Maiden: Gina Rinehart at Barnaby Joyce's speech.

Maiden: Gina Rinehart at Barnaby Joyce's speech. Photo: Andrew Meares

Celebrity-spotting in Canberra takes a different form to other urban hot spots. ''Oh look, there's Ian Macfarlane!'' is an exclamation you might hear at the local Chinese on a Tuesday night during parliamentary sitting weeks. Or perhaps ''Wow, Stephen Conroy looks weird in mufti'' when you're popping to the shops for milk on the way home from work.

And so when Australia's second-favourite mining magnate (Clive Palmer takes top honours) flew into town on Wednesday afternoon - on a private jet, of course - it caused quite the stir.

Gina Rinehart was papped, Miranda Kerr-like, on the hotel steps of the Hyatt, where she later entertained her politician pals Speaker Bronwyn Bishop and Liberal Party senators Cory Bernardi and Michaelia Cash.

But it was Barnaby Joyce who was the reason for her visit.

The recently elected Member for New England was scheduled to give his maiden speech in the House of Representatives, and Rinehart was a special guest in the viewing gallery. The two are close.

In 2011, Rinehart flew three Coalition parliamentarians - Joyce, Julie Bishop and Teresa Gambaro - to India, where they attended the wedding of the granddaughter of her business partner. Joyce also claimed taxpayer-funded ''study allowance'' for the trip.

He dropped by Kuala Lumpur on his way home, and among other things, inspected Malaysia's freeways. He said in his report they ''would look quite in place in an Australian capital city''.

Rinehart smiled benignly on Thursday as Joyce addressed the house.