Exterior of Queensland Parliament House

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Truth, Sunday 14 November 1926, page 1


Parliamentary Poker Players


Reports of Nocturnal Gambling


IT will come as a shock to the vast multitude of electors in Queensland to learn that the fountain head of the State's Government, the Queensland House of Parliament, is the subject of a current rumor which brands the house as nothing less than a common gambling rendezvous.

The rumor of this brazen abuse of Parliamentary privilege exerted by a clique of Members, in that certain sportive cronies are entertained at a poker school, in a room in the House, until all hours of night, is one that demands instant inquiry, one that Cabinet must to sift to the very bottom.

IN the advanced hours of the night, when theatre crowds are wending their way homewards and stragglers from the scenes of evening revelry are turning weary feet towards the places where the last tram stops, it has been no uncommon thing for those whose route took them along George-street and by the House of Parliament, to see beams of subdued light streaming from one or two of the windows of the giant political sanctum.

The dim facade of the big building, partially indistinct in its screening of shadows cast by a girth of trees, has of times shown a few shafts of muffled brightness to the outside world.

The passer-by, seeing lights burning at such eerie hours, might pause to wonder at the diligence of some ardent savant, who, perhaps, with a keen appreciation of political responsibilities, was planning some great move towards the emancipation of man.

The passer-by might gaze at the silhouetted shadows behind the curtained window frame with silent admiratlon, estimating the mental activities of those inside at a very exalted value.

But is it always big political coups that are worked out behind those curtained windows?

Are the muffled lights regularly a signal of the diligent labors of some thoughtful member or manifestations of a conference between political protagonists comparing notes for the betterment of men?

Judging by what can be gathered in the Parliamentary lobbies and from among the conversational flotsam and jetsam that is beginning to drift about in sporting circles, there Is more done behind the lighted windows of the House than the rest of the world knows of.

Mr. Willie Wage-earner, the poor guy who always pays for everything, and who is always kept in a constant state of delusion as to what goes on behind the political scenes has, it seems, been overdue for a Parliamentary shock.

It is in this latest revelation that he gets it.

Over a fair period of time, now, strange motor cars — at least, strange in the sense that they are foreign to the ownership of members themselves — have been drawing up at Parliament House at various hours in the night.

Outside the House grounds, along the kerbing that runs past the giant incubator of political gas, cars have been conspicuously noticeable.

That they do not belong to members of the House is well known.


But the owners, nevertheless, were in the house.

Why they were in the House, and what they were doing in one of the rooms in which the midnight oil - or electric current - was burnt with free abandon, is explained in the whispers that are floating round the lobbies and about the elite quarters of the sporting firmament.

It is a common subject for facetious comment among members that a poker school, a school of the most extensive and expensive type, is said to be conducted behind closed doors in the building.

Guests of certain members, guests culled from those who are on the most envied and elevated perches of the sporting roost, have, it is rumored, been quietly passed into the building when the rest of the world thinks of sleep, and the tired worker is dreamily cursing the shortness of the time before another dawn.

In an upstairs room of the House the mutterings of strange voices, the clink of coins, and the rattle of poker chips are said to be no uncommon sound.

Certain well-known phrases of the English language, having to do with “jack pots” and other colloquialisms dealing with “your deal” and “my shuffle,” are reckoned to freely emanate from within the occupied room.

If that is so – and there are several among the various political camps, who argue that they know it is so - then the House of Parliament has been degraded to a point of vulgar abuse.

What should be the States most reverent and honored edifice has been blithely defiled!

But what should be, of course, usually isn't.

While the House should be the object of every man's respect and enduring homage, there are abundant reasons - the members themselves, particularly - which prompt the man in the street to regard it with lively amusement and with a sense that it is the altar of broken promises.

Willie Wage-Earner has learned to view the floor of the House as a big chess board upon which political moves are played, and few of them interesting to him, except that every move invariably means a fresh dig into his poorly lined pocket.

But to use the House as a rendezvous for poker addicts is, in common parlance, bringing things a bit too low.

Parliament House, as the centre where politicians usually carry on their arduous task of being politicians, rarely excites the sympathetic interest of Mr Elector.

He sends his political favorite there, and so long as the latter does his talking and executes his given tasks he is satisfied.

A member may start talking as soon as the House meets, and keep on going until it rises and he will be regarded, more or less, simply as a necessary evil, but when he gets up to the ordinary sharp practice of a racecourse habitue, then Mr. Elector Is entitled to “have another think” and to listen in


for the inquisitorial announcements of the administrative heads, whose duty it is to make inquiries.


The urgency for an investigation into the current discussions concerning a poker school at the House is patent.

It is asking a bit too much of Mr. Elector to expect him to countenance practices of that kind, and finance the venue of the business also.

