Glad rags and ballot gags, but grey hairs banished in new-look Senate

With their suits starched and hair freshly dyed and coiffed, the Senate has welcomed its 12 newest members.

Four Australian Greens, four Labor Party members, two Liberals, one National and one Democratic Labor Party (DLP) member took their seats on the floor of the red chamber for the first time today.

Another 24 re-elected senators from all sides of politics were sworn-in for a further six year term at the same time.

Laughter and chatter filled the chamber as the group mingled before formal proceedings began at 10am.

Governor-General Quentin Bryce, resplendent in a hot pink coat and matching pumps, presided over the 20 minute ceremony.

Richard Di Natale, Lee Rhiannon, Larissa Waters and Penny Wright from the Greens all took a secular affirmation rather than swearing their allegiance on a holy book such as the Bible.


Other senators who opted for the affirmation included Labor powerbroker John Faulkner and government whip Anne McEwen.

On these special occasions, the chamber looks different.

It’s not just that everyone has donned their glad rags and there is a conspicuous absence of grey hairs - the seating plan has changed too.

Independent Nick Xenophon, who used be in the shadow of Family First’s Steve Fielding, now sits behind DLP dark horse John Madigan.

The Greens have sprawled out over three extra pews to accommodate their burgeoning team, which has gone from five to nine, giving them the balance of power.

A festive atmosphere prevailed, that was until it came time to elect the Senate president.

Government Senate leader Chris Evans nominated incumbent John Hogg, but in a shock move Greens leader Bob Brown put forward his party’s communications spokesman Scott Ludlam to stand against him.

Traditionally, the president is a representative of the government, and the deputy comes from the opposition.

Senator Brown’s attempt to usurp convention provoked jeering from the coalition benches, but he insisted Senator Ludlam was a forthright man of great integrity, well placed to do the job.

‘‘Senator Ludlam is the best choice,’’ Senator Brown said.

Senator Hogg won the contest 62 votes to nine in a secret ballot, and thanked the Senate for its ongoing confidence in him.

Finance Minister Penny Wong was spotted showing her ballot paper to neighbour Communications Minister Stephen Conroy and pulling a face, appearing to mimic Opposition Leader Tony Abbott who was last week caught revealing his vote for the Liberals’ federal presidency to its eventual winner Alan Stockdale.