‘I’m pumped’: New senators assemble for an upper house boot camp

They are the new kids on the block in a Senate that is tipped to steal the show in both dynamics and theatrics in the 47th Parliament.

With a frisson of nervous excitement and an abundance of goodwill, the incoming class of new senators arrived in Canberra for a two-day crash course on their roles and responsibilities as they prepared to take their seats in the chamber next week.

Senate President Slade Brockman (centre) poses for a group photo with newly-elected senators during ‘Senate School’ at Parliament House on Thursday.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

Victoria’s “$100 million senator” Ralph Babet – the United Australia Party’s sole successful beneficiary of Clive Palmer’s deep pockets – was brimming with energy and positive vibes for his chamber colleagues.

“I’m excited. I’m pumped. I’m ready to do some work in here,” he declared.

“There are lots of personalities. I actually met a couple of them just inside. Lovely people. I’m sure we’re going to get along. We’re going to do everything that we can to do the right thing by Australia.”

Queensland Senator Penny Allman-Payne, one of three new Greens joining the crossbench, said her three decades of experience as a primary school teacher stood her in good stead for getting up to speed on Senate processes.

“Lifelong learning is my shtick,” she said, quipping: “I’m hoping we don’t see any behaviour like our Year 9s”.

Senate President Slade Brockman speaks with the new senators during ‘Senate School’.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

Rubgy union star turned ACT independent senator David Pocock was pleased with the location of his seat up the back of the chamber.

“It’s nice to meet all the new senators. To see your name on the desk makes it real,” he said.

The two-day bootcamp, affectionately called Senate school, is designed to give the new arrivals a swift education in the operation of the house of review, covering everything from the legislative process to the role of committees and senate estimates, as well as etiquette in the chamber.

The new Senate is poised to set a high watermark in diversity. Three Indigenous women are among the new recruits taking up seats in the chamber – NT Country Liberal Jacinta Price, South Australian Liberal Kerrynne Liddle, and Victorian Labor’s Jana Stewart.

Afghan-born refugee Fatima Payman, Labor’s newest senator for WA, will be the youngest member of the chamber and the third-youngest Australian senator in history. The 27-year-old Muslim-Australian will also be the first woman to wear a hijab in the Senate, although One Nation’s Pauline Hanson was the first to don Muslim headwear as a result of her bizarre anti-burqa stunt in 2017.

Welcoming the new class, Senate President Slade Brockman informed them they would join the ranks of just 642 Australians who had served as senators since federation and would be “the engine room” of the new parliament.

In a bid to set a better tone for the next three years than the last three, Brockman urged that civility need not be a casualty of ideological difference.

“We do not need to run down other people. We need to remain civil, and we need to remain a collegiate body,” he said.

Cut through the noise of federal politics with news, views and expert analysis from Jacqueline Maley. Subscribers can sign up to our weekly Inside Politics newsletter here.

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