From the time of The Punch’s launch the then-Speaker of the House of Representatives was a bit of a Punch mascot. A favourite with some of our more politically-obsessed, Question Time-viewing readers.
Harry put up with a lot. During the tedious 17-day post-election negotiations over who would form government in the hung parliament, Julia Gillard offered Harry’s job to Rob Oakeshott. To cheers Harry clung on to the Speaker’s Chair - for a while.
When the PM saw an opportunity to put Peter Slipper in the chair, thereby removing an opposition vote and shoring up her tenuous position ever so slightly, she pounced.
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Peter Slipper, draped in black in a manner most young voters will not see outside Hogwarts, has dramatically altered the style of the Speaker’s office.
All occupants of the chair consider the job important. Slipper believes that previously discarded layers of trappings and ceremony are needed to make the point.
Predecessor to this Prince of Pomp was Harry Jenkins, who was more a “People’s Speaker”, a Labor lefty whose natural mode was of informality. But his love of Parliament has been genuine and deep.
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Tony Abbott could have done more to look after Peter Slipper as ambitious enemies lusted after his cushy Queensland seat of Fisher. But he didn’t.
Now the Opposition Leader will pay the price.
Slipper, or Slippery Pete as his nickname goes, has looked after himself by quitting the Liberals and taking up a Labor offer to become Speaker replacing the estimable Harry Jenkins. There is no formal requirement for the speaker to be from the party of government.
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After a bruising election campaign and an outbreak of acrimony over forming government and the Speaker and Deputy Speaker, MPs and Senators combined yesterday for what looked like a cross between high colonial ceremony and a day of awkward team-building exercises.
“Parliament: the day in pictures” isn’t always a theme for the most compelling set of images, which underlines just how hard the political photographers have to work to get something interesting to illustrate the news. But the pictures from yesterday’s opening of the 43rd Parliament merit it. Just take the first shot above of the new member for Bennelong, John Alexander, being sworn in with
his mascot the youngest MP ever elected, the new member for Longman, Wyatt Roy.
Below are some of the other choice shots from News Ltd photographers Ray Strange, Gary Ramage and Kym Smith from around Parliament House yesterday. They’re numbered for easy reference so you can add your captions and quote suggestions in the comments below.
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As is the custom for a Speaker of the House Harry Jenkins yesterday welcomed new members of Parliament with a quote from the British band Chumbawamba: “I get knocked down, I get up again, you are never going to keep me down.” Amen.
It was sound advice, and considering the nature of the new paradigm, we can soon expect a private members bill that would make the playing of Tubthumping compulsory before each Question Time so we can “get into the mood” for democracy.
But perhaps a few others should have joined the speakers list with cautionary tales of what not to do. Here are some interesting topics that could’ve made quite the Power Point presentations for the new kids:
Just a lot of advice from Peter Slipper
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Speaker of the House of Representatives Harry Jenkins is a bit of a Punch Question Time Live favourite, with his school master tone and ever-developing sense of humour.
And now he has a new fan - Opposition Leader Tony Abbott. It was reported yesterday Julia Gillard couldn’t get away from Jenkins fast enough when he bailed her up in Aussies Cafe at Parliament House.
She seems more keen to indulge the increasingly lofty ambitions of Independent Rob “this isn’t about some out-of-control ego” Oakeshott , which must be driving Jenkins a bit mad. According to Gillard, Oakeshott has the “skills and attributes” necessary for the tricky parliamentary role. But this morning Abbott backed up the Labor stalwart.
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