The Real House Lives of Canberra
THE word parliament is likely to elicit little more than a yawn from the majority of Australians.
But Annabel Crabb has managed to turn our capital, both the literal building and the political processes that take place within it, into an interesting and even entertaining subject.
Her new four-part documentary series, The House, explores the little-known corners of this self-contained city, which our politicians call home for about 20 weeks a year.
"The things you learn at school about Parliament House, you're conditioned to think it's boring," she tells The Guide.
"We want to show people the interesting bits, the funny bits, the eccentric bits and the surprising bits about their political process.
"We all pay for this building, we all own a bit of it and it represents us in some way."
From stunning drone footage of the $1 billion building to interviews with the Senate's Black Rod (yes, that is a real job), the series is respectful yet light-hearted.
"It's common for people to say I'm not interested in politics, so we assume a low level of knowledge," Annabel, a long-standing member of the Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery, says.
"This is a show designed for people who sort of know where Canberra is and that there is a pointy building built on it.
"We offer a glimpse of things that might make them feel differently about a building they're used to rolling their eyes at."
Annabel and her production team spent a year negotiating their all-access pass to a building largely off-limits to the public and the media. And their filming was timed to coincide with the opening of the 45th Parliament in August last year.
"It was very contentious," she says.
"Parliament House doesn't bend its rules lightly, so there were questions around the precedent it would set for other media.
"We take you down into the underground catacombs of the parliamentary basement. There are 1100 rooms down there, it's like an underground city with these electric cars buzzing around."
A visit to the loading dock unearthed one of the most interesting stories in the series.
"Sandy McInerney is this amazing woman who controls the lifeblood to Parliament House," Annabel says.
"A couple of years back she heard Julia Gillard speak about the apology to those affected by forced adoptions and Sandy, who is adopted, went off to look for her birth mother.
"The story that unfolds is just amazing. She finds her mother and also discovers her mother is quite a famous Australian actress."
The House with Annabel Crabb airs Tuesdays at 8pm on the ABC.