In many instances he is paying the politician for a surfeit of idleness as things are.

He imagines the politician of his choice when, in a burst of political confidence, he elects the politician to the House, as one who will exert his fiery oratory or turgid eloquences, whichever the case may be, in places where it will be most useful.

He sees his member as an exemplar of public virtues; visions him as one who will, perhaps, electrify the galleries and startle the universe by his progressive precepts.

But, in fact, when these things might be done, he usually finds his member resting peacefully in the  smoke room or snoring calmly in the sun on one of the side verandas.

The fiery speeches, if any, and with all faults, are not delivered at all or are delivered to a wide expanse of vacant seats.

All these things the elector is accustomed to. He has grown used to them.

But he has not, and never will, become used to the carrying-on of a poker school in the George-street dream castle.

That, of course, is essentially an inference of fact.

The presence of strange motor cars around the House premises, at late hours of the night, and the goings and comings of strange persons in relation to the main door of the House, is a subject well worth inquiring jnto.

The suggestion that an expensive poker school is conducted in an upstairs room is a matter that administrators cannot pass over.

And - this is very much to the point - it Is a safe presumption that Mr. Elector will not be satisfied with the usual stout and indignant denials, delivered from the floor of the House by someone who has asked someone else a few cursory questions.

An immediate and exhaustive inquiry is imperative.

Brisbane Courier, Friday 18 November 1927, page 15




Variety was lent to the some-what dull debate on Estimates in the Legislative Assembly, yesterday, by a complaint by Mr. E. B. Swayne that Parliament was not functioning as a Parliament should, and a question by Mr. W. H. Barnes as to an allegation made by a Brisbane weekly that gambling was being carried on in Parliament House by outsiders. The allegation was categorically denied by the Speaker (Mr. W. Bertram).

On the vote of £19,318 for the Legislative Assembly (last year £19,660). Mr. E. B. Swayne said he thought there was room for discussion as to whether the Queensland Parliament was functioning in the way that Parliaments in British countries should, and carrying out the principles on which they were founded. The representatives of the people elected to the Queensland Parliament had very little say in transacting the business of the State, and, furthermore, the manner in which business was being rushed through was not conducive to the full and frank discussion that the very important measures before the House warranted. During the present session Parliament was not called together until July, and since then had been twice adjourned. Now, on the excuse that it was desirable to terminate the session before Christmas business was being double-banked, and as a result of this they were having one and a half hours lopped off the Parliamentary day when the Estimates were being considered. Considering the way the electorates had been fixed up, the majority of the people did not have the voice they should have. Unless the Queensland Parliament was conducted on the lines associated with the British Houses of Parliament there might come a time when the people would question the necessity for continuing Parliament at all.

Messrs. J. C. Peterson, G. P. Barnes, and W. H. Barnes voiced appreciation of the services rendered to the House by the "Hansard" staff.

The Premier (Mr. W. McCormack) said he had seen a good deal of Parliaments, and he thought members should be complimented upon the orderly way in which business was transacted.


Mr. W.H. Barnes drew the attention of the House to a statement published in a Brisbane weekly to the effect that Parliament House at 11 or 12 o'clock at night was lined up with vehicles, and it was also stated that the House was being made a place for gambling by persons from outside. He did not know if that were true or not.

The Premier (Mr. W. McCormack): I am not in charge of the morals or the welfare of the House; that is a matter to be controlled by the Parliamentary Building Committee.

The Speaker (Mr W. Bertram, who was sitting on the Government benches): That statement is not true.

Mr. W. H. Barnes: I will accept your denial.

The Premier said that the member for Wynnum had raised the question of the conduct of members of Parliament. The remarks of the member for Wynnum reminded him of the story of the lady who probably knew more than she ought to have known. She said, like he says, "I am one as never talks. I never speaks about other people, but if I only told you what I saw through the keyhole. I won't tell you, because I never talks." (Laughter.) The member for Wynnum did not know; he was not aware; he had read in a weekly newspaper all sorts of disgraceful things about Parliament. He did not think members in their private capacity were any better - or any worse - than any other section of the community. (Laughter.)


Reference had been made, said the Premier, to the shabbiness of the House furnishings. He did not see any evidence of decay, and the furnishings were as good as, and in many respects better than, what members were used to in their own home.


Mr. H. L. Hartley could not agree with the Premier in his remarks on house fittings. The House should be kept "right up to the knocker." What they might be content with in their private life was totally different to what they should be entitled to in their public lives as representatives of the people. They, as members of Parliament, were not only custodians of their own honour but custodians of the best thought of the community.

Mr. E. Costello: Supposed to be!

