Point of Interest

Parliament House

Australia / The Pacific

Parliament House was originally the northern wing of Sydney Hospital, formerly known as the Rum Hospital.  It was constructed between 1811 and 1816 and is Sydney’s oldest building.  It is a complex of buildings on the east side of Macquarie Street.  The façade is a two-storey Georgian building.  There are neo-Gothic additions housing the parliamentary chambers, and at the back, there is a 12-storey 1970s block.

Australia’s first Parliament was established in 1829.  Today Parliament House is open to the public on weekdays to allow people to see the workings of government.  A visit provides a rare opportunity to explore a significant 19th-century historic site while observing the workings of democracy in a modern Australian parliament.  When the writer, Jan Morris, visited the legislative chamber in 1991, she was surprised by the outspokenness of the members, one MP striding around ‘like a mad prosecutor, he called his opponents madmen, cheats scoundrels, he waved his papers like spells and menaces.’  The writer was assured that ‘he didn’t really mean it’ – that Sydney politics was like that.

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