Speaker’s Office, Speaker of the House of Representatives’ Suite — M81North Wing, Main Floor
This room was used by the Speaker of the House of Representatives and was part of a suite of rooms occupied by the Speaker and his staff throughout the time the building operated as a working parliament. This room was occupied by numerous important political figures from the first Speaker at the Provisional Parliament House, Sir Littleton Groom (1926 to 1929) to the last Speaker in the building, and the first female Speaker, Joan Child (1986 to 1989).
The Speaker’s most important duty was to preside over and maintain control of debate in the House of Representatives Chamber. The Speaker kept order by interpreting and enforcing the rules of parliamentary procedure and practice. Although usually elected from the governing party of the day, the Speaker should be fair and impartial. Outside the Chamber the Speaker managed the Provisional Parliament House together with the President of the Senate; their large corner suites reflect the status of the two presiding officers. The Speaker and the President of the Senate both receive foreign Heads of State and delegations visiting Australia from other nations, and other distinguished visitors to the House of Representatives or Senate. Hospitality for these events is one aspect of the responsibilities of the Speaker’s office. The suite includes rooms and furniture to support these duties.
In 1977, at the request of Sir Billy Snedden (Speaker from 1976 to 1983), a new display cabinet for the Mace was built in one of the walls in this office. The Mace is an important object, as it symbolises the authority of the House of Representatives and the Speaker. The Serjeant-at-arms, responsible for order in the House, carries the Mace into the Chamber in front of the Speaker. He or she places it in brackets at the end of the central table: the Mace was always placed here when the Speaker is in the Chamber. When the Provisional Parliament House went into Committee of the Whole, a procedure no longer adopted, the Mace was placed below the end of the table on a second set of brackets, because the Speaker was no longer presiding. If the Speaker has to visit Government House he at times would take the Mace with him. King George VI requested the United Kingdom House of Commons present a Mace to the House of Representatives in 1951. Prior to this they had borrowed one from the Victorian Legislative Assembly. The Speaker of the day, Archie Cameron, suggested it as a gift to mark the 50th anniversary of the Australian Commonwealth. The sterling silver, gold coated Mace was made by the Crown Jewellers, Garrard & Co, and is still in use today in the Australian Parliament House. In 2004 a replica of this Mace, also made by Garrard & Co, was acquired by the museum.
In each of the four corner suites in the Provisional Parliament House (the Prime Minister’s suite, the Speaker’s suite, the Leader of the Opposition’s suite and the President of the Senate’s suite) was a secret safe. This safe was in the main office of each suite and was hidden behind a panel in the wall and could be opened by stepping on a particular floorboard. This safe has been removed in the Speaker’s office, although the wall panel still remains.