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Remarks at the 25th Anniversary of Parliament House: speech, Great Hall, Parliament House

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Remarks at the 25th Anniversary of Parliament House, Great Hall, Parliament House June 24, 2013


Prime Minister, parliamentary colleagues, Aunty Jannette, ladies and gentlemen.

This is a building that the Australian people have grown to love, but it wasn’t always so.

Originally, what was then the new Parliament House was sometimes seen as a monument to self-important politicians wasting

money on themselves. But eventually our instinct to take pride in our country overcame our instinct to find fault in our politicians.

A nation’s pride in itself should indeed be reflected in its public buildings and so today this building, on some counts, is the most visited in our country.

I pay tribute to Prime Ministers Fraser and Hawke for their vision and courage in conceiving and completing this building.

This building, at the apex of Canberra’s official triangle, complements and completes Walter Burley Griffin’s original design.

It is a building built into a hill and its architect, Romaldo Giurgola, had the shrewd appreciation of the Australian character with a

design that allowed the public to walk all over their politicians!

When I first came to work here in 1990, when the building was just two years old, it felt a bit like an adolescent’s suit, several sizes too big, but in the years since we have well and truly grown into it.

Twenty-five years ago, this building seemed raw and empty - unlike the Old Parliament House which was smaller, more intimate

and breathed the spirit of the giants who had shaped our nation.

But now this building, too, is part of our national story.

Indeed, it’s where so much of that story has unfolded: the great economic reforms of the Hawke, Keating and Howard era; the National Apology; and, yes, the smashing of one of our last glass ceilings, three years ago today, when Australia gained its first

female Prime Minister - and as the father of three daughters I don’t underestimate the significance of that event.

Of course, much has changed over the last 25 years.

Politicians have come and gone - although Philip Ruddock, Harry Jenkins, Ron Boswell and Bronwyn Bishop are proudly still here.

The non-members bar has become the parliamentary childcare centre.

Fountains have been installed and then mothballed.

But much has remained, including, I’m pleased to say, 73 members of staff who have been here for the full 25 years led by

Bernard Wright, the Clerk of the House of Representatives and David Elder, the Deputy Clerk, who I regard as marvellous guardians of the best traditions of this Parliament.

It was the great Edmund Burke who described society as a compact between those who are living, those who are dead and those

who are yet to be born.

This building is a symbol of the continuity of our national life.

Tony Abbott Federal Member for Warringah | Leader of the Opposition

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It will be a reminder far into the future that the things that unite us really are greater than anything that might temporarily divide us.

Everyone in this building, from the cleaners to the Prime Minister, is engaged in the service of our nation.

At a low ebb in his prime ministership, John Howard observed that politics was a hard and unforgiving business but it was

amongst the highest and noblest forms of public service.

In acknowledging this building’s quarter century, we honour all who serve our country and resolve to be more worthy of the faith that people have placed in us.

Thank you very much.


© Tony Abbott MHR 2010 | Authorised by Tony Abbott MHR, Level 2, 17 Sydney Rd, Manly NSW 2095

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