ANNA BURKE: TIME TO RISE ABOVE
She once said Federal Parliament was like “boarding school on steroids.” Now the woman who has the unenviable task of controlling the inmates says it’s time for our politicians to lift their game and set an example to the nation.
Anna Burke, the 47 year-old Labor MP from Melbourne, was made Speaker following Peter Slipper’s resignation, and after she had presided over extraordinary scenes from Canberra in which the PM let loose with her now globally-famous speech.
Speaker of The House, Anna Burke. Photo via nationaltime.com.au.
Burke said today there was sexism and misogyny in the parliament, just like other workplaces, but “the Parliament should be setting the tone and example for the nation, so we need to rise above some of those things,” she said.
“Some of the comments across the chamber are just untoward and unnecessary.”
Earlier in the week Burke told News Ltd’s Malcolm Farr that the job of Speaker was about “controlling and running and maintaining the dignity of the parliament, and that she took it very seriously.
“We’ve got a great institution here, a phenomenal institution, and the role has the utmost dignity to uphold.”
On ABC radio this morning she said that having a female Prime Minister had brought out the worst in some in the parliament and the wider community and that behaviour had deteriorated, especially in the hung parliament.
“But talk about the issues, not the personality and not their gender.”
Anna Burke is well-liked by the parliament but it’s an invidious position, a “minefield” which, as she told Farr is ““149 people versus me, my friends included supposedly.”
In response to a question from Farr about what she thought about being called ‘madam’ she responded with a laugh: “Well, I don’t run a brothel.”
Which is figuratively debatable.
But it seems Burke, who has shown wisdom and humour and absolutely no hesitation in throwing people out of the house – including the Leader of the Opposition – will be more than up to the task.
She comes into the prestigious position with an attitude that has been sorely lacking to date: that it’s time to rise above and get back to talking about policy.
Can we also take a minute to observe that her appointment also means that women now hold the top three positions of power in the land? Julia Gillard, Prime Minister. Attorney-General Nicola Roxon. Speaker of the House, Anna Burke.
Rise above, indeed.
*Lucy Clark (Editor of The Hoopla) is a journalist and editor with almost thirty years experience in newspapers and magazines in Sydney, London, and New York. She has been published in The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, The Daily and Sunday Telegraphs, Vogue Living, Australian Art Review, and Gourmet Traveller. Most recently the Books Editor of the Sunday Telegraph, she has also contributed to the non-fiction books, Australia Through Time, and What Women Want. You can follow her on twitter: @lucykateclark.