Speaker Bronwyn Bishop, the first woman from the conservative side of politics to occupy the House of Representatives chair, has pledged to be impartial in a tradition dating back six centuries.
The NSW Liberal rejected the description of the parliament as a schoolyard, saying rather it was a “strong and robust place of debate”.
“There will be times when there will be turbulence … when we can feel the heat and anger of the place rises, but it will be my job to try and keep that order while remaining a place of robust discussion of ideas and competing ideas,” Ms Bishop told the chamber on Tuesday.
“In this chair I will act impartially. That is the responsibility that goes back to 1377.”
However, she confirmed she would continue to attend party room meetings, unlike some of her recent predecessors, and preferred to be addressed as Madam Speaker by MPs.
Ms Bishop described her election as Speaker as the capping of her career.
She acknowledged her two female, Labor predecessors but said despite references in congratulatory speeches to “something about the sisterhood” she had only ever put herself forward as “the best person for the job”.
In a break with convention, Prime Minister Tony Abbott nominated Ms Bishop, describing her as a “formidable character”. Usually a backbencher would propose the candidate for Speaker.
“I can think of no one more likely to deal with all of the other formidable characters in this place without fear or favour,” Mr Abbott said in his first words to the 44th parliament.
Government frontbencher Christopher Pyne seconded the nomination.
However, Ms Bishop was opposed by Labor, which put up backbencher Rob Mitchell for the job.
“On this side, we are looking for a Speaker who can be even handed, reasonable, capable of seeing the other person’s point of view, capable of seeing the other side of the argument,” Labor’s Kelvin Thomson told MPs.
“No-one doubts that the Member for Mackellar (Ms Bishop) is experienced, but we have experience of her.
“There are certainly no shades of grey with her.”
Ms Bishop was elected 93 votes to 56.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten congratulated her, noting her “forensic passion for standing orders”.
Labor’s Tony Burke likened the first day of parliament to the first day of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts, and compared Ms Bishop to the character Madam Undersecretary Professor Dolores Umbridge who in all her positions at Hogwarts had enormous power over the students, teachers, and the curriculum, which she wielded despotically.
Ms Bishop later responded that “sometimes you can talk yourself more into trouble than you can out of trouble”.