MARCH 20 2017, Tom McIlroy
The lost tradition of beekeeping at the home of Australian federal politics is set to be restored as specialist beehives are added to the grounds of Canberra’s Parliament House.
As part of efforts to tackle the decline of bee populations – crucial to Australia’s food security, agriculture and environmental sustainability – three hives will be installed in bushland outside Parliament on Friday night.
Cormac Farrell at his home in Evatt with one of the beehives he will be moving to Parliament House. Photo: Rohan Thomson
Head parliamentary gardener Paul Janssens said the hives include an award-winning Australian-designed Flow Hive, complete with an in-built plastic honey extractor, which allows honey collections without disrupting the bees.
Coloured in House of Representatives eucalyptus green, Langstrogh and Top Bar hives will also be installed, with the project’s first honey harvest expected later this year.
The Department of Parliamentary Services, Australian National University Apiculture Society and engineering firm Aurecon have collaborated on the project. Photo: Rohan Thomson
Honey will later go on sale at the Parliament House shop.
The project, a collaboration between the Department of Parliamentary Services, the Australian National University Apiculture Society and engineering and project management firm Aurecon, follows the installation of beehives at the White House and parliaments in Western Australia and Queensland.
In 1976, speaker Billy Snedden approved the first parliamentary beehives in what he thought was a prank.
Victorian MP William Yates, one of the few parliamentarians elected to the British House of Commons and Australia’s Federal Parliament, asked Snedden for permission to install two hives in the House of Representatives garden on April 1.
Cormac Farrell says he is honoured to be supporting Parliament House’s roll-out of the initiative. Photo: Rohan Thomson
Assuming it was an April Fool’s Day joke, Snedden said yes.
Yates’ honey soon became a popular Canberra souvenir and even helped smooth over a dispute with Gough Whitlam. Yates sent the Labor legend a jar of honey after a particularly heated exchange during a parliamentary debate.
Former MP for Holt William Yates with his beehives at Old Parliament House.
On one occasion the MP for Holt failed to properly extinguish the contents of his bee smoker, setting off the fire alarm and filling the Prime Minister’s office with smoke.
Mr Janssens said bees remain important to Canberra’s environment.
“Without the pollinating power of bees, things like fruit, seeds and nuts can’t grow, which means we won’t see foods like potatoes, broad beans and tomatoes to coriander and chestnuts in Aussie households.”
Aurecon head beekeeper Cormac Farrell helped established the first hives at the firm’s Canberra office in 2013.
"What began as a fun sustainability initiative has grown into something that produces honey gifts for staff and clients, inspires sustainable design, and even created the name for our company intranet, Hive.
“We’re honoured to be supporting Australian Parliament House’s roll-out of this important initiative,” he said.