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Prime Minister’s Desk (1927 - 1972) #2008-0095Prime Minister’s Office, North Wing, Main Floor

Queensland maple pedestal desk; plain top with raised circles on the apron, resting on two pedestals; each pedestal has a lockable cupboard on one end and three drawers on the other, with incised square columns on each corner; on block feet.


This desk was designed in 1926 by the Federal Capital Commission Architects Department, led by principal architect John Smith Murdoch, specifically for Provisional Parliament House. It was used by all of the Prime Ministers at the Provisional Parliament House from Stanley Bruce in 1927 to Gough Whitlam in 1972. In 1972 this desk was put into storage when the Prime Minister’s suite was renovated and new modern furniture, including a new desk for the Prime Minister, was purchased to complement these rooms.

In 1996 John Howard, newly elected Prime Minister, asked for the desk to be provided for his use in his office in the Australian Parliament House on Capital Hill. He used it until he lost the 2007 election. The desk was returned to the museum in 2008.

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Statement of values

The Prime Minister’s Desk is a significant item of furniture in the collection through its association with the office of Prime Minister and the significant people who served their term in that role between 1927 and 1972. The desk is also associated with the House of Representatives Wing, which provides a physical record of the difficult working conditions of parliamentarians, staff and press representatives over the period 1943-1988.

Identical desks were designed by Murdoch for the four corner suites at the Provisional Parliament House. In common with his practice at the important axes in the building, the usually restrained decorative features of his furniture gave way to a wealth of detail, especially emphasising the square enclosing a circle which he regularly used to denote significant places. A different suite of furniture was designed for the prime minister’s use in the Secretariat building. The desk from that suite was later used by the Federal Capital Commissioner, after the office was surrendered by prime minister Joseph Lyons, and is now in the possession of the National Trust (ACT Branch). The cabinet table from that suite was later used by the Country Party in its party room, and is now held in the museum’s collection.

The Prime Minister’s Desk 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 people 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.

  • Prime Minister’s Desk (1927 - 1972)Prime Minister’s Desk (1927 - 1972) —


Width 1970mm
Height 785mm
Depth 1200mm
Medium Queensland maple; timber; metal
Creator’s name Federal Capital Commission Architects Department
Date created Circa 1927