet.” June

The Queensland government agrees to a take-or-pay contract with Adani in order to secure a Galilee Basin coal mine. Every Queenslander is to be guaranteed a monthly coal ration of 10 tonnes, delivered to their door. July

At his second official function, Ambassador Hockey tells a July 4 cocktail party that Australia has much to learn from America’s exciting spirit of innovation.

“Most countries, if they had Dunkin’ Donuts, would think, ‘well, that’s good enough, that’s great’, but not the US of A, no sir-ee – you go and invent Krispy Kreme as well! I say hats off to you, it’s a privilege to be your most faithful ally. How are you off for body parts?”

Environment Minister Hunt and Deputy PM Joyce announce an enhanced Direct Action program with a $10 billion payment to farmers for burying coal. August

Queensland government reclassifies all backyards as rural properties.

The combination of liberalised crowdfunding, investment bank start-up boosterism and relaxed bankruptcy laws come home to roost with a slew of frauds, failures and fit-ups that promise to keep Adele Ferguson in Walkley Awards for a decade.

The United Nations Security Council announces a blockade of Australian coal ports. September

A search party looking for Tony Abbott’s guerrilla base in the Canberra hinterland finds Opposition Leader Bill Shorten in a bark hut, wearing a grass skirt. With an election imminent, they do the humane thing and leave him there. October

Crosby Textor’s Australian Electoral Commission announces a landslide victory for the Turnbull/Joyce government. Sir Lynton Crosby declares it the most efficient Australian election ever. “Replacing the ballot box with targeted phone polling is what the Innovation Nation is all about,” he says. November

RBA governor Stevens says the natural progression of unorthodox monetary policy meant “hanging loose” would be replaced by “dropping out”. “The board really only needs meet once a year. We’ll do it on Melbourne Cup Day – it’ll be easier to remember,” he says.

In his third official function, the Australian Embassy’s thanksgiving dinner, Ambassador Hockey declares the turducken the innovation Australia has been waiting for. December

The UN World Government forces trap the global coal fleet in Barrier Reef waters and sink it. “Direct Action can’t get any more direct than that, everyone’s adopting our innovative policies,” minister Hunt says. “And all those sunken ships will provide habitat for the fish that used to have coral.”

In the “quiet” period between Christmas and New Year, Treasurer Morrison achieves the GST he’s always wanted by outsourcing Treasury to New Zealand.

And somewhere high in the Brindabellas, the unmistakable voice of Senator Abetz can be heard calling: “My leader, my leader, I’m here, ready to lead the charge on the Lodge. Just give the order!”

Michael Pascoe doesn’t guarantee his almanac’s accuracy, especially the bits he plagiarised from his Mining Monthly column.

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Outcry over ‘tainted’ UK honours system

Lynton Crosby. Photo: Janie BarrettBritain’s “Crosby flap” has developed into a national cringe over its royal honours system, which is being denounced as “borderline corrupt” cronyism that rewards friends and donors to the Conservative Party.

The outcry began last weekend, when news leaked to The Sunday Times that Australian political mastermind Lynton Crosby, who led the Conservatives to a smashing general election win in 2015, was to be made a knight in the New Year’s honours list.

But it reached new heights on Thursday with the publication of the full list of 1196 knights, dames, OBEs, MBEs and BEMs.

Most of the recipients were community volunteers, such as 13-year-old Jonjo Heuerman from Kent, who raised more than £200,000 for cancer research, partly by dribbling a football up and down a pitch for five days; or 99-year-old Dorothy Start, who worked for charities and community groups (and ran regular bake sales) in Barnet, Hertfordshire.

But some names on the list have aroused anger.

The Independent called it “the New Year Cronies list”, and the Daily Mail said the honours had been “tainted”.

“Sex shop queen is handed a CBE, boss of shambolic tax office made a Dame, gongs for cronies, donors and bungling bureaucrats,” it complained on its front page.

The “sex shop queen” is businesswoman Jacqueline Gold, who won a CBE for “services to entrepreneurship, women in business and social enterprise” as head of the Ann Summers empire – purveyor of skimpy lingerie, Rampant Rabbit sex toys and bondage kits.

