The newest members of Australia’s lower house will be introduced to parliamentary life during a crash-course on their upcoming venture.
Ahead of the opening of the 47th parliament, 35 newly elected MPs will descend on Canberra for “pollie school” next week, led by outgoing Speaker of the House Andrew Wallace.
Described by the Speaker as “like drinking from a fire hose”, the newbies will spend two days learning the parliamentary aspects of their roles.
This includes the expectations placed upon them, parliamentary systems and procedures and how to navigate the 75,000 square metre office that is Parliament House.
Mr Wallace wants the 47th parliament to be a place of mutual respect and vigorous debate in a way that is reflective of Australian society.
“A lot of people will think that what they see on Question Time – the argy-bargy in that hour and a half – constitutes what happens all day, every day in the parliament,” he told AAP.
“Nothing could be further from the truth.”
The committee system is one where Mr Wallace found his parliamentary feet after his election in 2016 and he will encourage the new MPs to take part.
“At all times you should treat people with respect. And if you don’t, then I believe it hinders you and your ability to be able to represent your constituents,” he said.
The Speaker will also discuss parliamentary privilege – which allows members of parliament to say what they want without fear of legal action – but will stress the importance of not abusing that freedom.
Looking after their mental health, building relationships and getting involved in parliamentary life as much as possible are also aspects Mr Wallace will flag with the new members.
“Parliament can be a lonely place. Some would argue it’s maybe more lonely if you have party structures around you,” he said.
“It’s important that you make friends and not necessarily just from your side of politics.”
Eating well, exercising and phoning home regularly are key elements which have served Mr Wallace well since being elected, he said.
Training the new MPs will be one of Mr Wallace’s final jobs before the new government replaces the Liberal Speaker with one from their own ranks.
Queensland Labor MP Milton Dick is someone Mr Wallace has heard could take on the role and he wished the new Speaker – whoever they may be – success.
He reflected on his short time in the chair, having taken on the role in November, and his disappointment in finishing up so soon.
“It’s been a remarkable privilege to be the Speaker of the House of Representatives. I wish that it could continue,” he said.
“But all good things must come to an end. It’s just a shame that we’ve come to an end a bit quicker than I thought it would.”
Providing the new members with their first introduction to parliament is a significant task not lost on Mr Wallace.
“It is a privilege to to be able to receive the 35 new members to the House,” he said.
“I hope I can give them – if anything – a love and a great, deep appreciation for the importance of the institution of parliament.”