Key names you need to know in federal Parliament
1 August 2022 at 1:54 pm
Angus Crowther and Rory Parker provide this handy guide to some of the key names our sector needs to know in federal Parliament.
With the first sitting week of the 47th Parliament done and dusted, we’ve been given a glimpse into what we can expect for the next few years. Already, there’s been important legislation introduced, debate, changes to procedure, and a bit of the usual argy-bargy. But now that it’s Labor’s government to lead, things around Parliament House will be a little different. While many of you likely are aware of your organisation’s primary minister and local MP, now’s your opportunity to get to know some of the key players in Parliament – and how they can help your organisation get the most out of sitting weeks.
Speaker of the House
One of the two presiding officers of Parliament (the other being the president of the Senate), the speaker moderates debate in the House of Representatives and keeps things across Parliament House moving along smoothly. Effectively, they’re the head honcho in Parliament – one of the very few people who can silence a prime minister and still have a job at the end of the day. For the social sector, engaging with the Speaker can help open doors in Parliament House—assisting with organising events and logistics.
Milton Dick was elected as the Speaker for this Parliament. He’s a Queenslander, in Labor’s right faction, and holds his seat of Oxley with a very safe margin of 11.6 per cent.
President of the Senate
Yes, Australia has a president! But, instead of being a head of state, they’re essentially just the head of a big red room. The president is one of the two presiding officers (the other being the speaker) that share the responsibility for the management of Parliament House. The president also takes on the role of moderator in the Senate, a challenging role given some of the personalities in the upper house. Engaging with the president is an excellent way to smoothly organise events at Parliament.
Sue Lines is this Parliament’s president of the senate. She’s from Western Australia, in Labor’s left faction, and has held her seat in the senate since 2013.
Leader of the House/leader of the government in the Senate
The leader of the house or leader of the government in the Senate is one of the people you’ll see speaking most in the chamber. They lead the debate, introduce bills, analyse procedure, and negotiate with the other side and crossbench when necessary. They’re one of the key tactical players in Parliament, largely formulating and delivering their party’s strategy for the sitting week. For organisations like yours, you can lean into this if there’s a particular issue that’s likely to make your sector an important topic for that week of Parliament: keeping the leader of the house across your issues may result in your organisation having a greater role in addressing issues. There’s an Opposition equivalent of each of these roles who have largely similar responsibilities.
Tony Burke is the leader of the house. He’s from Labor’s dominant NSW right faction, representing the seat of Watson. He is also minister for employment and workplace relations and minister for the arts.
Penny Wong is the leader of the government in the Senate. She’s a senator for South Australia and also holds the position of minister for foreign affairs.
The role of the whip is an easy one to remember—they’re responsible for whipping their colleagues into line. They keep a close eye on numbers in the chamber to ensure they meet quorum, win votes, or have enough speakers to fill time on a Bill. They coordinate messaging within their party, and even allocate speaking slots and questions for question time. The whips are all too often overlooked by social organisations for advocacy. You should seek to build relationships with a whip, because they can be a key asset for disseminating information amongst their party, or for pushing MPs to attend your events.
Joanne Ryan is one of Labor’s whips in the House, representing the seat of Lalor in Victoria. David Smith is the other whip in the House, representing the seat of Bean in the ACT.
Anne Urquhart is Labor’s whip in the Senate. She’s a Senator from Tasmania.
While a lot of the work of Parliament can be less important to your advocacy efforts than electoral or ministerial matters, it’s still useful to have a base understanding of what goes on there. There’s often a lot of value in hosting an event at Parliament House, or securing a number of meetings on a sitting day. When you do, keep an eye out for these people—and try to activate them as champions for your organisation. There’s a good chance it’ll pay off.
Happenings on the hill is a fortnightly column focusing on all things politics, policy, campaigns and advocacy. Stay tuned for updates around political trends and elections, lobbying and advocacy news, and hints, tips and ideas on government engagement that are specifically written for the social purpose/for purpose sector.