Behind Old Parliament House, (New) Parliament House is an extraordinary construction that appears to be built into Capital Hill. All you see from a distance are grassy slopes leading up to the landmark, four-legged flagpole, though closer inspection reveals a modern white colonnaded entry. Designed by the American-Italian architect (and now Canberra resident) Romaldo Giurgola, it opened in May 1988 to much derision. Former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, who commissioned the building, described it later as “an unmitigated disaster” and “my one very serious political mistake”. Twenty years on, it is ageing well and most now concede that, while not an iconic building, it is still a good one – impressive in scale and concept, with over 4500 rooms tucked away from prying eyes.
Simply wandering around the public areas isn’t very instructive, so catch one of the 45-minute guided tours, which visit both chambers of parliament when they’re not sitting. When Parliament is in session – usually from sixty to eighty days a year – you can sit in the public galleries and watch the proceedings in the House of Representatives (the lower chamber of Parliament) or the Senate (the upper chamber of the legislature).