Barnaby offers Duri schoolkids a ‘sneak peak’ behind the corridors of power
It was just after 4.30pm when the eight schoolchildren and their principal exited the elevator and wandered onto the members’ hall of parliament, which is off limits to the general public.
Men and women in suits, grasping large stacks of paperwork and clasping mobile phones firmly to their ears, gave puzzled looks to the group as the tour guide led the students (ranging from grades three to six) towards the wide foyer that separates the two houses of parliament.
The eight children from Duri Public School (which only has a total of 31 students enrolled) and their principal Craig McDonald had spent two hours watching proceedings from the public gallery in the Senate and the House of Representatives.
They had leant about how a policy is transformed from an idea into legislation. They had leant about prime ministers, governor-generals and well-known senators.
It was an eventful day for the schoolchildren to travel for their annual excursion to Federal Parliament - there had been much debate in the chamber about the carbon tax and Indonesian-Australian relations.
And now having just watched his efforts in parliament, the group had been invited by Federal Member for New England Barnaby Joyce to see another side of his daily work.
Walking from the chamber and across the foyer, Minister Joyce greeted the students and announced he would take them on a tour ‘behind the scenes’ of parliament.
It was only a short stroll to the ministerial wing of parliament, where it is always a hive of activity.
The students wandered along the famous blue carpet as ministers and their advisers scurried from office to office discussing the next piece of legislation and the future policy agendas.
“There are many important people who walk through these hallways. They all like to look and sound important,” Minister Joyce told the schoolchildren as they passed another scrum of politicians.
“The trick to looking important is to walk with your back very straight and use a lot of hand gestures. The trick to sounding important is to use a lot of big words and big numbers.”
The children laughed as they gestured their hands confidently and muttered numbers in the millions and billions until they approached an office where police officers stood at the wide doorway and a decorated Christmas tree shone in the entrance.
“This is the Prime Minister’s office,” Minister Joyce said.
“We have to be very quiet when we walk past this section of the building or else we might get into trouble.”
While some of the students gushed at the office entrance to the leader of the nation, Minister Joyce was eventually able to lead the children away from the imposing doorway and to the front desk of his own ministerial office.
The Minister’s advisers lifted their heads from their computers as the children waved hello and passed into the personal office of Mr Joyce.
They gathered around his cluttered desk and began asking questions about the books on his shelves, the photos on his walls and the papers next to his computer.
“I am the member for New England and I am also the Minister for Agriculture,” Minister Joyce told the students.
“And that means I am sworn to keep some things secret or else I will have to go back to the Prime Minister’s office and get into trouble.”
The Minister and the children gathered for a photo and he waved goodbye as he returned to the chamber where another piece of legislation was being debated.
Schoolchildren from Duri, south of Tamworth, can now return home this week and tell their parents they have confidently walked the same corridors of power as the most powerful politicians in the land.
Could there be a future member for New England among these schoolchildren?
Front Row - Charlotte Kesby, Leisl Cooper, Phoebe Reynolds, Charlotte Ramsden, Eden Walters and Emma Ison
Back Row - Nikki Ison (Parent), Chris MacAlpine, Lara McKay and Mr Craig McDonald