A new capital should be a product of its time, but offer flexibility towards the future. Politics should be available to all people, whenever they want and wherever they are. Just like any other modern service (or product). The US Capitol represents the first time people got in power, “We the people”.
The Reichstag represents a new kind of politics after the unity of Germany and the fall of the Soviet Union. Australia’s new capital represents a new era. An era in which the world changed dramatically, mostly because of the Internet. The Internet introduced a new quality. Everything is available anywhere and everywhere you want.
That is why the new capital of Australia has the following tagline; It all happens everywhere.
Why does Canberra look the way it does?
It’s not hard to figure out which factors influenced the 1912 design of Canberra. The competition at that time mentioned 1a new capital should suggest grandeur and effectively symbolize a national capital. These two demands make a lot of sense. After all, at that time, Australia was a relatively new country. A country with little history and busy finding its own identity.
Leaders of the new country were in need of a symbol and prove to the world that they were a force to be reckoned with. This resulted in Canberra. Although it’s a beautiful city, some people describe it as the most unlike Australian city. And this makes a lot of sense.
A hundred years ago, the leaders of this young nation wanted to show the entire Australian population their vision for a new Australia. That is why they decided to design Canberra as a perfect city, as they envisioned Australia as a perfect country. That is why Canberra is entirely planned, has plenty parks, beautiful boulevards and Capital Hill as centerpiece of the city. The 1912 competition design envisions the ultimate and perfect Australia.
Where should the capital be located?
Australia is a unique country. The size of the land surface is incredible, but it’s only s4carcely populated. Also, it’s one of the most urbanized countries on earth. An incredible half of the population live in only four cities. Ideally, the new capital should be located near these four largest cities. This turns out to be impossible, as some of these cities are separated by almost 4000 kilometers of land.
If the capital would be located in the west, cities like Sydney and Melbourne would feel left out. The same could be said of Darwin and Perth if the capital would be situated in the east. Also, it is not an option to locate the capital in the exact middle of the country (near Alice Springs). This would result in a natural barrier between government and the people. Almost the entire population will have to travel thousands of kilometers to visit their capital.
Besides, building a new capital involves more than just the construction of a parliament building, prime ministers office and supreme court. For a new conventional capital, an entire ecosystem of houses, offices, stores and entertainment is needed. It will take several years, but eventually the new capital will be like any other capital. No problems will be solved, and a lot of money is wasted. This is why a standard capital is no option. The new capital should revolutionize the concept of a capital as a symbol for its country.
Does Australia need a new capital?
The Internet, global warming, terrorist attacks and a global economic crisis are factors which determine the way we live and perceive our cities and communities. These factors are entirely different compared to a hundred years ago. This brings new challenges. For example, how can we create a functional transparent capital whilst also be protected against terrorism. Is it realistic to build a new capital during a crisis? What influence does the Internet have on government and politics? And the way people perceive politics and government has changed.
They tend to be more negative towards politics and the government. In a way, Canberra represents the old. But times have changed. A new capital is needed to represent a modern Australia.
US Capitol (1811)
Built almost immediately after the American Revolution. It symbolizes “We the People”. That is why it is built on a hill and is visible from anywhere in the city. Also, it’s much bigger compared to the White House, the palace of the President.
Symbolically, the building stands in the exact middle of Washington DC. This parliament is unique, since it symbolizes the start of true democracy which quickly spread throughout the world. Many people see the US Capitol as worldwide symbol of democracy.
After World War 2, the Western world was separated from the Soviets by a wall. In 1987, the wall came down. Germany was united again. The historic Reichstag with a new glassed dome symbolizes the old Germany which turned into a transparent and modern nation.
Inside, graffiti from Nazi’s and Communist soldiers is preserved, thus reminding everyone Germany didn’t forget and learned its lessons. The Reichstag became symbol for a unified Germany and a world without communism but with democracy.
Why a ship?
