| Mark Riley has been a journalist for 34 years. His career has taken him from Newcastle to New York and back to the political nerve centre of Canberra.
He began as a cadet journalist for the Newcastle Herald newspaper and moved to The Sydney Morning Herald in 1990, joining the SMH's federal political bureau in 1992.
Mark was appointed New York Correspondent for the SMH and it's Melbourne sister paper, The Age, in 1998.
He won a Walkley Award for his reporting from the United Nations of the diplomatic machinations behind East Timor's passage to independence.
Mark was in a New York playground with his baby son on the morning of the September 11 attacks, leading the Fairfax newspapers' coverage from New York of those terrible events and their lasting repercussions.
He returned to Canberra as the SMH's Chief Political Correspondent in late 2002 and joined the Seven Network as Political Editor in early 2004.
Mark has covered five Prime Ministers and 12 Opposition Leaders.
He has listened to countless first speeches, some good, some average, a few outstanding.
"A good first speech is an honest and accessible self-portrait put to words," Mark says.
"It is the first, best and most important opportunity for a new politician to announce themselves to the nation, to colour in their character, their drives, their hopes, their beliefs, to tell the country who and what inspires them and why, and to lay out the panorama of their ambition for Australia and the destination they would like to reach.
"It is also a historical record in the making. The words of the first speech live on, long after their sound has faded from the chamber, as the foundation statement of a parliamentary career.
"The only speeches more important are the ones they make when they become Prime Minister or, Heaven forbid, send the country to war."