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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