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Australian Parliament House

The House on the Hill

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Aerial view of Parliament House

A view of the Australian Parliament House from a hot-air balloon over Canberra

© 1997 Australian Tourist Commission

It stands on Canberra’s Capital Hill, its massive Australian flag shimmering in the wind like a beacon to all of Australia. It is the physical embodiment of Australian federal law and law-making.

This is the Australian Parliament House, home of the national Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia.

Sitting on top of Capital Hill, the Australian Parliament House is as much an Australian architectural icon as the Opera House in Sydney. The Australian Parliament House inspires awe not only because of its physical beauty but also because of what it represents: the Australian Government.

As Australian as the landscape

Surprisingly perhaps, neither the Sydney Opera House nor the Australian Parliament House in Canberra were designed by Australians: the Opera House by Danish architect Joern Utzon, Parliament House by then US-based Italian architect Romaldo Giurgola who won a competition in which more than 300 architects from around the world entered.

(On Australia Day, January 26, 2000, architect Giurgola and his family became Australian citizens.)

The city of Canberra itself was designed, again not by an Australian but by an American architect: Walter Burley Griffin, in whose honor the city’s lake, a major Canberra feature, has been named.

But the Sydney Opera House, the Australian Parliament House in Canberra, and Canberra itself have become integrally Australian as the landscape upon which they stand.

National law-making body

In the Australian Parliament House are the Australian Senate, the Australian House of Representatives, and the offices of the Australian Prime Minister.

It is important to note that the Australian Parliament is the national law-making body and is not to be confused with the parliaments in the states and territories.

The Senate has 76 senators — 12 from each of the six states and two each from the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory.

Forming Government

The House of Representatives has 150 members, each representing a separate electoral division.

Whichever political party in the House of Representatives has majority support forms the Government of the day and chooses the country's Prime Minister who needs to be appointed by the Governor General under the current Constitution.

The Governor-General is the Queen's representative in Australia.

The Australian Parliament House is open to visitors daily except on Christmas Day. Guided tours are available.

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