Cabinet Room Table #2001-1482Cabinet Room, North Wing, Main Floor
Large square oak table with cut-out section in centre; top is comprised of sixteen panels with black leather surfaces, the four outer and four inner corners are rounded; top rests on an oak apron with white buttons on the outer edge; resting on twenty slab feet.
This table was used as the Cabinet Room table in the Cabinet Room (M88) at the Provisional Parliament House between 1972 and 1988. Cabinet meetings are confidential and secret; even new governments are not allowed to see the records of a previous government’s meetings, as records of decisions are not released for 20 years and the Cabinet notebooks for 30 years. Until changes to the Archives Act in 2010, these closed periods were even longer. The change to access periods is being phased in over a ten-year period. In the Cabinet Room members of the government can argue and disagree, but when decisions are debated openly in Parliament the government presents a united voice.
From 1927 until 1972 the table used in the Cabinet Room was smaller, as Cabinet was smaller, although over time the original large oval table was extended. In the 1972 extensions to the Prime Minister’s suite this larger square Cabinet table was manufactured for Gough Whitlam’s Cabinet, consisting of the entire 27-member Ministry. This table was also used by the Fraser and Hawke governments, but they reverted to the practice of forming an inner Cabinet of senior Ministers as well as holding meetings of the entire Ministry as needed.
Cabinet meetings were often long and demanding and it was important that Ministers had access to certain facilities during these meetings. There are numerous white buttons on the edges of this table for each Cabinet official to use to summon an attendant. The Ministers used this system to request food or drink, relevant papers, or to request that a staff member be brought to the anteroom so they could confer with them.