The newest members of Australia’s lower house will be introduced to parliamentary life during a crash course on their next venture.
Ahead of the opening of the 47th parliament, 35 newly elected lawmakers will descend to Canberra for the “school of pollie” next week, led by outgoing House Speaker Andrew Wallace.
Described by the speaker as “like drinking from a fire hose”, the newcomers will spend two days learning the parliamentary aspects of their role.
This includes the expectations placed on them, parliamentary systems and procedures, and how to navigate the 75,000 square meter office that is Parliament.
Wallace wants the 47th parliament to be a place of mutual respect and vigorous debate in a way that reflects Australian society.
“Many people will think that what they see at question time – the discussion in that hour and a half – constitutes what goes on all day, every day in parliament,” he told the AAP.
“Nothing could be further from the truth.”
The committee system is one that Wallace found his parliamentary feet on after his election in 2016 and he will encourage new lawmakers to join.
“At all times, you must treat people with respect. And if you don’t, I believe that hinders you and your ability to represent your constituents,” he said.
The president will also discuss parliamentary privilege – which allows lawmakers to say what they want without fear of legal action – but will emphasize the importance of not abusing that freedom.
Taking care of his mental health, building relationships and getting as involved as possible in parliamentary life are also aspects that Wallace will signal with the new members.
“Parliament can be a lonely place. Some argue that it might be lonelier if you have party structures around you,” he said.
“It’s important that you make friends and not necessarily just on your side of politics.”
Eating well, exercising and calling home regularly are key elements that have served Wallace well since he was elected, he said.
Training the new lawmakers will be one of Wallace’s final jobs before the new government replaces the Liberal speaker with one of its own ranks.
Queensland Labor MP Milton Dick is someone Wallace heard could take over and he wished the new president – whoever he may be – success.
He reflected on his short time in the chair, having taken on the role in November, and his disappointment at ending so soon.
“It has been a remarkable privilege to be the president of the Chamber of Deputies. I wish this could continue,” he said.
“But all good things must come to an end. It’s a shame we came to an end a little quicker than I thought.”
Providing new members with their first presentation to parliament is an important task that has not gone unnoticed by Mr. Wallace.
“It is a privilege to be able to welcome the 35 new members of the Chamber”, he said.
“I hope I can give them – if anything – a love and a great and deep appreciation for the importance of the institution of parliament.”