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Table #2001-1059Prime Minister’s Office, North Wing, Main Floor

Black bean veneer rectangular side table; cross banded top with mitred corners on square section legs.


During the early 1970s acute accommodation shortages in the Provisional Parliament House necessitated a major phase of redevelopment in which extensions were made to the front west and east sections of the building, new offices constructed on the roof and a new wing on the Senate side erected to match the wing added on the Representatives side in 1965. This redevelopment included a new suite for the Prime Minister and his staff, a new President of the Senate’s suite and new meeting rooms on the lower floor. The Prime Minister’s suite as it exists today was occupied by three Prime Ministers: Gough Whitlam (1972 to 1975), Malcolm Fraser (1975 to 1983) and Bob Hawke (1983 to 1988).

New furniture, such as this table, was manufactured or purchased to complement these new rooms. Unlike the 1920s, when all of the furniture was designed specifically by the architect to fit out the building, the furniture supplied for new suites such as this and that of the Senate President’s tended to be standard factory-produced executive office furniture. Furniture designed specifically for the suites were plain and minimal. Integrity with the building was achieved by the use of timber in the standard wood used throughout the building. The combination of this plain, utilitarian and unornamented furniture with the richly textured walls of the prime ministerial suite (many rooms were originally covered in a wool-based fabric now surviving only in the Cabinet ante-room and media room) made a strong but minimalist style statement. This ambiance was altered considerably by the Fraser-era decision to panel the walls of the Prime Minister’s office in timber, mimicking the previous office of the Prime Minister but using far cheaper materials.

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This table is a significant item in the collection through its association with a number of the Prime Ministers, and with the Prime Minister’s suite itself which was a focus of government activity and authority. It is also significant in representing a change of style in furnishing the prime minister’s suite.

This table is significant through its association with the extensions to the Provisional Parliament House, in particular the Prime Minister’s suite. Additions to the original collection, such as this table, are significant in documenting important stages in the adaptation of the building to meet the ever increasing demands of accommodating more Members and their staff, a process which continued until the relocation of the Australian Parliament in 1988. Significantly, the extensive modifications to the building arose from combining the functions of the executive arm of government and the legislative function in the one building. This table was used in the Prime Minister’s suite between the 1970’s and 1988, associating it with three important political people in Australian history: Gough Whitlam, Malcolm Fraser and Bob Hawke.

This table 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 Old Parliament House building has a richness of internal fabric and collections that convey the way in which parliamentary functions were conducted, the everyday use of the building, and the hierarchical nature of parliamentary staffing practices.


Width 1250mm
Height 450mm
Depth 605mm
Medium Black bean; timber
Creator’s name Unknown
Date created Circa 1970s