New rules for the lower house have marked the first business day following the opening of parliament.
House Leader Tony Burke said the changes recognise the increased crossbench size and recommendations in the landmark Set the Standard report on parliamentary workplaces.
Crossbench members now have the opportunity to ask three questions during Question Time, up from one in the previous parliament.
Other changes include parliament starting half an hour earlier on Wednesday and Thursday, while no votes will be held after 6.30pm.
This is expected to put an end to the marathon late night sittings seen in previous parliaments as MPs will be able to leave without missing out on a crucial vote.
“The expectations of this house have been set in a bad way for nine years,” he said.
“Under these proposals we will get a lot more time for (members) to make sure they represent the people who sent them here.”
The opposition accused the government of withholding information about the changes until the last minute, only making it available late on Wednesday.
“This is an extremely problematic way to proceed particularly from a government which talks about a new, kinder, gentler approach to politics,” opposition business manager Paul Fletcher said.
The Question Time changes will also mean fewer opportunities for the opposition to scrutinise the government, Mr Fletcher said.
Members of the crossbench largely welcomed the government’s changes, with some concerns about the new provisions for urgent bills.
“It is a sign of positive engagement with the larger crossbench that consideration has been given to the proportion of the opposition that the crossbench now constitutes,” independent MP Zali Steggall said.
The Senate also moved to include the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags in the chamber.
One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts took aim at the behaviour of his fellow parliamentarians during a largely raucous Senate Question Time after Labor ministers promised a more orderly parliament.
“The behaviour we have seen this afternoon shows complete disrespect for the people of Australia,” he told the chamber.
“I’ve been told by both sides that it is about theatrics. We are here as representatives of the people, not entertainers.”
The first Muslim, hijab-wearing senator Fatima Payman welcomed increased diversity in the Senate, saying: “A hundred years ago, let alone 10 years ago, would this parliament accept a woman choosing a hijab to be elected?”
An emotional Senator Payman also spoke of the sacrifices her parents made after moving to Australia from Afghanistan as refugees.
Anthony Albanese faced his first opposition grilling as prime minister following Tuesday’s ceremonial opening of the 47th parliament.
It was also the first chance for Opposition Leader Peter Dutton, who took over the Liberal leadership from Scott Morrison, to quiz the fledgling Labor government.
Climate Change Minister Chris Bowen introduced the government’s much-anticipated bill to enshrine a 43 per cent emissions-reduction target by 2030.
The bill is one of 18 pieces of legislation Labor is intending to introduce in the first week of parliament.
The government also introduced a proposal to scrap the cashless debit card scheme, and aged care laws to deliver on 17 recommendations of the royal commission into the sector.
Sitting on the opposition benches for the first time in nine years, the Liberal-National coalition focused questions on Labor’s plan to abolish the building industry watchdog.
Australian Associated Press
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