BIG READ: One year of One Nation for Mirani
WHEN he first arrived on George St, Brisbane, Mirani MP Stephen Andrew was more informed about feral pig hunting and saltwater fishing than he was about parliamentary procedures.
The pest controller turned politician said the past year had been the steepest learning curve of his life.
"You have to learn all the standing orders of parliament," he said.
"You have to understand all the different stuff in all the different departments and be across whatever there is."
Once he had mastered the traditions of parliamentary bureaucracy, Mr Andrew said the next challenge was unpacking the daily policy puzzles of the bills in parliament.
"Before you actually go out and vote on that bill (you need to work out) what it's actually going to do - price-wise how it's going to affect community," he said.
"If it's going to put more red tape, more impost, more stress. There's so many things that have to be taken into consideration."
It's been a crash course in politics for the first-term parliamentarian but he believes the transition hasn't been too difficult.
"The transition's fine," he said.
"Common sense translates right across the board if you've got a good heart and you've got a good mind."
He said assessing policy as varied as vegetation management, human rights legislation and energy policies was just like any other daily decision.
"It's no different to whatever you do in life, whether you're crossing a road, whether you're catching a pig or whether you're voting on policy. It's all the same thing. You just need to look into it deep enough to understand you're making the right decision."
Despite becoming a politician, Mr Andrew said he still helped out with pest control operations. He held the profession in high esteem, saying "it's a hugely important job".
He has less enthusiasm for his current parliamentary colleagues.
Mr Andrew is used to handling rats and feral pigs but politics has introduced him to a new variety of rat bags and boorish behaviour. Even after a year, he continues to be off-put by Brisbane's political games.
"When communities are being left behind or certain parts of the community are being looked after (it's) because there's more numbers," he said.
"It's just a shame that politics, or politicians, don't look at people as people, not just the amount of numbers that they're going to get in the next vote."
Mr Andrew said his year in politics had exposed him to an unnecessarily "nasty" culture.
"I don't think there's any reason to be nasty," he said.
"I think most people are being nasty because, one they can't hold their own end up, and two, they've got to use dirty, dirty tactics to stay in the game. If that's the case, why would you be there? If you can't do it for the spirit of what it's all about, don't do it."
In a parliament where the Palaszczuk Government holds a comfortable majority, Mr Andrew's position as a lone One Nation cross-bencher doesn't afford him much power. But he is proud of what he has achieved in the year.
"For a person in government that supposedly doesn't have any power and doesn't really have any party, I tell you what, we've got a lot done," he said.
Mr Andrew said he was able to push for change by presenting his policies directly to the ministers, even if they sat on the other side of politics.
"I don't go to the minister with problems," he said.
"I go to the minister with answers and that's the difference between me and all the others."
For the novice politicians and his tiny team of three, it is often difficult to keep up with the demands of parliament.
"We don't have a big party and we don't have a whole hell of standing history so there's a lot of research to do for all the stuff that we go into," he said.
To compensate for this, Mr Andrew said he was reliant on community consultation to form his policy positions.
"It's the only way to be," he said.
"It's the only way to fix up the community that has got the issues. How could you ever find something and tell a community what they need? They actually have to come to you and say what's actually going on. The community needs that. They just want to be heard. They want their ideas and their way of life, or things that can change their way of life, heard. They just want someone to represent them."
As the only sitting One Nation member in State Parliament, Mr Andrew has the freedom to represent his constituents without the demands of a large party structure.
"That's the thing about being the Member for Mirani," he said.
"I'm not the member for One Nation or the member for a party or a preferred party system. I'm actually the member for the people."
After a year in politics, Mr Andrew is able to rattle off a long list of policies he helped contribute to and amend. However his proudest accomplishment is just the opportunity to represent Mirani.
"That's the biggest privilege," he said.
But a year in politics takes its toll. Nearly a third of Mr Andrew's time is spent in Brisbane, away from his family.
"There's nothing easy about it but you just have to live with it," he said.
As parliament breaks for the holidays, Mr Andrew said he was taking advantage of the break from the city chaos.
While savouring a late breakfast with his wife, Mr Andrew said he would be abandoning his suits and enjoy sitting around in his football shorts, a t-shirt and thongs.