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Former Prime Minister, Paul Keating (Click for larger image.)

Paul Keating, former Prime Minister of Australia has an idea that Sydney should be the site for Houses of Parliament. | Claro Cortes IV

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Paul Keating
Form PM Paul Keating on Australia's capital. | Virginia Trioli
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Keating: Sydney should be the capital

In an extensive interview, Mr Keating denied the idea is a rather radical one for a relocation of the nation's capital to Sydney, and doesn't see it being unrealistic.

Rather, he says, there is a unique timing opportunity to revitalise the seat of power in the country.

"We have a chance to decide what policy we should employ towards Sydney Harbour. It's a one in 200 year opportunity to recast the western side of the harbour and part of the near east, and I am arguing that it should be reserved for Commonwealth usage."

Mr Keating focused in on Garden Island, which is used to service Navy ships. He says ship building has changed over the years and that it is 'anachronistic' to have such fleet services based in Sydney. He says the site could be used for new Parliament buildings.

But didn't taxpayers spend a billion dollars on the current Parliament House?

No doubt any move of the Parliament would be costly, but My Keating argues on two fronts the reasons for a possible changing of the location.

"John Howard has already effectively moved the Parliament here. Cabinet meets in Philip Street in Sydney, and when they do go to Canberra, the fly down to the bush capital, and everybody flies out on Friday. There is an air of unreality about Canberra."

"If Parliament sat in Sydney, they would have a better understanding of the problems being faced by their constituents. These real things are camouflaged from Canberra."

On another front, Mr Keating says that depreciation rates applied to Parliament House in Canberra as well, and even if it did cost a billion dollars last century, it may be time to reconsider new houses of Parliament.

"And of course, the Parliament House - we spent $1 billion on it 20 years ago but if you go and buy a new flat in Sydney, you get depreciation. If you applied the same depreciation rate to Parliament House, it owes us nothing."

"And it could have other benefits. If the National Gallery wants room for more pictures, it's got one".

But Sydney Chamber of Commerce spokeswoman Patricia Forsythe says Canberra should remain the capital.

"We don't need to do that. The US has Washington as its capital but New York is its great city and Canada has Ottawa as its capital but Toronto as its great city," she said.

"I think we owe the people of inland Australia an opportunity to have a great city and Canberra is a great city, so I'm going to disagree with him."

However in a media release Mrs Forsythe said Mr Keating's comment was a worthy contribution to national debate.

"We all know that Sydney is already the nation's economic and cultural capital," she said.

"The APEC leaders' summit is being hosted by Sydney because the world recognises our role as the nation's leading city.

"When world leaders come to Australia they come to Sydney - and if they have time they will go to Canberra."

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Last Updated: 25/05/2007 11:37:26 AM

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