News National How Bronnie and Clive dominated day one in Parliament
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How Bronnie and Clive dominated day one in Parliament

Clive Palmer, Bronwyn Bishop
AAP
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The 44th parliament opened in Canberra with all the pomp and ceremony befitting the first session of the nation’s newly-elected government.

But while the Great Hall echoed to the sound of didgeridoos and clap sticks, and the Prime Minister spoke of the “great work” to be done, the day was stolen by two of the new parliament’s biggest personalities – Bronnie and Clive.

Liberal Party veteran Bronwyn Bishop, a renowned stickler for standing orders, was sworn in as the new Speaker. Following centuries-old Westminster custom, Mrs Bishop “resisted” as she was dragged to the chair by Tony Abbott and Leader of the House, Christopher Pyne. But her protestations were for nought.

Once installed, Mrs Bishop said she cared “passionately” for the traditions of Parliament and asked members to call her “Madame Speaker”.

But the appointment was not met with universal praise. Manager of Opposition Business Tony Burke said the elevation was “reminiscent of the Harry Potter novel” in which the villainous Dolores Umbridge was made headmistress of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

“When they all return to Hogwarts, Dumbledore is gone and Dolores Umbridge is now in charge of the school,” he said.

The Prime Minister, meanwhile, ignored the partisan sniping and sought to reset the rules of engagement following the bitterness that characterised 43rd parliament.

He said the House of Representatives “should always be a place of spirited debate, but it should never be a place where motives are impugned or characters assassinated”. His opponents roared.

Looking on from the cross benches, Clive Palmer only had to show up to make headlines.

Mr Palmer, who won the seat of Fairfax by 53 votes, missed a TV appearance on the weekend after suffering a bout of the sniffles, leading to suggestions that he may miss his first day as an elected official.

But in a speech at the National Press club, Mr Palmer scoffed at the reports.

“I only had to sneeze on the weekend and everyone said I wasn’t coming to Parliament,” he said.

And in case anyone doubted his commitment to Capital Hill, Mr Palmer also dismissed fears that his constituents would be ignored in favour of his coal mines.

“I’m full-time. Fully retired from business, one hundred per cent politician,” he said. “That’s all I’m doing. Nothing else … I’m not in business, I don’t work for any company. I’m a free citizen, I’m a member of the House of Representatives.”

Here’s how the day unfolded.

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