The centenary of the opening of the first Federal Parliament is being celebrated in Melbourne today.
Several thousands guests, mainly past and present Federal and State politicians, and a small contingent of members of the public, will assemble in Melbourne’s Exhibition Building this afternoon for a recreation of the 1901 ceremony.
Opened by the future King George V, the first Federal Parliament followed elections held on March 29 and 30, 1901. The first Prime Minister, Edmund Barton, leader of the Protectionist Party, and the Opposition Leader, George Reid, leader of the Free Traders, sat in a House of Representatives of 75 members, 14 of whom were Labor Party members.
The Founding Fathers, described last night as “little nationalists” by former Prime Minister Paul Keating, came together in the culmination of a decade-long move towards Federation.
Today’s political leaders meet as the prelude to a federal election campaign in which the conservative coalition government is struggling to survive.