Ms Gold, who is worth almost a quarter of a billion pounds, is a long-standing donor to the Conservatives. In February she attended a £1500-a-head (or £15,000 to sit near a minister) fundraiser for the party at the Mayfair Hotel.

She also appeared with Chancellor George Osborne at a pre-election press conference in which she said it was “essential” the Conservatives were in power.

Another gong winner was Christopher Fenwick, who can add an OBE to his name for “political service”. Mr Fenwick is a retail multi-millionaire who has given money personally to the Conservatives, as well as helping run the low profile “United & Cecil Club”, which funnels money from anonymous donors to the Conservatives to fight marginal seats.

And multi-millionaire Zameer Choudrey, whose Bestway retailer was reported to have donated nearly half a million pounds to the Conservatives, became a CBE.

Gold, Fenwick and Choudrey were among 30 Conservative Party members or supporters who received awards.

Labour’s shadow home secretary, Andy Burnham, told The Independent: “This outrageous award is the clearest evidence yet that the Tories think they can get away with whatever they like.”

Labour MP John Mann told The Times, “It stinks… it’s cronyism at its worst”, while anti-monarchy campaigner Graham Smith called it “borderline corrupt – it’s clearly being used to repay favours and scratch backs”.

Labour MP Graham Jones said: “The honours system is supposed to recognise dedicated public service, not simply be a vehicle to reward Tory cronies and donors. David Cameron should take care not to undermine the integrity of the system.”

But Sir Jonathan Stephens, chairman of the Honours Committee, which vetted the list, said only 26 of the 1196 gongs were awarded for political services. Each honour was awarded on merit, he said.

There was also new debate over the number of awards for public servants for just doing their job. According to a tally in The Times, 136 civil servants were nominated for awards, about the same number as the past two honours lists put together. This was not even taking into account police officers, military personnel or council employees.

Dorothy Brown, for example, won a gong for “services to taxpayers” – she was director of personal tax operations at HM Revenue and Customs.

A particular target of the Daily Mail’s ire was Lin Homer, now a dame in the Order of the Bath, an honour exclusive to civil servants and diplomats, which was recommended for abolition in a 2004 review.

She was cited “for public service particularly to public finance” But the Mail dubbed Ms Homer “Dame Disaster”, claiming that during her 35-year career she “presided over failures in the immigration system and (now) runs the shambolic UK tax office”.

Knighthoods were occasionally awarded by kings on the battlefield to recognise particular bravery, chivalry or success, though the government has been quiet on which of these applied to Mr Crosby on the electoral front line. The official citation said he was “the central figure in the [Conservative] party’s electoral successes over the last decade. He also pioneered the campaign for Australian Prime Minister John Howard in 1998 and 2001.”

These days a knighthood is conferred for “significant contributions to national life”.

The knight-elect kneels on a knighting-stool in front of the Queen (or another royal), who lays a sword blade on the knight’s right, then left shoulder. Contrary to popular belief, they do not then say “Arise, sir…”

A palace spokesman said it was too early to say when, where, or from whom Mr Crosby will receive his knighthood.

The Queen, Prince William, Prince Charles and Princess Anne all have the power to conduct investiture ceremonies, which are held at various times through the year at Windsor Castle and in Scotland.

However, Mr Crosby is already officially “Sir Lynton” – the knighthood applied as soon as it was announced and the investiture is a ceremonial acknowledgement.

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Cabinet papers: disputes over building new Parliament House

Tourists on the forecourt of Parliament House in Canberra. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen / FairfaxNational Capital Authority dodged a bulletA Capital plan for Canberra’Firm attitude’ needed against APS wage claims

The Hawke government had to deal with last minute disputes with contractors after the new Parliament House building was opened.

The Parliament House Construction Authority was to be wound up and staff retrenched at the end of 1990 but “one sensitive matter remained unsolved, the dispute with the project architect”, according to cabinet papers released by the National Archives of Australia.

There were also problems with the winding mechanisms on the wooden blinds and with moth damage to fabrics in the huge building.

