Tuesday, July 5, 2011
After a stormy night we woke to grey skies with occasional light showers and the strong winds continued. Fortunately the caravan stayed where it was supposed too and wasn't blown off the pad. We had initially planned to check out of the caravan park this morning, park up the van and go sightseeing before heading out of town late in the day. Because of the weather conditions we decided to change our plans and will stay a second night.
Our first sightseeing expedition was to Capital Hill and Parliament House. The sight is quite spectacular as you approach from downtown Canberra. It was freezing walking from the carpark area and as we passed a group of protesters you could only admire them for their commitment to their belief. The first protest group had been there at 6.30 am (so the Policeman told us) this was the second group for the day and by now it was late morning. Parliament House is quite impressive and we were able to wander through the various levels. The session hadn't commenced in the House of Representatives so we were able to enter the public gallery of the parliamentary chamber. As the public have access during question time when Parliament is in session we decided to come back later in the day.
We made our way down Anzac Parade and saw the memorials to both the Kiwis and also the Australian military unit. We had thought we would walk the full length of the Parade but with the temperature down to 7 deg, and the wind chill factor well down, gave this a miss. We spent the next 2-3 hours in the War Memorial - this facility is just amazing and it would be easy to spend a full day here. There were many exhibits that really caught our attention. The wall of memorial with poppies placed is most impressive.
Now it was time to go back to Parliament House and attend the "comedy" session. It was question time in the House of Representatives - the carbon tax was being discussed and it was a lively discussion. So lively that the Leader of the Opposition had his back to the member speaking and others were wandering around chatting. When there was a "divison" the bells rang, members were given four minutes to enter the chamber before the doors were locked and the counting commenced. Our beloved leader entered, chatted her way through the counting and handed around the lollies. If this was a school class she would have been given detention! Weren't allowed to take camera into chamber - probably because they didn't want the whole world to see their bad behaviour!
From there we decided we may as well see if the Senators acted more maturely but again it was much of the same. It was surprising to see the Leader of the Green Party and about six of his members taking time to wave consistently to the small girl sitting in front of us - obviously she was very welcome. It was interesting to see the members and senators swapping sides of the floor in response to the various questions.
On our way back to the caravan we remembered we hadn't been to see "The Lodge" - the home of the Prime Minister when in Canberra. We made our way there but it is on a busy highway and with the traffic we were only able to see in through the open gate and not stop.
Canberra is obviously the heart of government with flags flying briskly in the wind today. Quite a beautiful sight.