Becoming an MP is in itself a huge feat, but usually at first you are a small fish in a large pond and the odds are stacking against you in the making of waves.
This is the dilemma of the first session of the deputy, which every member of Parliament must have at some point. So what is it like in that period before marriage? House spoke with four of the first House members to find out the answer.
Apart from those who had previously worked in the parliamentary system in another capacity, people who already knew their way around the place, for first term Member of Parliament, it became a vast new world to go around, with different rhythms and intensities.
Initially, orientation support and induction training are provided by the parliamentary constituency for the first candidate, but Teanau Tuiono of the Green Party said it can be very baffling and overwhelming.
“They’re doing their best, so you get that[support]but whether he stays there or not is another thing entirely,” he said.
“The place is huge, it’s Rabbit Warrior and of course you’re your constituents too. My only comparison is probably working at the UN, and that’s way more dangerous than this place. That kind of thing I’m used to, knowing there’s heaps of different parts and all that, knowing it’s Over time you will know how these parts work well or not. Because what they might say I am an exercise learner, I have to learn by doing.”
This was echoed by Joseph Mooney of National, the Southland MP who admitted that Parliament is “a different place, and it takes a while to get used to”.
He said, “Some very experienced politicians told me, ‘There is no training manual for this job, you have to learn on the job, because it’s always changing’.”
“You mate with a friendly party member of parliament and then there are also the parliamentary services which have an induction process where they give you an indication of how things should work. Other MPs are happy to give you advice. Like anything else there is a mix of guidance available and it is also up to the individual to seek advice And opportunities himself, like any job.”
But it doesn’t necessarily look like any other job. Throwed in the deep end, no one can swim comfortably in it. Look no further than the unfortunate case of one of the current batch of first board members recently expelled from the ruling party after the political nuclear meltdown of bullying allegations sparked a whirlwind of personnel issues.
I got busy
It seems like the best way to get first pass is to be busy. For ACT’s Nicole Mackie, this primarily means standing up for firearms owners. She develops a new gun law should her party come to government, and also teaches an eighteen-month postgraduate course on government and governance.
“If I’m going to be in a place where (I) is a legislator, I need to understand a little more than just going through the discussions and presenting the debates, to understand the policy framework, how to present it.”
The first deputy’s term of office is limited in what they can achieve, and they are rarely select ministers or committee chairs at that time. But like Tuiono in the Greens, the ACT MP gets several governors to deal with unlike early candidates in the big parties who can sometimes struggle to show up.
Mackie said she has been enjoying opportunities to gain momentum when she speaks in Parliament.
“When we look at the size of our party, we have 10 MPs trying to take all the portfolios around the house, and that means we get a chance to speak more than other MPs in some of the major parties. I notice some of them you don’t hear about at all because, you know, a party Workers, they have 65 (deputies) and there’s a lot of speeches you can give, while with the ACT there are 10 of us so we get more opportunities and I really like that because it helps us get used to the home process and it’s a really great learning experience.”
In the past two years, Chapter One has learned a lot about procedures, how legislation works and what their role is in it.
They come from a range of backgrounds on which to base the law-making process. As such, the extensive experience in midwifery gained by Ilam MP Sarah Palette was recognized as invaluable to her colleagues during the recent approval of the Accident (Birth Injury and Other) Compensation Amendment Bill.
“I think (parliament) is moving at a slower pace than people who look at it from the outside might realize,” she said.
“I didn’t realize outside Parliament the amount of work that goes into really good legislation. So it can be slow, but that is necessary to make sure it is good.”
Palette, who has been enjoying the work of the select committee, said she was able to work constructively with representatives from across the House.
“We have good group relationships with each other, and I think that’s what people want from us, and I think they want us to work together toward a common goal. Obviously we sometimes differ in our paths to that goal, but the more we work together the better, as far as I’m concerned. .
“It has been a trip, and I have really enjoyed it,” Palette said, adding that she is well aware there is no guarantee she will remain in Parliament after next year’s election.
“I never take a single vote for granted, so I don’t take my time here for granted.”
In a sense, the first term has to walk water to survive. They can’t move forward, but they must spend their time in secondary situations if they want to move forward. Finding a role and some purpose is crucial, and of course working hard – that way, even if they are not re-elected, at least the first candidate will be ready for a breather.
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