No blood oaths or room for God as Assembly draws up battle lines

No blood oaths or room for God as Assembly draws up battle lines

Supporters of God and the Queen were thin on the ground when the ACT's new Legislative Assembly met for the first time. As the 17 MLAs took their turns to be sworn in, a prominent cleric's description of Canberra as the most godless city in Australia seemed particularly apt.

Brindabella MLA Mick Gentleman was the only Labor member to swear an oath to serve the people of the ACT, while the rest of the ALP caucus made non-religious affirmations. In all, nine MLAs, including Liberal Jeremy Hanson and Green Shane Rattenbury made affirmations.

Zed Seselja is sworn in as a member of the Legislative Assembly.

Zed Seselja is sworn in as a member of the Legislative Assembly.

Photo: Rohan Thomson

Liberals Zed Seselja, Brendan Smyth and Steve Doszpot swore oaths to serve the people. But their colleagues Andrew Wall, Alistair Coe and Giulia Jones chose to declare their fealty to Queen Elizabeth II.

Liberal Vicki Dunne placed a bet both ways by swearing two oaths: one mentioning the Queen, and the other the people.

Dunne was in a good mood, being chosen by her peers to spend four years in the Speaker's chair.


Custom dictates that an incoming Speaker be dragged to the chair, but Dunne required no help from supporters Coe and Jones.

''She's not resisting,'' Deputy Chief Minister Andrew Barr cried.

The crossbenches noticeably had fewer Green MLAs, with Seselja noting that the car park contained fewer electric cars but one blue sports car belonging to Gentleman.

As the sole Green, Rattenbury sat close - but not too close - to his new Labor ministerial colleagues, with a walkway and an empty space separating him from Joy Burch.

Before proceeding to the election of the Chief Minister, assembly staff gave their best impressions of magicians as they opened ballot boxes and showed them to the gallery to prove no tricky business was taking place.

Boxes of tissues had been thoughtfully placed on MLAs' desks before the start of proceedings. But there were no tears (of happiness or grief) after Katy Gallagher was re-elected.

Like Julia Gillard after the formation of the federal Labor minority government, Gallagher spoke of her desire for political adversaries to put aside their differences where possible and work together.

Unlike Tony Abbott, Seselja didn't even put up a pretence of desiring a gentler, more co-operative form of politics. The opposition would not sit silent while extreme policies were passed, Seselja explained.

And with the battle lines drawn for the next four years, the ACT's Parliament adjourned in time for Melbourne Cup luncheons.

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