The opening of the 47th Parliament on 26 July 2022 saw 11 newly elected senators kickstart their parliamentary careers, and just like any new job, there has been an exciting period of learning and orientation over the past month.
Most workplaces offer orientation training for newcomers to learn about their role and surroundings, and the Senate is no different.
A two-day orientation program to induct new senators — known as ‘Senate school’ — was held the week before Parliament opened. Running since the mid-1990s, Senate school provides an opportunity for new senators to meet their peers, acclimatise to their new workplace and receive guidance and training to assist them in their new role.
New senators who attended Senate School (Photo: Auspic)
Senators received training from the now former President of the Senate, Senator the Hon. Slade Brockman, party whips and senior staff of the Department of the Senate. This training included information on the role and functions of the Senate, operating in the Senate chamber, an introduction of Senate procedure and an overview of the work of committees.
Senators also received briefings from the Department of Parliamentary Services and many of the other organisations involved in supporting senators’ offices and their work. This included the Parliamentary Library, the Parliamentary Budget Office and the new Parliamentary Workplace Support Service.
The first day of sitting in a new parliament involves a number of ceremonial processes. This year, the opening of Parliament was also the first sitting day following the commencement of the terms of senators elected at the general election in May. As a result, the 40 senators elected at the general election were sworn in on opening day (other than two senators who were unable to attend and who were sworn-in later in the week). While senators can participate in committee proceedings prior to being sworn in, they cannot take their seat or participate in proceedings in the Senate until they have made either an oath or affirmation, as required by section 42 of the Constitution.
Senators from South Australia making the oath or affirmation (Photo: Auspic)
After taking their oath or affirmation, senators also sign the Senators’ Roll and the Test Roll. The Senators’ Roll is an official ledger that includes the names of all senators, their dates of election, and the date senators cease their term and the cause for ending their term. The Test Roll is a record of each senator making the oath or affirmation of allegiance. It is countersigned by the person who administers the oath or affirmation. This year it was the Chief Justice of the High Court, the Hon Chief Justice Susan Kiefel AC, appointed by the Governor-General as his Deputy for this purpose.
Starting a new role often includes multiple introductions with new colleagues about who you are, where have you worked previously and why you have joined the team. New senators also have the opportunity to introduce themselves to their colleagues, and to members of the public, through their first speeches. First speeches are an opportunity for new senators to outline what they want to achieve as a senator, and all first speeches are broadcast live and transcribed into Hansard. Senators Allman-Payne, Babet, Nampijinpa Price, Barbara Pocock, David Pocock, Shoebridge and Stewart made their first speeches in the first sitting fortnight. Senators Cadell, Liddle, Payman, Tyrrell and White will make their first speeches when the Senate next meets in September.
Senator Allman-Payne making her first speech on 1 August 2022 (Photo: Auspic)
New senators were also appointed to committees including the numerous Senate standing committees, the joint standing and statutory committees and several Senate and joint select committees.
What happens next?
Now that the 47th Parliament is well under way, new senators will be diving into their role including debating and voting on proposed laws (bills) during upcoming sitting weeks, preparing for committee meetings and hearings, including the estimates hearings in October, and working with their constituents in their electorate offices.
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