The 44th Parliament sits for the first time

Today saw the opening of the 44th Parliament, with the class of 2013 sworn in and Bronwyn Bishop installed as the new Speaker of the House of Representatives. It was largely a day of ceremony, with none of the usual cut and thrust of question time. Opening remarks from Tony Abbott did however attract much mirth from the Opposition benches, particularly when he called for dignity and civility in the new Parliament, in spite of being one of the main instigators of discord during the 43rd Parliament.

Bishop was as expected elected Speaker over Labor Member for McEwen Rob Mitchell 93 votes to 56. He was likewise defeated for the position of Deputy Speaker by the LNP’s Bruce Scott, with Mitchell declared Second Deputy Speaker. That was amongst the only real parliamentary excitement for the day, with most of the action coming outside of Parliament. Twice former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was present, but quizzed after a church service to mark the commencement of the Parliament, said that he felt that today at least was a day which was largely apolitical, pointing instead to the gravity of the situation in the Philippines.

The Liberal Party meanwhile had to deal with controversial comments from Tony Abbott’s head of the Business Advisory Council, Maurice Newman, who stated that he feels wages are too high and that Australia cannot afford the Disability Insurance Scheme or the Gonski education reforms. Clive Palmer meanwhile was the main drawcard at the National Press Club, with a wide ranging speech on everything from Karl Marx to wages for journalists.

In the background were ongoing issues surrounding asylum seekers and an increased cooling in Australia’s relationship with Indonesia stemming from that issue, as well as a Liberal Party proposal to raise the debt ceiling to $500 billion, which Labor is set to oppose, instead proposing an increase to $400 billion from the present limit of $300 billion. That issue, along with the Liberal proposal to repeal the carbon tax look set to dominate the opening days of the 44th Parliament.

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