How to really experience politics in Canberra.
Contemplate politics as art
The sharp end of politics is often at the tip of cartoonists’ pens. The annual Behind the Lines exhibition at Old Parliament House, home to the Museum of Australian Democracy, is an artistic anthology, prompting an equal measure of laughter and despair at the state of politics. Stroll through on a spring afternoon, leaving enough time to appreciate the faded grandeur of the building and its intimate courtyards.
Drink with the movers and shakers
When the politicians are in town and Parliament rises early on Wednesday evenings, those in the know head to Public. The Manuka watering hole attracts staffers, journalists and ambitious backbenchers (Labor and Liberal), who let down their guard and exchange gossip. Mosey in after 8pm, prop yourself up at a high-bench with one of the many Australian beers on tap and watch the power plays.
Live like a prime minister
Room 205 at the Hotel Kurrajong was the chosen residence of Ben Chifley, Australia’s prime minister from 1945 to 1949. The hotel has been revitalised to its 1920s Pavilion-style glory, giving visitors an opportunity to sleep in one of its elegant Heritage suites. James Scullin and Kevin Rudd have both called the effortlessly elegant Hyatt Hotel (below) home. One can run the nation from the Park Suite at this Art Deco masterpiece then recline beneath the deep verandahs of the Speaker’s Corner Bar.
Deals are done and prime ministers deposed over dinner at Kingston’s many Asian eateries. Wild Duck, in the foreshore precinct, hosted Malcolm Turnbull and Clive Palmer’s curious dinner date in 2014 (with the restaurant’s decadent banana split becoming popular following Clive’s endorsement). Still hungry? Bill Shorten tucked into Hoang Hau’s reliable fare while working the numbers for Julia Gillard’s coup against Kevin Rudd in 2010. Notable nosheries China Plate and Portia’s Place are factional favourites, too.
Walk in Menzies’ footsteps
Robert Menzies had a vision for Canberra, with Lake Burley Griffin the centrepiece. The R.G. Menzies Walk is a winding two-kilometre path that hugs the northern shore. Starting from the sentinel-esque National Carillon, it stretches westward, with views of the High Court and ASIO’s glassy edifice. Near its western end, the weighty man himself is cast in bronze, mid-stride, surveying the city for which he became a self-described “apostle”.