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'Class Of 2019': Young New Politicians Set To Offer A 'New Voice'

A phrase often bandied about at election time is that when you change the prime minister, you change the nation.

Australia didn't change its Prime Minister at the May election, but it did change Parliament with an influx of a new generation of politicians.

There was significant turnover in both major parties as long-serving MPs and senators retired. And many of those newly elected -- known as the Class of 2019 -- are "millennials" or at the tail end of GenX, aged in their 30s and early 40s.

This influx of new blood breaks the "pale, male and stale" stereotype of politicians -- one that isn't necessarily true these days, but persists in the popular consciousness.

They've grown up in an Australia with near-continuous economic growth, but also sky-rocketing house prices, and increasing workforce participation by women, but persistently high underemployment.

Liberal Senator Claire Chandler makes her maiden speech in the Senate Chamber at Parliament House. Photo: AAP

These experiences bring a new perspective to policy-making -- and they're not afraid to be vocal about it.

The youngest of the bunch, 29-year-old Liberal senator Claire Chandler, said she ran for office to fight for the best opportunities for future generations.

"I doubt there are many other 29-year-olds who remember as vividly as I do Paul Keating as Prime Minister, or the republic referendum, or the introduction of the GST," the Tasmanian joked about growing up steeped in current affairs.

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The Liberal member for Herbert, Phil Thompson, spoke during the election campaign about deciding to run to help ensure there was a strong future for his one-year-old daughter and other youngsters.

Labor's Anika Wells used her first speech to Parliament to speak explicitly about the need for new voices.

"Millennials will be left dealing with the consequences of the choices this Parliament makes," she said.

She noted that 2019 was the first year there were more Australians alive who were born after 1980 than before it, and more millennials in the workforce than boomers and GenXers -- but they were under-represented in Parliament.

"More millennials need a seat at the table. This one."

Labor Member for Lilley Anika Wells makes her maiden speech in the House of Representatives at Parliament House. Photo: AAP

Meanwhile, Queensland Labor senator Nita Green said while it was important to respect the "quiet Australians" that Prime Minister Scott Morrison has credited with his election win, the country also needed vocal Australians to inspire, lead and prepare for the changes ahead.

"If you are a young Australian and you want to change our country and make it better, you can. Never give up, join your union and don't be afraid to make some noise," she urged.

They're not just young Australians who have come into Parliament but, in many cases, they're young parents.

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This is somewhat novel territory for a workplace that is traditionally family un-friendly.

Liberal Julian Simmonds used his first speech to apologise to his two-year-old son Theo.

"I want you to know that the choice of a career in public life was not one your mum and I took lightly," he said.

"We understand that every moment I miss with you will be a small cut to our family. And we know all those little cuts will leave scars on our hearts."

Liberal Member for Ryan Julian Simmonds makes his maiden speech in the House of Representatives at Parliament House. Photo: AAP

The latest intake of MPs are bringing a new perspective to a range of policy areas like child care and flexible workplace relations, including Labor's Kate Thwaites, who worked in then-social service minister Jenny Macklin's office when the national paid parental leave scheme was set up.

She said there is plenty more work to do in balancing caring responsibilities, getting workplaces to recognise men want more family time too, and creating a childcare system that isn't like a lottery.

"I'm not the first working mother to be in this chamber -- and I'm so pleased that I'm not the only one here now," she said.

"I am convinced we need a culture-shift in our workplaces, so that they are no longer built on the premise that there's a wife at home who is the primary carer."

This is a generation of politicians determined to change the nation.

Featured image: AAP