In this modern century, it’s necessary to revolutionize the way a capital works. A modern capital should visit the people instead of the other way around. Part of the solution is utilizing the Internet. But this is not the ultimate solution. An online capital cannot replace a physical parliament because parliamentarians simply need to meet in person in order to govern the country. In order to bring the parliament closer to most people, Australia could opt to build several parliaments and let the politicians and staffers travel between them.
But this is not productive, very expensive and delivers the wrong signal. Another option would be to use a large airplane. But a plane will not have enough space to hold the entire parliament. The only feasible option left is a ship. Since all seven state/ territory capitals are located near the ocean, a large ship could simply travel between these cities. Doing so, over half of the population, millions of people, will live in the nations capital at least once a year. This is never been done before and shows the uniqueness of Australia.
Where do the parliamentarians live?
Hundreds of politicians, government officials and supporting staff will work on the ship. Since this ship visits the entire nation, these people won’t have the opportunity to live in a regular house. So where do they live? Each politician and staffer has its own small room onboard. However, they will not live in these rooms. In each city they dock, these people simply stay at friends houses, rent their own apartment or stay in hotels. Hundreds of politicians spread out over the city and mingle with its cities residents. Since they live in several cities each year, they meet many different people. It’s never been so easy to meet a politician. This is something most people will appreciate.
What to do with Canberra?
Australia is a country with seven incredibly large states / territories. There’s also the very small Australian Capital Territory, which includes Australia’s capital Canberra. Since Canberra won’t be capital anymore. What should be done with this city and territory? First, the Australian Capital Territory will become part of New South Wales. Second, the city could house some government departments, like the department of Defense. In addition, Centrelink and the Australian Taxation Office will continue to stay in Canberra, providing over 50.000 jobs. Most other departments will move to the seven Houses of Democracies in the seven state capitals..
The ships schedule
The ship visits all seven state/territory capitals (this does not include the Australian Capital Territory). A larger city (e.g. Brisbane) will be visited more often compared to smaller cities. During disasters or certain events, the parliament could choose to abandon the regular schedule. For example, during the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, the ship could have docked there, so Sydney would have been the nations capital during this event.
The government should be as close to all people as possible. Also, all states/territories should feel represented by this new capital. Because of distance, it’s not possible to build a capital which is nearby all state capitals. Instead of settling on a compromise of location (like what happened with Canberra when it was situated in between Sydney and Melbourne), the Australian government should take the high road.
This means the new capital should travel between all seven state capitals. Since all state capitals (Canberra not included) are located near the ocean, it makes most sense to turn the capital into a ship which travels to all states and territories.
Obviously, it’s impossible to fit an entire city on a ship. But this is not necessary. In fact, this is something that should be stayed away from, in order to avoid the ‘capital-bubble’, as described in the research part. Only three elements will be represented on the ship. The Parliament, Office of the Prime Minister (Cabinet) and the press.
House of Democracy
The ships visit all seven state/territory capitals. The bigger the population of a particular state, the longer or more often the ship will visit the state capital. This means each of the seven cities (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Hobart and Darwin) will need some sort of a cruise terminal for this ‘political cruise ship’. Instead of using the already existing cruise terminals, every city will get a new terminal.One specifically designed for the government. Each of the terminals consists out of a jetty for the ship and a so called House of Democracy. Each House of Democracy includes offices and meeting rooms for government officials from several departments, which used to be situated in Canberra.
Get rid of the bubble
Instead of having a centralized government, most functions will get decentralized. The bigger the city, the bigger the House of Democracy. Because all buildings will be divided between the seven state capitals, office buildings will decrease in size and the government comes closer to its citizens.
Thousands of government employees will live alongside ordinary Australians. Politicians who work on the parliament ship will rent apartments or live in hotels throughout the country. It has never been so easy to meet someone involved in governing the country. And at least once a year, your state or territory hosts the capital of Australia.