Speaker’s balancing act in the chair
FIONA Simpson is well known for her friendly smile and easy-going nature, but 20 years in public office have made her a formidable and tough politician
As the first female Speaker in Queensland Parliament, she spends her days in the middle of serious political head-butting.
"Parliament, by its nature, is a house of debate. It's not a house of polite suggestions," she said.
"They are in there arguing their case for their electorates and for principles.
"Your challenge (as Speaker) is to make sure those voices can be heard without it going into meltdown where people can't be heard ... and that's the balancing act."
The long-time Member for Maroochydore shared her passion for the job, her belief that leaders should "unlock the potential in others", and her drive to re-engage the community - particularly teens - with democratic processes in a speech to 50 guests at an International Women's Day breakfast yesterday.
"Regardless of the numbers on either side of Parliament, my role is to ensure that the rules are applied fairly - so that's a fairly weighty responsibility - but others will judge for themselves whether I do that differently because I'm a woman or just because of the skill set that I bring to the role," she said.
In an interview with the Daily, she said that after nine months in the job, the fact she was a woman rarely emerged.
"I've only had one person who said to me I've got the job because I'm a woman," she said.
"I laughed because I thought 'Isn't it an irony that women have to almost achieve and seek to keep achieving beyond a certain level to sometimes break through into new territory'.
"Parliament has been there over 150 years.
"There's a lot of firsts we should have had earlier.
"I'm more than qualified to do the job, but people can judge for themselves how I apply the experience and the background."