The celebration of the centenary of Australia’s national Parliament has been held in Melbourne.
The 7500 guests at the Exhibition Building heard speeches from the President of the Senate, Margaret Reynolds, who claimed the arrival of women in Parliament as the greatest change in Australia’s political climate over the past 100 years.
The Governor-General, Sir William Deane, read messages from Queen Elizabeth II and Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. It was the Queen Mother’s husband, then Duke of York and later King George VI, who opened the “old” Parliament House in Canberra in 1927.
The Prime Minister, John Howard, praised the founding fathers of the Constitution and again paid tribute to those who have died in war over the past century. He praised Labor Prime Minister John Curtin for his role in World War II and attributed Australia’s post-war prosperity and stability to the founder of the Liberal Party, Robert Menzies.
The Opposition Leader, Kim Beazley, delivered a vigorous speech praising Australian democracy, but also calling for the nation to continue to look forward to becoming a Republic. Beazley compared Australia’s current situation with other changes since 1901: the end of White Australia, the granting of political rights to women and engagement with the nation’s region.
After 45 minutes, the official speeches ended and the Speaker, Neil Andrew, and the President of the Senate, Margaret Reynolds, adjourned the proceedings until Thursday morning. A brief sitting of both houses will then take place in the Victorian Parliament which served as the Federal Parliament until 1927.
An indigenous ceremony was then held, followed by tributes to prominent Australians in various fields, past and present. The event ended with 15-year-old Hayley Eves, an Australian of South Korean origin, addressing the gathering. Amongst other comments she made was a call for the people to choose the Head of State.