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Senate Chamber Swivel Hansard Chair #1999-1851Senate Chamber, North Wing, Main Floor

Blackwood swivel chair; over sprung seat and back, upholstered in red leather on central timber screw column; raised on four angled plain supports.

History

The Hansard swivel chair is still located in the Senate Chamber where it was used by Hansard Reporters between 1927 and 1988. This chair was designed in 1927 by the Federal Capital Commission Architects Department, led by principal architect John Smith Murdoch, specifically for the Provisional Parliament House. Murdoch’s design for this chair and the other Chamber furniture was inspired by the Westminster system of Parliament and the green and red colours of the two Chambers reflect the colour scheme of the lower and upper houses in Britain. This revolving chair and the majority of the ceremonial furniture in both Chambers were built by Beard Watson & Co Ltd.

This chair was used by Hansard Reporters in the Senate Chamber when Parliament was in session. The term ‘Hansard’ refers to the transcripts of the speeches given in the Commonwealth Parliament and comes from Thomas Hansard, a publisher who printed the reports of the proceedings in the British House of Commons in the early 19th Century. As it was the official account of proceedings it was important to record all that was said when Parliament was in session and to ensure that the transcripts were factual and complete.

A team of nine Parliamentary Reporters was assigned to the Senate Chamber when it was in session. Each reporter had a five or ten minute shift recording the proceedings in the Chamber. During their shift, the reporter would sit on a stool (1999-1423) at the end of the large table (1999-1431) in the centre of the room. They would record everything that was said in shorthand (an abbreviated writing method), using paper and pen. This chair was placed next to the stool at the central table. The Principal Parliamentary Reporter or other senior staff sat in this chair. They would check note some turns and keep other notes as well, particularly interjections, as these could often be difficult to hear and record.

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Statement of values

The swivel Hansard chair is significant as evidence of the Parliamentary Reporting system both in terms of the importance of having an accurate record of proceedings and the democratic value of having this available.

The swivel Hansard chair is a significant item of furniture through its association with the Senate Chamber. The Senate has outstanding significance as a venue for the debates, petitions and votes associated with sixty-one years of Australian legislature, and recognisable by its red upholstery. This chair was used in the Senate between 1927 and 1988, associating it with significant people in Australian political history, while also reflecting the formal and adversarial nature of debate, and the role of the House of Representatives in the parliamentary process.

The Senate swivel Hansard chair is significant as a component of the Heritage Collection, which comprises those pieces of furniture which were used in the Provisional Parliament House between 1924 and 1988. The collection has associations with the process of government, the ceremonial, administrative, promotional and recreational functions conducted within the building, and with the individuals who governed Australia between 1927 and 1988. The building is a primary example of the Inter War Stripped Classical style of architecture prominent in Canberra’s government architecture of the 1920s to 1940s. The characteristic expression of the building’s style is due to the design work of the Commonwealth’s first government architect, John Smith Murdoch. The Old Parliament House building has a richness of internal fabric and collections, which include the purpose designed furniture and furnishings, that convey the way in which parliamentary functions were conducted, the everyday use of the building, and the hierarchical nature of parliamentary staffing practices. This furniture is significant as it has remained within the building for which it was designed.

REFERENCE:

Clawley, Freya Interview with Bernie Harris, 2011.

Details

Width 655mm
Height 800mm
Depth 620mm
Medium Blackwood; leather; timber; textile
Creator’s name Federal Capital Commission Architects Department
Date created 1927