New Parliament Reviews
Government at Work May 31, 2011
This building was conceived by American architect Walter Burley Griffin in 1912, but not built until 1988, Canberra's focal point was designed to blend organically into its setting at the top of Capital Hill; only a national flag supported by a giant four-footed flagpole which rises high above the peak of the hill. I entered from the mall area which is between old and new Parliament and it is a very nice walk. Inside are more than 3,000 works of Australian arts and crafts, and most of the areas of the building are open to the general public. Just outside the main entrance, look for a mosaic by Michael Tjakamarra Nelson, Meeting Place, which represents a gathering of Aboriginal tribes. There's also a 66-ft tapestry of an Arthur Boyd painting in the Great Hall on the first floor in the Great Hall. There are so many symbols of the country including the use of marble and timber in the foyer which our tour guide told us was to provide a link to the arrival of the Europeans to Australia. There is one of the four known versions of the Magna Carta in the Great Hall beneath the flagpole. There are other displays of Bibles and writing of greats well worth the time to look at and be amazed by.
Parliament is usually in session Monday through Thursday between mid-February and late June and from mid-August to mid-December (check www.aph.gov.au for scheduled sittings). Both the Lower House (the House of Representatives, where the prime minister sits) and the Upper House (the Senate) have public viewing galleries. The best time to see the action is during Question Time, which starts at 2pm in the Lower House. If you turn up early, you might get a seat; otherwise, make reservations for gallery tickets through the sergeant-at-arms (tel. 02/6277 4889) at least a day in advance. When you do get into line to watch the question time, you will have to cloak any and all things that can be thrown at the politicians. There is a secure cloak room right across from the security screening area. After you cloak everything you will have to go through security screening. The experience is strangely similar to that of an airport. Really, it is harmless and then you get to make your way to the public galleries. Watching these politicians insult and criticize each other for more than an hour was, I am not sure words can describe it. You are welcome to leave at anytime, and I got up after about 40 minutes of rants about a carbon tax.
Take the free 45-minute tour of the building which starts every 30 minutes beginning at 9am. You will see and hear a lot of good information about how the parliament works and the treasures of the building. Our tour guide pointed out how each Australian citizen must register to vote as well as show up to elections or face fines and or penalties. Interesting requirements to participate in this Democracy. There is a nice gift shop that has some great Australian made souvenirs, literature about politics and a variety of political biographies and reasonable prices. The restaurant, The Queen’s Terrace Café, served light meals, refreshments and coffees which can be enjoyed inside or outside with views of the National Triangle.
Just check out the website for more information about the House of Representatives and the Senate as well as information about tours and special events. A visit here is well worth the few hours you spend walking around mostly observing other visitors to the place. Cheers
Part of the My Great Aussie Adventure travel blog
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