Mr. Hartley: Not supposed to be at all! Ninety per cent of the members of the Assembly believe that Parliament sets the standard, or should set the standard, for our public life. He was not going to give the "Hansard" staff any lollies. If he used rough words, he did not want them trimmed down, or have the corners smoothed off them. His people did not want to read what the "Hansard" reporters said. They paid him £750 a year to read what he said.

Mr. W. Kelso: They want it in "bullocky" English, do they?

Mr. Hartley: I have a knowledge of most languages, and I do not think that "bullocky" English is any different to any other English. Some of the best members in this House were "bullockies" in their early days.

The vote was passed.


The main wing of Parliament House (facing George Street) was erected between 1865 and 1867 as the seat of Queensland government after separation in 1859. It was designed by Colonial Architect Charles Tiffin and is the most substantial building erected in this period. The wing facing Alice Street was constructed between 1887 and 1889, supervised by Colonial Architect, G Connolly.

Prior to separation, Moreton Bay was included in an electoral division which encompassed all areas north of Port Macquarie. By 1851 Moreton Bay had elected a Member to the Legislative Council of New South Wales, and when separation occurred the region was represented by nine Members.

In 1859, the colony of Queensland was granted separation from New South Wales and a constitution was established, based on the English Westminster system. This provided the need for a legislature in two chambers, and conversion of the previous prison barracks in Queen Street was undertaken to fulfil this.

This proved unsatisfactory and in 1864, a Commission was established to host a competition for a new House of Parliament. The committee members decided upon 20 000 as the amount which competitors should endeavour to make the basis of the probable cost. Entries were received and the design of Benjamin Backhouse was considered to be most suitable. However it proved to be too costly and the design of Colonial Architect Charles Tiffin was selected instead. This decision caused much controversy and the Commission was eventually forced to alter the previous plans and call for a new design. In December 1864 the Queensland Daily Guardian reported that the whole of the designs are to be rejected and an entirely new and original design has been adopted. The new building design is more imposing, more appropriate and will afford more accommodation.

Tiffin's new design comprised four ranges around a central court, with the Legislative chambers in the George Street range and government offices in the remaining ranges. The arrangement of space, both of the building as a whole and within the individual chambers is indicative of the way in which Parliamentary proceedings were, and still are, conducted

The building was to be erected on what was then part of Queens Park, adjacent to the Government Domain and the Botanic Gardens. The foundation stone was laid on July 14 1865 by Governor Bowen and work commenced on the George Street range.

In 1865 the Brisbane Courier described the George Street range as being 304 feet long by 86 feet deep at the centre......by 103 feet in height to the top of a curved mansard roof over the libraries and the grand staircase.

Now described as Classical Revival in style, it was then described as renaissance as adopted in the Louvre and Tulleries, but of a less ornate character and more in keeping with the position of the colony. The external walls are constructed of freestone from Mr Jeays quarry at Woogaroo and the roof was originally of English slates..... the ridges and mansards terminated with iron cresting.

Internally, the Courier described the building as plain and substantial, however finishes included large stained glass windows by Messrs Chance of Birmingham featuring portraits of the Queen, the Prince and the Princess of Wales, large and ornate sunlights, also imported from England, cedar doors with panels of open bronze work, and ornate plasterwork.

By 1867, the work was complete, although due to financial constraints, only the George Street range had been constructed.

Tiffin retired from the position of Colonial Architect in 1869 and was succeeded by F D G Stanley. The building remained as constructed until 1878 when additions were made including the construction of archways and colonnades to the George Street facade and erection of the stone and iron palisade fence to the George and Alice Street frontages.

In 1887 it was again decided to make additions to the House and the Alice Street range was constructed, completed in 1889. The Colonial Architect at this time was George St Paul Connolly, who supervised the work. Although the extension conforms to Tiffin's original design principals, it shows slight variations in the form of relief stonework panels comprising staghorns, eucalyptus leaves, gum nuts and convolvulus. The designer of these is thought to have been Thomas Pye, chief draftsman of the Department of Public Works at the time. The sculptor is unidentified, having been employed by the contractor Daniel MacDonald.

The abolition of the Legislative Council in 1922 rendered the Council Chamber obsolete. Although rarely used, the space remains intact.

The multi-storey parliamentary annexe at the rear of the original building was erected in 1979, followed by the addition of the porte cochere to the George Street range in 1981. The new porte cochere was based on Tiffin's original design, although it was increased in size to allow for the passage of cars.

In 1982, the building was renovated at a cost of thirteen million dollars. This included extensive refurbishment of all areas, including the addition of air conditioning in all rooms, the installation of security and fire protection services and externally, the replacement of finishes such as the tessellated tiles to the ground floor arcades and the original copper sheeting to the roof with a new material.

Courtesy of Queensland Heritage Register


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