The authority kept back $1.15 million from the architect’s final fee as it sought to recover the costs of “rectifying defective work which would be attributable to errors or omissions in the design or documentation”.

The insurance company, not the architect, met the rectification costs and the terms of settlement kept the figure confidential.

“However, the authority has reported that the settlement not only covered the estimated costs of rectifying unsatisfactory work attributable to the architect or its sub-consultants, it also exceeded the amount of the fee retained by the authority, this justifying its decision to withhold the payment,” the cabinet submission says.

Earlier, the authority had faced claims of approximately $30 million, comprising 17 contracts from nine contractors.

The authority had a policy of parallel action, to negotiate with contractors while pursuing its rights in arbitration or litigation.

“As a result, the authority was able to finalise the 17 outstanding contracts before September 1990 for less than $10 million,” the submission says.

The authority considered it had completed its work.

“The major, sensitive issues which persuaded the authority members to continue beyond September, the dispute with the architect, has been satisfactorily and amicably settled,” the papers say.

“The authority regards this as a very satisfactory outcome.

“When the high standard of the building and the completion of the project on time are also taken into account, this represents a commendable performance by the many individuals and organisations which contributed, under the general direction of the authority.”

Cabinet agreed in December 1990 to the resignation of the chairman and two remaining members of the construction authority, to take effect from the end of the month.

Administrative Services Minister Nick Bolkus was authorised to tell Parliament the final cost of the project was $1.067 billion, an underrun of $11.77 million against the project budget.

“This saving is in addition to the items deleted from the project budget by the Parliament to provide savings but subsequently reinstated by the government without providing additional funding, eg landscaping $5 million in 1987 and TV cameras, $1.66 million in 1988,” the papers say.

The Parliament House website says visitors experience the magnificent architecture and design of the building such as the 81-metre-high flag mast, which is one of the world’s largest stainless steel structures and is recognised as a national icon.

“Opened 9 May 1988 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Parliament House is the home of Australia’s Federal Parliament and one of the world’s most acclaimed buildings,” it says.

“Designed by Mitchell/Giurgola and Thorp architects, following a design competition that attracted 329 entries from 28 countries, it is one of the largest buildings in the southern hemisphere.

“Parliament House welcomes around one million visitors from Australia and overseas each year, making it one of Canberra’s most popular attractions.”

More Cabinet Archives stories:Disputes over building new Parliament HouseTension in cabinet over plan to build massive new building for DFATHigh cost of renovating Old Parliament HouseCut ACT funding and listen to the howls of protest

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Pets on planes for holidays send their owners stress levels soaring

A dog being loaded on to a Qantas flight in Canberra. Photo: SuppliedMany holidaymakers packed and booked through an extra bag over the Christmas holidays, containing their pet dog or cat.

Qantas issued a statement before the holidays saying it would fly 120 pets on planes a day, or 10,000 over the holiday period.

Two days before Christmas at the Qantas freight terminal at Canberra Airport, tensions soared as dogs were late arriving.

One man sat patiently, as parents and their children came and went, either picking up their dogs or sending them on their way for the holidays. He was waiting for his dog from Sydney.

Finally a man in a yellow fluro vest came from behind the ‘staff only’ doors, opening his arms to emphasise an apology to the man.

“The plane was chockers with passengers and their luggage. Your dog didn’t make it,” he said.

“But I have been hearing that all afternoon?” the dog owner said.

From behind the counter, another man said: “Have you contacted [specialist pet transport] Jetpets?”

“I have tried. They are not answering their phone,” the man said. He lowered his voice and said: “I am livid.”

He declined Qantas’ offer to speak to a supervisor.

“I am livid. Livid,” the man said.

A woman loading her dog into a crate for a flight to Perth fiddled with the door, dropping the leash attached to her dog, who began walking to the automatic exit doors which opened. The livid man alerted her. She caught the leash, avoiding a repeat of a border collie escaping from the terminal in September.

A spokesman for Qantas says animals are given the highest priority from a freight point of view. “We understand they often travel with people. Even when they don’t travel with people they are a living, breathing animal and need to be treated with care if they are flying.”

