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Staff Office, Prime Minister’s Suite — M94.4North Wing, Main Floor

This room was used as an office for the Prime Minister’s staff in the Prime Minister’s suite.

This room is situated in the northeast corner of the Provisional Parliament House, an area that was occupied by the Prime Minister and his staff throughout the life span of the building. The original suite of rooms was occupied by fourteen of the Australian Prime Ministers, from Stanley Melbourne Bruce (Prime Minister from 1923-1929) to William McMahon (Prime Minister from 1971-1972). In 1972, due to a growing number of Ministers and staff in the building, the suite was demolished. New offices (for the Prime Minister and his staff), an anteroom (used for press conferences and as a waiting room) and bathrooms for the Prime Minister and his staff were built in its place. These particular rooms were only occupied by three Prime Ministers: Gough Whitlam (Prime Minister from 1972-1975), Malcolm Fraser (Prime Minister from 1975-1983) and Bob Hawke (Prime Minister from 1983-1991).

Despite the extra space in the new, larger suite, there was a large number of staff that needed to work in this area and still only limited space. Plans suggest this small room, along with several of the other offices in this suite, accommodated more than one employee. This office was used by numerous staff and Ministers between 1972 and 1988 who worked for the Prime Minister, including private secretaries (when Whitlam occupied the suite).

Between 1983 and 1988 this office was occupied by Hawke’s speech writers Steven Mills and Graham Freudenberg. Freudenberg, one of Australia’s best known speech writers, has written influential political campaign speeches for numerous politicians including Arthur Calwell, Gough Whitlam and Bob Carr. Mills was a political reporter with The Age newspaper and held senior editorial positions with the Australian Financial Review and Sydney Morning Herald. He served as a speech writer to Prime Minister Bob Hawke from 1986-91. The speech writers’ room was filled with files and paperwork unlike the offices occupied by the political advisors, the economic advisor and the foreign advisor who adhered to the ‘clear desk’ policy and carried out most of their business by telephone. Some of the significant speeches given by Hawke were written here including his 1983 speech for the Economic Summit and his 1987 election campaign launch speech that famously stated ‘We set ourselves this first goal: by 1990 no Australian child will be living in poverty’.