Working Together

On 21-22 September, I was one of 32 new members of parliament who met at Parliament House for a training session. Over two days, we learned about everything from parliamentary procedure to the computer system, and had a chance to mix socially with new members from all sides of politics. Among the class of 2010 are Ed Husic (the first Muslim to sit in the House of Reps) and Ken Wyatt (the first Indigenous person to sit in the House). Like others I met, they’re both impressive people, who will bring new skills and perspectives to the policy debate.

Being in the Federal Parliament is a rare honour. On the first morning, we were each given our ‘number’. Mine is 1078, meaning that I’m the 1078th person to sit in the House of Representatives since 1901. It sends a chill down your spine when you realise that you’re part of a legacy that reaches back to great figures like Deakin and Curtin, Hasluck and Hawke, Killen and Daly.

I learned a great deal from chatting with my fellow new MPs, and the friendly interchange among us gave me hope that the Opposition may be able to put aside petty bickering to help pass an important legislative agenda over the coming months. Julia Gillard’s to-do list for just this week includes measures to establish a National Preventative Health Agency, set up an Australian Civilian Corps, and strengthen ASIC’s investigative powers.

Both sides of politics have a duty to get on with the business of governing in the national interest. The Australian people don’t want squabbling on the floor of their national Parliament – they want politicians of all stripes to roll their sleeves up and get to work.

(cross-posted at the ALP blog)

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