The spokesman said pets were the last to be offloaded if there was an issue with freight.

Jetpets marketing manager Janine Janides says pets are treated as a priority when boarding and departing a flight

“Upon arrival to the destination pets are picked up from a different area of the terminal to the baggage, and therefore there may be a wrong perception pets are last to get off a plane,” Ms Janides said.

Online reviews show the man’s ordeal in Canberra is not unusual. Customers rated air freight services for their pets poorly, saying they had lost track of pets.

In one case a Birman kitten was sent to the wrong state, and a Siamese cat was mistakenly sent to the owner instead.

One complainant says he had booked his dog two months in advance, only to discover on Christmas eve the courier had forgotten to book a flight. “Did they admit to this? No of course not, I had to call the actual freight company to confirm that the first they heard of my animals was the 23/12/15”.

Ms Janides says Jetpets does not forget to book in clients flights. “Unfortunately flights do occasionally get rescheduled and shifted, and this did on occasion happen during the recent peak travelling season.”

Ms Janides says pets are part of the family these days, and are being booked on flights for holidays. “The key reason for owning a pet is for companionship and people enjoy the company of their pet not just at home but during outings and holidays.”

The company, which flies dogs, cats, fish and reptiles around Australia and abroad, employs pet handlers to collect animals from their homes and organise their flights.

“Some pet owners are anxious about their pets travelling,” Ms Janides said. “Our consultants try to put their minds at ease by explaining how pet travel works and what their pet will experience.”

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Sydney’s New Year’s Eve celebrations kick off with welcome to country and family fireworks

The 9pm New Year’s Eve fireworks on Sydney Harbour, viewed from Lady Macquarie’s Chair. Photo: Janie Barrett NYE 2015. The 9pm New Year’s Eve fireworks on Sydney Harbour, viewed from Mrs Macquarie’s Chair. Photo: Janie Barrett

NYE 2015. The midnight New Year’s Eve fireworks on Sydney Harbour, viewed from Lady Macquarie’s Chair. Photo: Janie Barrett

Sydney has once again proved why its New Year celebrations are world famous, with bursts of brilliance providing a spectacular backdrop to the Harbour Bridge and Opera House as Australia welcomed in 2016.

Synchronised to a soundtrack of some of 2015’s biggest hits including Uptown Funk and Hold Back the River, the almost 15-minute fireworks show sent crowds into rapturous cheers and applause.

The $7 million party kicked off early on Thursday, with a vast and proud Aboriginal Welcome to Country ceremony ushering in the iconic fireworks display, putting local Gadigal, Wangal and Gamaragal traditions front and centre in global new year celebrations.

At 8.40pm the Sydney Harbour Bridge was transformed into a giant canvas, using new technologies to present the world’s oldest dance form in honour of Australia’s First Nations culture, land and peoples.

Fireworks and special effects turned the structure into a giant Aboriginal flag, complete with a red waterfall cascading from the bridge base shortly after the sun set for the last time in 2015.

Sail boats, yachts and private ferries took up position on the harbour, for prime positions early on Thursday.

On land, the best vantage points filled up hours before the clock struck twelve.

And the massive crowds that filled the Harbourside parks and reserves had claimed their prime positions early – some camping out for days to secure their spot.

The Sydney Opera House grounds were full by 2.30pm, with crowds settling in for a nine-and-a-half hour wait for the midnight fireworks.

Mrs Macquarie’s Chair and Mary Booth reached capacity by 4.30pm, followed by Circular Quay and Blues Point Reserve around 5.30pm.

Major roads were closed across the Sydney CBD from 6pm, with most revellers heeding advice for officials to use public transport to get around town.

Thousands of extra police officers are on duty, having planned for 12 months for the city’s New Year’s Eve celebrations, with crowd control a priority for officers on the foreshore.

Officers have been patrolling on foot, horseback, throughout the public transport network and on the water, keeping an eye on the massive crowds that have flocked to the water’s edge.

NSW Ambulance paramedics are also out in force.

The City of Sydney information booths have been taken over by the Thomas Kelly Youth Foundation’s Safe Spaces, with volunteers ready to help revellers get home safely.

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