On this day, 9 May in 1988, Queen Elizabeth II – Queen of Australia and Head of the Commonwealth – opened our New Parliament House on Capital Hill in Canberra.
This opening occurred during Australia's year of bicentenary celebrations, and after 87 successful years of Federation.
The 9th of May has been a significant date for our national parliament:
- the provisional, 'Old Parliament House', had been opened by the Queen’s parents (then Duke and Duchess of York, later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother) on the same day in 1927. Old Parliament House had served as our first permanent Parliament House since Federation.
- the first ever Commonwealth Parliament sat in Melbourne in 9 May 1901, before it was moved to Canberra in 1927.
Queen Elizabeth’s opening speech on 9 May 1988 captured the essence of the event:
“This is a special occasion for the Parliament, but it is also a very important day for all the people of Australia. After eighty-seven years of Federation, a permanent home has been provided for Parliament, which is both the living expression of that Federation and the embodiment of the democratic principles of freedom, equality and justice… This new Parliament House will become the work place for the men and women into whose hands Australians choose to place legislative and executive responsibility. The chambers will become the centres for debate on all the pressing issues of government, and future generations of Australians will look to those who work here for national security, wise legislation and fair administration.”
So on 9 May we should celebrate the opening by our dear Queen of this great monument to Australian democracy, society and institutions, by:
- visiting Parliament House if you're near Canberra, or visiting Parliament House in Melbourne where Federation-era parliament sat until 1927
- updating yourself on the significant changes made to accessibility to Parliament House - eg security fencing - made necessary due to those in Australia who do not appreciate the freedom our forefathers fought for, and designed in the original accessibility of the building
- reading up on the history of our democracy since Federation, and/or
- sharing this Action Plan post on social media with family, friends, fellow democrats and patriotic Aussies.
However - there is a problem...
Unfortunately, as splendid/fine as it is, Parliament House has become the epicentre of “the Canberra Bubble” – a bubble which isolates our federal politicians, press gallery and bureaucracy from the Australian public. One that finds it increasingly hard to see realities, devise policies of efficacy and conduct relevant public discourse.
Australian Conservatives believe there is a better way, where principles are put before politics, and policies are more important than personalities. We must bring transparency, accountability and efficiency to government and the Canberra Bubble.
We should not give a leave pass to the inhabitants and protectors of the Canberra Bubble - an elite set increasingly skewing public policy and discourse to suit their own lives, mindsets and interests. Parliament House should never become separate from the concerns of everyday Australians.