Australia’s latest round of politicians can officially get down to work.
Six weeks after Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government claimed an election victory, the nation’s 151 MPs and 42 of the country’s 76 senators were sworn in at Parliament House on Tuesday.
The event topped off a morning of ceremonial fanfare to mark the start of the 46th parliament, with the leadership of both houses also settled.
Victorian MP Tony Smith made federal parliamentary history by being chosen as Speaker – the referee for the House of Representatives – for a third term unopposed.
But in wishing him well, Mr Morrison reminded politicians it’s not themselves they should be focused on in the next three years.
“We all know that our focus should not be on the people who are inside this building, but, indeed, to serve those who are outside this building, who will always remain our focus,” he said.
Liberal senator Scott Ryan has also been returned as Senate President, despite a bid from Greens senator Nick McKim to take his job.
Senator McKim used the attempt to criticise the opposition’s and government’s agreement to let the party in power choose the Senate’s presiding officer.
Senator Ryan garnered 62 votes to Senator McKim’s 10. One person voted for former Labor senator Gavin Marshall, sparking an outbreak of laughter in the chamber.
Earlier, Mr Morrison and Labor leader Anthony Albanese shook hands, posed for a happy snap and shared what appeared to be a friendly chat before taking their seats for a welcome-to-country ceremony.
Several indigenous MPs and senators – including Indigenous Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt – watched from the front row as Ngunnawal elder Tina Brown led the welcome.
She stressed the need for the nation’s policymakers to get things done.
“Our nation needs to create solutions, drawing on the wisdom of the ancient Australia and the wisdom of the modern Australia,” Aunty Tina said.
Mr Morrison and Mr Albanese both acknowledged that such a welcome hasn’t always occurred.
It certainly didn’t for the first parliament, where Wiradjuri men Jimmy Clements and John Noble attended uninvited after a long walk to Canberra and officials tried to move Mr Clements, known as “King Billy” along.
But the prime minister said something incredible happened.
“The crowd, Australians, took King Billy’s side. They called on him to stand his ground. He did.”
Now, work towards further reconciliation looms as pivotal to Mr Albanese and Mr Morrison, who said all Australians, indigenous or not, are now walking together, “towards reconciliation, towards equal opportunities”.
Mr Albanese said reconciliation was discussed as he took his party’s top job, and urged Mr Morrison to support an indigenous voice to parliament.
The day began with parliamentarians from across the political spectrum at church, where new Canberra Anglican Bishop Mark Short assured them people of faith have their backs.
The bishop said in the “high calling” to serve Australia and its people, they could be assured of his prayers and the prayers of the churches of Australia.
Governor-General David Hurley was to address a joint sitting of parliament on Tuesday afternoon, ahead of the Coalition presenting the bill for a package of tax cuts to the lower house.