> Federal parliament is back with a new government, new agenda, and a whole lot of new faces. What can we expect?

Federal parliament is back with a new government, new agenda, and a whole lot of new faces. What can we expect?

Changes of government are remarkably rare in Australian federal politics — it has only happened eight times since the end of the World War II.

So today’s first sitting of the 47th Parliament of Australia, and of the new Albanese government, is a pretty significant occasion.

After nine years of Coalition rule, Labor is taking the reins in parliament and planning a fast start to its legislative agenda.

But more than just the government has changed.

There are more Greens and more independents who have come to parliament promising to bring a different kind of politics.

Parliament is buzzing, with plenty of new MPs and staff trying to navigate their way through the long, intersecting and often confusing corridors.

Every government bill will have to be navigated through a difficult Senate, with the Greens wanting a more progressive agenda, and the Coalition unlikely to help unwind its legacy.

Here’s a bit of what to expect ahead.

Pomp and ceremony, then down to business

However much the new government might want to get cracking on new legislation, the traditions of parliament demand a bit of time first.

Almost all of today’s sitting will be taken up with ceremonial proceedings.

Some senators and MPs will attend an early church service in Canberra, before a Welcome to Country in Parliament House.

New members and senators need to be sworn in, and a new speaker of the house and president of the Senate need to be elected.

Albanese stands at a lectern looking out at rows of seated Labor politicians, inside their party room.
Anthony Albanese spoke to new and returning Labor politicians on Monday ahead of the first sitting of the 47th Parliament.(ABC News: Matt Roberts)

The Governor-General will attend parliament, with a royal salute on his arrival, before giving a speech to both chambers outlining the new government’s agenda.

And he will finish with a 19-gun salute on Federation Mall, the lawns out the front of Parliament House.

All up, it will take up most of the day, with some legislation and a handful of maiden speeches expected on Wednesday night.

What’s first on the agenda?

The new Labor government wants to introduce at least 18 pieces of legislation in just the first week of the new parliament.

Some of the more significant pieces will deal with recommendations from the aged care royal commission, legislating 10 days of paid leave for people experiencing domestic and family violence, and the new government’s emissions reduction targets.

The climate bill will be among the first and probably the most contentious, with the Coalition opposing the bill, and the Greens and some independents arguing the targets are too weak.

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Labor has 77 seats in the 150-seat lower house, meaning once it provides a speaker, it can still pass any piece of legislation it likes.

So the bill will pass through the lower house, possibly in the first sitting fortnight, but could still face roadblocks in the Senate.

And even if the bill’s passage in the lower house is guaranteed, the vote could provide some interesting indicators of how supportive the Greens and crossbenchers plan to be of the government’s broader agenda.

A few Liberal MPs may also be willing to cross the floor and vote against their party, fearing backlash from their voters for being seen to be against stronger climate action.

The family and domestic violence leave bill, if passed, will see a national entitlement for 10 days’ leave in place from February next year for most employees, and fully operational by August.

And a private members’ bill allowing the ACT and NT to legislate on voluntary assisted dying (the two territories are currently banned from doing so under federal law) will be introduced next Monday.

Government MPs will be given a conscience vote on the issue in both the lower house and the Senate.

Will parliament look and sound different?

Some things are set to change in the new parliament, and some will stay the same.

The biggest change will obviously be the party sitting on the government benches in the lower and upper house.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will be at the dispatch box, and former PM Scott Morrison won’t even be in the building. Instead, he will be travelling to Japan for an event with former leaders from New Zealand, Canada and the UK.

Peter Dutton will take up his role opposite the Prime Minister, leading the opposition.

But a significant shift in dynamic will come from the much larger crossbench, particularly in the lower house.

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