Australian Government Committed to fund offices for new parliament building

PHOTO: Inside look of Samoa’s new Parliament debating chambers

By Lagi Keresoma

APIA, SAMOA – FRIDAY 15 MARCH 2019: The Australian Government will keep her commitment to building the offices of the Legislative Assembly and the Luafatasaga building for MPs following yesterday’s opening of the new $20 million Parliament building.

Australia’s Assistant Minister for International Development in the Pacific, Senator Annie Rouston confirmed her Governments’ commitment to rebuilding Samoa’s Legislative Offices.

“The support that we have been able to give you, also in terms of management of the building has been something that demonstrates the long held collaboration that has existed between our two countries,” said Senator Rouston.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi expressed gratitude to the Australian Government for agreeing to fund not only the Legislative office, but also the Luafatasaga building for the Members.

“Plans are already underway for the design and the construction of this new office,” said Tuilaepa.

The Australia-Samoa co-funded Parliament was hailed as a day for celebration for both countries, especially for what the Parliament house symbolizes in democratic governance of Australia and Samoa.

The Parliament Building Project goes back to 30 March 2012 when the Australian Governor General, Her Excellency Ms. Quentin Bryce addressed the Samoan Parliament and announced Australia’s gift for Samoa’s 50th Independence anniversary.

Australia’s Governor General, HE Ms. Quentin Bryce addressing the Samoan Parliament, 30 March 2012

“In recognition of Samoa’s 50th anniversary of independence and of the continuing importance of democratic institutions to Samoa’s future, it is with great pleasure that I announce today that Australia will work with your Government on a major multi-million dollar refurbishment of your Parliamentary complex,” said the Governor General.

“It is the people’s house.

“It is where you come together to debate the pressing issues of the day, to celebrate, to mourn, to shape your nation’s future,” she told Parliament then.

However, a change of Government in Australia a few months after, also changed and slowed down the project scope and process.

In Apia yesterday for the opening of the new Parliament Building and other Australia funded projects, Senator Rouston echoed the same commitment.

“There is nothing more important than democracy, the rules that runs our world and nothing symbolizes that more than a Parliament House,” she said.

History of Parliament Houses In Samoa
The first Parliament house was built in 1916 by master carpenter from Sato’alepai village in Savai’i, Solofuti Fili at a cost of $60 tala.

The second Parliament house was constructed in 1972 as a gift from the New Zealand Government in celebration of Samoa’s 10th independent anniversary, and the third one was opened yesterday.

Samoa’s old Parliament Houses from 1960 onwards

The building is modern, functional and cost effective and the design reflects Samoan traditional architecture and incorporates elements of a typical Samoan meeting house.

The Prime Minister commended former Samoan Parliament Speaker, Laaulialemalietoa Leuatea Polataivao Schmidt, and former Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, Fepulea’i Atila Ropati for being instrumental in initiating the discussion and the design of the new Parliament House.

There are a number of items yet to be provided to complete the décor of the building including the members’ chairs and the rug and furnishing to the inner circle of the house.

The Parliament Mace & Plaque.
The new Parliament Mace donated by the Australian Government was also unveiled.

The design of the new Mace also incorporates elements of Samoan culture and history.

The first Mace was gifted by the New Zealand Government in 1958, and the second Mace by the House of Commons in Great Britain to commemorate the opening of the Parliament House in 1972.

Former Parliament Speaker, Laaulialemalietoa Leuatea Polataivao Schmidt and former Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, Fepulea’i Atila Ropati who initiated discussions of the project in 2012

No Press Gallery
While the project went through changes with political changes in Canberra, some features also changed. The media were particular about the absence of a Press Gallery which they said was in the original plan of the building.

When it was raised with Senator Rouston, she said the press is a very important part of democracy. However she told a press conference after the groundbreaking of a new bridge at Lelata that one has to be resourceful to be able to get the news.

The local media will have to be reasonable in terms of priorities when there is a brand new and modern $20 million dollar Parliament building without its own offices to support its work.