Saturday, October 25, 2008

Old Parliament House in Canberra

The thing that excites me most about visiting the Old Parliament House in Canberra is the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, but I figure I should also know some stuff about the building itself.

Well, here we go.  I've learned something already.   I thought Old Parliament House was the one and only Parliament House in Canberra.  I figured the old was a kind of term of affection.   You know....like Old Yeller.   But it seems there's also a NEW Parliament House.   

I guess I'll look at the history of both.  

Maybe Old Yeller is a bad example.  I can't think of any good ones.  Sorry.

Before Old Parliament House was overshadowed by NEW parliament house it was called Provisional Parliament House.

According to Lord Wiki, OPH was always seen as temporary--until something better comes along.   It's like the Meantime Girl.

There's no need to feel to sorry for OPH though.  He had a long time to suck up all the glory.   The building opened in 1927 and the new one wasn't completed until 1988.   Sixty-one years.   Wow.  

The Parliament in Australia originally did their thing in Melbourne before moving on over to Canberra.  

Now Lord Wiki is teaching me about Parliament itself.  He has his work cut out for him.  I'm horrible at government stuff.

So....

I don't know.   Hopefully this will be one of those cases where I grow a better understanding by reading and writing this stuff down.

Parliament is the legislative branch of government.   It's made up of three things.

1. The Queen
2. The Senate
3.  House of Representatives

The queen herself doesn't really participate.   She appoints a governor general to do the job.

Oh, this is nice.   The current Governor-General is female.   I had no idea about that.   Her name is Quentin Alice Louise Bryce.  

Tim and I talked about the issue of politician's gender and race the other day.   Does race and gender matter?   Would I vote for someone just because they were of a certain race or gender?  No.  I wouldn't vote for someone I didn't like simply because they were black or because they were female.   But if there were two candidates I liked and one was male and one was female, I'd probably go for the female.   I think it's high time we get a female in the White House.    I think it's high time we get someone who isn't fully white and Protestant.   Do I want Sarah Palin in the White House.   No! Definitely not.   But I do want Obama in and I voted for him.   I like him a lot--for many reasons.  But his race IS a factor.   I would still like him if he was a Caucasian.  Maybe.   If he was a Caucasian, he would be a different person with different experiences. He wouldn't be exactly himself.    Okay, but pretending there was an exact same guy with the  same opinions, experiences, and abilities who was white.....I'd like him, but I'd probably be a little less excited about him than I am about Obama.  

Back to Canberra and it's first female Governor General.    Lord Wiki says MOST people were supportive of her appointment--including Kevin Rudd, Brendan Nelson (leader of the opposition) and the leader of the Australian Greens.

Bryce seems like a pretty okay person, but I do think Australia should get rid of the Governor-General thing and become a Republic.    Just my opinion.

As for the other two pieces of Parliament:

The Senate has seventy-six members--twelve for each state and two for the mainland territories.

Two?   Is that fair?

What IS fair is that the seats are split evenly between the Labor and Liberal party.   It might not have been that fair for people who are in other political parties, but that balance of power is kept with something called the crossbench.   This consists of representatives from the less popular political groups. 

The House of Representatives currently has a hundred-fifty members, but this changes.  Why?   I'm not even going to try to figure it out.  All this stuff goes way over my head.

I'm going to go back to the Old Parliament House building.   Lord Wiki says it was designed by John Smith Murdoch.  Is he related to the other Murdoch?   Lord Wiki doesn't say, but he does say that this Murdoch designed a lot of the buildings in Canberra.  

I'm going to take a break from Lord Wiki because he's getting a bit too wordy.  Is that like the pot calling the kettle black?  

I'm now looking at the official website of the Old Parliament House.   It seems now it's a sort of museum.  

Oh!  It's cheap!!  Only two dollars for adults.   Okay, sorry but if you didn't know already....the economy of my country has kind of tanked.   We need all the help we can get.

This website says the Prime Minister is a member of the House of Representatives.   I didn't know that.  I really am slow when it comes to politics.

There's a a guy named Frank Forde who was Prime Minster for only eight days.   Wow.  I definitely have to look him up.   

Okay, Forde took over when Curtin died after World War II.   I guess he didn't do such a great job.  Another Labor leader replaced him--Ben Chifley.

Time to move on to the new Parliament House.   Lord Wiki says it cost over one billion dollars.
I had the impression that they had started working on the new building early on and something went wrong--budget issues, a strike, etc.   But the original idea was that the provisional Parliament House would be in service for about fifty years.   I guess that would make sense.   If it was going to more temporary, why build such a pretty building?   They could have just built a shack and put the Parliament in there.

It wasn't until 1978 that they decided to go and ahead and start making a new building.   So, that's only ten years.   Not too bad.

Those in charge held a contest to see who should design the building.  Australia seems to do this a lot.   Is it my imagination?   Who knows.  America might do it too--hold contests to decide who will design a building.   I know about as much about architecture as I do politics.

Anyway, the winner was an Italian-American--Romaldo Giurgola.

The building was supposed to be done and opened on the Bicentennial of Australia Day.   It was about three months late.   Queen Elizabeth herself opened the building.  

I'm now looking at the New Parliament House's website.    You can actually sit in and watch the government people do their thing.   I'd love to do that, but I don't think I'd want to stay for the whole time.   I wonder if you can go in for a brief viewing and then leave.   

Well, here we go.   If I don't want to sit through the whole thing,  I can watch it on my computer!   How cool is that.   Although I'm trying to watch it now and I'm just hearing this inspiring music.   I'm not learning much about Australian politics, but I have this sudden urge to change the world.   Actually, it reminds me of the type of music you hear at Epcot.   I now have an urge to ride on Spaceship Earth.

I'm not quite having any luck listening to anything in the parliament, unfortunately.   But I did find this. You can see all the bills that are currently being....well, whatever bills do or have done to them. I guess they're the ones currently being considered.

Speaking of bills, does Australia have something like School House Rock?   If it does, I should totally watch it. I bet it would help me understand all this. While I'm at it, I should probably watch the American version as well.