Newly minted independent MP Helen Haines says she isn't approaching her time in parliament with a "heavy hand" or a laundry list of demands, but is focusing on building relationships to achieve her goals.
Dr Haines made history when she was elected to represent the regional Victorian seat of Indi at the May 18 election, becoming the first independent to succeed another independent at the federal level.
Starting at "parliament school" this week, Dr Haines met with her fellow class of 2019, the 25 other new members of the House of Representatives, including Labor and Liberal newbies, and fellow independent Zali Steggall.
Those relationships are already forming, with the new crossbencher already making contact with her colleagues who will sit between the two major parties.
The government holds a slim majority in the lower house after the poll, with the focus sitting squarely with the votes to be won in the Senate to pass legislation. While her upper house counterparts are being strongly lobbied over tax cuts, Dr Haines is yet to be contacted by any government ministers.
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"It is a majority but it's a slim majority, and anything can happen," she said.
"So for me the most important thing to start off with is to build relationships with the government, to get to know people, so that's the first order of business. Not to come in with a heavy hand in any shape or form but to get to know people and to talk and start with that and to start and build relationships."
"Really the art of negotiation fundamentally starts with goodwill and I wish to establish goodwill."
That doesn't mean she is shying away from lobbying hard on action on climate change, which Dr Haines describes as "the biggie".
"It's a global issue and irrespective of who is in government in Australia the issues around climate aren't going away."
"So I will talk at any opportunity I can, with the environment minister, the energy minister, the prime minister, with whoever I need to, to talk about climate and to talk about some of the real action we can do right now and what our citizens are doing right now."
Dr Haines said the government's climate solutions package doesn't go far enough and that Australia should be aiming to generate 50 per cent of energy from renewable sources by 2030.
Before entering politics, Dr Haines worked as a nurse and midwife before moving into medical research, most recently as a senior research fellow with the University of Melbourne's Department of Rural Health.
Improving living standards in rural and regional Australia in order to improve health outcomes is another big-picture issue important to the new MP.
"In the immediate term we need some very local solutions to accessing high quality mental health services and we need to reduce the wait times for elderly people accessing aged care packages."
Dr Haines said a "tipsheet" for politics and life from predecessor Cathy McGowan is one of the important tools packed for the drive up the Hume from Wangaratta.
It includes taking time to exercise, and if Melbourne Cup day rolls around without a night with friends it's time to pick up the phone.
"I'll probably backdate that though, make it September."
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