Quick Answers

Parliament House – the building

Why is Parliament House located in Canberra?

Section 125 of the Australian Constitution specifies that the national capital had to be located within New South Wales, at least 100 miles away from Sydney. At federation in 1901, the search began for a suitable location for the Parliament. The site for the national capital was chosen in 1908 and named Canberra in 1913.

More information: Fact Sheet – Federation

When and why was the new Parliament House built?

Old Parliament House was the meeting place of the Australian Parliament from 1927 to 1988. This building became too small and crowded, and a permanent building was needed.

Construction of a new Parliament House began in late 1980 and the building was officially opened on 9 May 1988, by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

The new Parliament House was built to support the work of Australia's federal Parliament for at least 200 years.

More information: Fact Sheet – Parliament House

How much did Parliament House cost to build?

In 1988, the total cost of building Parliament House was $1.1 billion.

More information: Fact Sheet – Parliament House

When did Parliament first meet in new Parliament House?

The first sitting of Parliament in the new Parliament House was on 22 August 1988, following the building's official opening by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, on 9 May 1988.

More information: Fact Sheet – Parliament House

Who designed Parliament House?

Parliament House was designed by Mitchell/Giurgola and Thorp Architects. Romaldo Giurgola was the principal architect. The design was the winner from 329 entries in an international competition to design a new Parliament House.

More information: Fact Sheet – Parliament House

What materials are used in Parliament House?

The timbers used throughout Parliament House are mainly Australian. They include coachwood, jarrah, blackbutt, brush box, white birch, turpentine, silver ash and grey box.

Ebony used in the Great Hall was a gift from Papua New Guinea to the Australian people.

A mixture of mostly Australian stone and some European stone is used in Parliament House. Australian stone includes Carmina Grey granite from Eugowra in NSW, Calca Red granite from South Australia, and Black Imperial granite from South Australia. European stone includes Belgium Granitello Nero (black limestone), Portuguese Atlantide Rosa (pink marble) and Italian Carrera (white marble) and Cipollino (green marble) .

More information:

Fact Sheet – Parliament House

What is unique about the Parliament House flagpole?

The flag mast is 81 metres high and weighs 220 tonnes, making it one of the largest stainless steel structures in the world. The flag is 12.8 metres by 6.4 metres, which is a bit larger than the side of a double-decker bus. The flag is changed every four to six weeks, due to weather damage.

More information: Fact Sheet – Parliament House

Why are there so many clocks in Parliament House?

There are over 2700 clocks in Parliament House. The clocks are fitted with two flashing lights to alert members of parliament to activities that may require their attendance in the House of Representatives or the Senate chambers, including division votes. One light flashes green for the House of Representatives, the other flashes red for the Senate. When the lights flash, a bell also rings through speakers located around the building.

The buttons which start the bells and lights are controlled by the Clerks in each chamber.

More information: Fact Sheet – Voting in the Chambers

What is in the Parliament House art collection?

There are over 6500 works of art inside Parliament House, including rugs, paintings, sculptures and specially-designed furniture. Among the many paintings are portraits of previous Prime Ministers, Speakers of the House of Representatives and Presidents of the Senate.

Some of the artworks were made especially for the building; others have been gifts to the Parliament. The collection also includes many historical documents and memorabilia relating to Parliament.

More information:

Fact Sheet – Parliament House