It was first day at school today for our new federal parliamentarians, 34 ebullient ALP members, seven sullen Liberals and a lonely National, all of whom were treated to a long procedural lecture from parting speaker David Hawker, a gesture that will have given them a first hint of the four years of mind-numbing tedium that lie before them.

Later they will be taken in small groups, shown the Byzantine complex of corridors leading to their new offices and left to their own devices. The fond hope here is that at least half of them might never be seen again, and will end their days staggering in small, bemused circuits through the mysterious rear rooms of Aussies cafe and the kitchens of the non-members’ dining rooms.

It need not end like that of course. These men and women have the opportunity to achieve great things. To contribute the combined weight of their intellect and energy to the great debates of Australian public life. May they do more than merely play at politics.

Failing that, all we ask is that they sit down, shut up and don’t eat their own earwax.