History Detective

$5 Note Protests at Parliament House Case 18

Episode Summary

Today I am looking at the $5 note and the new Parliament House Building. This is case 18: Protesting the Parliament.

Episode Notes

In today’s episode, I am not concerned with what goes on inside parliament, I want to explore the story of the people who have gathered in great numbers on the outside of the building to exercise their democratic right to hold a protest. You see, Australians have the right to engage in peaceful protest and what better place to exercise this right than Parliament House.

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Episode Transcription

Hi, this is Kelly Chase and you are listening to History Detective, a podcast where I delve into the past to uncover the mysteries of history and this Season 3: All Cashed Up. As we move toward a cashless society and physical money is being slowly phased out of everyday use, I wanted to pause and take a look at who are the faces and places that have had the honour of making it onto our money. Today I am looking at the $5 note and the new Parliament House Building. This is case 18: Protesting the Parliament.

Last week we looked at Queen Elizabeth’s 1954 royal tour of Australia, so if you missed that, go back and have a listen. If you are wondering if there is a connection between the Queen and Parliament House, apart from the fact that she has a permanent chair set up for her in the senate- that she has never sat in by the way, the Queen came back to Australia for a visit in 1988 and while she here, she officially opened the new Parliament House building. You see the reason Australia needed a new parliament house building, was that the government had literally outgrown the old building. They were squished in there like sardines, and so the mammoth new structure was built. 

In today’s episode, I am not concerned with what goes on inside parliament, I want to explore the story of the people who have gathered in great numbers on the outside of the building to exercise their democratic right to hold a protest. You see, Australians have the right to engage in peaceful protest and what better place to exercise this right than Parliament House.

Now if you do decide to hold a protest, for a cause that you passionately believe in, it is not just a matter of putting a call out on all of your socials and rocking up in huge groups, there is actually a process. There is a PDF with the guidelines and an application form on the Parliament House website. Some of the rules include, no selling of food, no vandalism of property, no cars and you are not allowed to fly a drone. You can however, set up a sound system, but the speakers must be facing away from the main building.

 

You see the reason it is OK to hold a protest at Parliament House it that it a building designed for the people. The parliamentary zone in Canberra belongs to the people. If you have ever seen the building, you will know that the building is actually nestled in a hill and the roof of Parliament house is covered in grass. In fact, until 2017, people used to be able to walk up and over the building. Now there are fences that stop this and if you want to go onto the roof, you have to catch the lift up from the inside. One of the contributing factors to this security fence being built, was the actions of protestors. On this particular occasion in 2016, the protesters were opposed to the treatment of refugees in offshore detention camps. One group jumped in the fountain out the front and filled it with red dye and a symbol of the blood spilled in refugee camps and two protestors abseiled down the front of the building and unfurled a giant banner. It was that very same day that the House of Representatives passes a proposal to upgrade security.

 

This wasn’t the only protest that involved abseiling. In 2002 members of the Greenpeace organisation, in a protest about the Australian government not signing the Kyoto protocol about global warming, three people tried to climb the 101 metre flagpole. But because it was an incredibly windy day, they only made it up one of the legs after 2 and a half hours. One protestor then abseiled down the front to unfurl the banner, before packing up and getting ready to be arrested. 

 

The New Parliament House building was officially opened in 1988 and one of the first big protests that happened out the front of Parliament House was actually held by the catering staff who worked inside the building. They were told that the catering of Parliament House would become privatised and that they were all going to lose their jobs. They blocked access to the roads so that no food or drink could get in and the politicians had to get out of their cars and walk into the building. Sadly, a few months later the new caterers were brought in and they lost a court case to get their old jobs back.

A more recent protest that occurred at Parliament House and in fact all around the world was the students striking for Climate Change. In 2018 students from all over Australia congregated in Canberra to demand politicians take their future seriously and treat climate change as what it is: a crisis. Their demands are simple, no new coal, gas or oil projects, 100% renewable energy and creating a fair transition for workers in the fossil fuel industry.

When the Prime Minister Scott Morrison was asked if he would meet with the students to discuss the issue of Climate Change his response was, “Kids should go to school...we don’t support the idea of kids not going to school…What we want is more learning in schools and less activism in schools.”

Australian Youth Climate Coalition spokesperson Laura Sykes said about Morrison’s response, “It was shocking to see our prime minister condemning students as young as eight, who are sacrificing a day of schooling to stand up for a safe climate future.”

This Kelly Chase, on the Case.

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You can support the podcast in a couple of ways, firstly, you can find accompanying resources for all of the Season 1 and 2 episodes in my Amped Up Learning store. Or if you don’t need teaching resources, you could buy me coffee through the link in the show notes. Or, if you would like a non-financial way to support the podcast, I would be so grateful if you could write a 5 star review on Apple or Podchaser. A big shout out to Gator-1 who left a review saying, “Come for the history, stay for the music. What a pleasure.” Thank you that is so kind and your review made my heart sing! I know that Season 3 does not have a song for every episode, but I am busy composing the music for season 4!

Next time on History Detective, we will meet Banjo Paterson from the $10 not and find out what inspired him to write Waltzing Matilda. 

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See you next time.