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PostPosted: 12 Jan 2012, 14:45 
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My wife and I had a short break in Canberra earlier this week and one of the places we saw was the Old Parliament House. Has anyone else done a tour of this wonderful, wonderful old building?

From the masses of wood panelling to the rich leather furniture, the old clocks with their indicator lights to alert members wherever they be, original art deco fittings including the toilets, the comparitively spartan Prime Minister's office, creaky floorboards in some places and the typewriters and tape recorders and other media equipment just left sitting there in the rooms behind the press gallery; it exudes character. Our tour guide was fantastic and it was not lost on any of us how cramped conditions had become by the time the building had outgrown itself, despite extensions carried out over the years. An example was Ric Charlesworth's office, no bigger than a small gaol cell, but workplace to at least three people with two of them sharing a desk. I was sure I could still smell smoke ingrained into the timbers in some areas too; our guide suggested that there was a permanent cloud in many parts of the building in the old days! There are many rooms to explore that are not covered by the tour, but the Members dining room is out of bounds unfortunately, although it can be hired for functions.

An interesting fact learned was there were not many individual offices for the ordinary members and senators, rather there were many party and meeting rooms but very few places to meet in some sort of privacy. As such, when someone had a meeting or appointment with an MP, it was normally held on one of the leather couches strung along the sides of the wide corridors surrounding the chambers. The corridors were not called corridors, but lobbies; this is where you would lobby the MP....

Another was the physical difference between the Upper and Lower House chambers; the Lower House had one more step down....

Unfortunately the photos I took inside didn't really turn out, but there are some on Google images.

Just had to share. :)


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PostPosted: 12 Jan 2012, 16:07 
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My first tour of the old Parliament House was in 1964, and I've been back a few times since, that last two being after parliament had moved up to Capital Hill. The building is no great shakes architecturally, but it doesn't offend, and has gained status due to its accumulated history. It certainly is a great spot for Deco enthusiasts.

The building should never have been built where it was, of course, being sited just in front of Camp Hill, where Griffin had put Parliament House on his plan. It meant that no major building could feasibly be put on Camp Hill without demolishing the existing building, and, while it was designated as "temporary" when constructed, its removal was always unlikely to occur.


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PostPosted: 13 Jan 2012, 09:32 
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I have only ever seen a small section from the outside, never done a tour of the interiors.

However I've been through the National Archives of Australia building, it has old wood panelling etc and the people there told me that Old Parliament House was a very similar in style, but nothing special so I decided to give Old Parliament House a miss, maybe wrongly so. New parliament is so impressive though.

I will have to get there someday, although I tend to habitually leave it off the 100 places in Australia I must see before I die. The times I've been there I haven't found too much reason to stay. :wink:


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PostPosted: 13 Jan 2012, 11:00 
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williampitt wrote:
I will have to get there someday, although I tend to habitually leave it off the 100 places in Australia I must see before I die. The times I've been there I haven't found too much reason to stay. :wink:

Heh. There's quite a lot to see and do in Canberra and environs these days, but when I first visited in 1964 there were five places of interest (depending on your definition): Parliament House, the War Memorial, the Academy of Science building (brand new), the Scrivener Dam (also brand new) and the Mount Stromlo observatory.

Oh, and you could see Phar Lap's heart at the Institute of Anatomy (now the National Film and Sound Archive). The view over the nascent city from from Mount Ainslie was interesting. Out of town a bit was the Cotter Dam. I did them all!


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PostPosted: 13 Jan 2012, 15:32 
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I guess I am biased against Canberra from a bad food poisoning episode from the place's celebrated restaurant precinct - Dickson.

I was told that the place was the bomb, but the only thing that exploded was my guts.


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PostPosted: 13 Jan 2012, 20:16 
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I'm going to Canberra in March, is it easy to do a tour? Would love to see inside.

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