The need for a new Parliament House

Closer Look – Australia's Parliament House [PDF 2.02Mb, 14 pages]

Old Parliament House during construction in 1923

National Archives of Australia: A5342, volume 1 part 1


The new Parliament House replaced the provisional building. Always intended as a temporary home for federal Parliament, Provisional (Old) Parliament House remained in operation for 61 years. When it opened on 9 May 1927, there were 101 members of parliament—by the time the building closed, this number had more than doubled to 224.

Despite many additions and alterations, by 1988 the provisional building was completely inadequate for the needs of the contemporary Parliament. About 3000 people were crammed into a space originally designed for several hundred.

In 1978 then Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser unveiled plans to build a new Parliament House to be opened in 1988, the bicentennial year of European settlement. An international competition held to find a suitable design for the building attracted 329 entries. In 1980 it was announced a design by New York-based Mitchell/Giurgola and Thorp Architects had been chosen.

The new Parliament House has six times the floor space of the provisional building, now known as Old Parliament House, and is designed to last at least 200 years. On a sitting week it accommodates about 3200 people. This number swells to over 5000 when tourists and visitors, such as public servants or lobbyists who have business with the Parliament, are included.

'This building will become for our nation both the forum for our differences and the instrument of our unity. A building for all Australians, a Parliament reflecting the diversity of our entire society and responding to the needs of the whole community'

Prime Minister Bob Hawke, in an official speech to mark the opening of the new Parliament House.