It's Parliamentary, My Dear Watson!A WANDER DOWN UNDER, CHAPTER 6: IN WHICH WE GO THROUGH THE ROOF
Day 7: Canberra. "You're going to Canberra? But why?" has been the common refrain from Australians who have learned of our inclusion of their nation's capital city on our itinerary. "It's not much of a place to visit," said one disdainfully. "It's not like Washington. It will be like going to visit...oh, I don't know...Cleveland, maybe," he concluded with his lip curled as if he had just caught a whiff of last month's rubbish.
But we wanted to see this planned capital city, so we drove in from Sydney yesterday. After the country of Australia was founded in 1901, it was decided that neither Melbourne nor its archrival Sydney could be chosen over the other as capital. Instead an international competition was held to design a new capital city for the young country. Australians seem to be very keen on this type of contest, and it's easy to see the wisdom in it. Why pay different architects to present a variety of designs to select from when they will submit them at no charge as part of a contest? The method certainly worked well for the Sydney Opera House.
Before the name of the city was chosen, members of parliament were invited to submit suggestions, and many were offered—among them, Shakespeare, Cromwell, Eucalypt, Emu, Austral, Eden, Wattleton, Hopetown, Dampier, Telopea, Aurora, Excellia, Pacific Queen, Andy Man, Frazer Roo, Pacifica, and Australburg. Derived from a native word meaning 'meeting place,' Canberra, which was already in use for a small settlement in the area, was the leading contender.
The final selection was announced at a cornerstone ceremony in 1913. An ongoing dispute had debated whether the new capital's name should be pronounced with emphasis on the first syllable (CAN-bruh), the second (can-BER-ra) or the third (can-ber-AH). Rather than a contest this time, agreement was finally reached on a plan to allow the Governor General's wife to make the determination. However she pronounced Canberra when she made the ceremonial announcement would become the official pronunciation. She emphasized the first syllable, and the city has been CAN-bruh ever since.
|Aerial view of Canberra (photo from eyeofthefish.org)|
|Noted Australian scientists|
From the museum, we drove to the Red Hill overlook, which was said to offer great views of the city. Perhaps it would be better in winter, but spring has sprung here and we found the view obscured by tall trees in full leaf.
|Parliament House on Capital Hill|
- Participating in elections is compulsory in Australia. Failure to go to the polls on election day triggers a $20 fine. You are further required to receive a ballot, 'mark' the ballot and deposit it in the ballot box. Whether you mark it with your choice of candidate or otherwise is not specified.
- The two leaders of opposing parties/coalitions in both the House of Representatives and the Senate are seated across from each other at a table.
- By the time it was completed in 1988, Parliament House had cost A$1.1 billion to construct, making it the most expensive building in the world at the time.
- Parliament House comprises more than 4,500 rooms covering 2.7 million square feet (compared with 600 rooms and 1.5 million sq.ft. in the U.S. Capitol).
- The stainless steel flagpole on the roof of Parliament House is 265 feet tall with a base that mimics a boomerang. The principal design of the building is also based on the shape of two boomerangs.
- More than 2,500 clocks adorn the walls and halls of Parliament House. Each is fitted with a red light and a green light. Before a critical vote is taken or if a quorum is needed in one of the houses, every clock in the building will emit a bell sound. If the red light on the clocks is flashing, the call applies to the Senate; green means House members need to report. They have four minutes to reach their respective chamber.
- To preserve the shape of the hill on which it was built, Parliament House was constructed into the top of the hill and the roof was grassed over. Visitors can ride an elevator to the roof and walk on the grass or the sidewalks surrounding it.
|Black Mountain Tower|
Tomorrow we fly south to the island of Tasmania for a few days in search of a little devil.
- Started in Canberra, ended in Canberra
- Mileage - 26 (Trip total: 9,979)
- Weather - Mostly sunny with scattered showers, 39° to 63°
- Famous Australians we could name - 4 (between us)
- Size of flag flying over Parliament - 40' x 20'
- Non-Australians on Parliament tour: 2
- Pedestrians seen in Canberra - 6
More Photos from Today
|At the portrait gallery, a death mask of Ned Kelly, Australia's equivalent of Robin Hood|
|Mary Donaldson, a girl from Tasmania, who met Mr. Right and became Crown Princess of Denmark|
|Forest of marble columns|
|Parliament flagpole from the roof|
|Another view from the rooftop|
|View of Canberra from Black Mountain Tower|