(Transcript from World News Australia Radio)
A kind of school for politicians is being held in Canberra for the nation’s 41 newly-elected federal MPs.
The 28 men and 13 women are being introduced to the procedural and administrative aspects of their new jobs ahead of the opening of the 44th Parliament later this year.
Thea Cowie reports.
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Wearing their brand new House of Representatives green lapel pins and posing for a group photograph the class of 2013 has begun.
The newly elected member for the Victorian seat of Mallee Andrew Broad says there were a few first day jitters.
BROAD: “It’s a little bit daunting I mean they told us there’s been what is it, 1188 is it? // PITT: “(11)33?” Not many. // BROAD: “(11)33 members of parliament in the history of the Australian Commonwealth so it’s a huge honour and I think that’s a little bit overwhelming for new members.”
Opening the classes, outgoing Speaker of the House of Representatives Anna Burke said one of the big things she’s learned in her 15 years in federal parliament is MPs need to make time for themselves.
She says the incoming politicians will sacrifice a lot for their constituents but they need to remember MPs are volunteers, not conscripts.
“You need to remember yourself. That’s a big lesson that a lot of people forget. A lot of the comments I got as Speaker were about my hair. It used to drive me nuts. This big argument that I was channelling Justin Beiber. Why I’d be channeling the Beib is beyond me, my kids don’t like the Beib. But I hadn’t had time to get a haircut. Sue me. The moral of the story is just remember yourself in this process.”
The lessons imparted by Ms Burke have been wide-ranging.
From from when to sit down and when to stand in parliament; to advising MPs to get their own security pass so they can enter and exit the building without being stopped by the media.
Ms Burke has also instructed the MPs to be extremely careful when claiming expenses for attending weddings after six members of the Coalition frontbench were questioned for doing so.
Her advice is going to a wedding is not work.
It’s something incoming Liberal National Party MP Keith Pitt jokes he won’t need to worry about.
“Look at the moment I’ve got none scheduled and I’m not sure about you Andrew but I’m happily married and I hope to stay that way. Look certainly I guess we’re in a very good position in that we’ve got clean slates. I haven’t made a single claim yet and certainly will be very cautious around entitlements because our job is to represent the taxpayer and not to waste their money.”
But Ms Burke says first thing MPs need to learn is how to give a speech to nobody.
At least 30 House of Representatives members must be present when parliamentary sittings begin and when a vote or division is called.
But much of the time the House conducts its business with as few as two or three members from each side of politics.
Ms Burke says although the chamber may be empty, there are always people listening to radio broadcasts, or online – and what they say will be recorded in Hansard.
“I’ll tell you it takes a long time. Because we’re all used to speaking in public. You know you engage with the audience, you talk you get a laugh, you get the eyes. It’s really weird giving a speech to nobody but Hansard. It really takes a while to get used to. You think there’s no one listening but they are. They’re out there on the radio. You’ll be stunned by the emails you’ll get saying ‘I heard you speaking’.”
Not all 41 members of the class of 2013 are fresh faces.
Mal Brough and Jason Wood held lower house seats in the 41st and 42nd Parliaments while Senators in the last parliament – Barnaby Joyce, Matt Thistlethwaite and David Feeney – have moved to the lower house.