What the Legislative Council Does on a Sitting Day

1. Introduction

The work of the Legislative Council can vary markedly from one day to the next depending upon the items of business. Some activities like Question Time occur regularly each day whilst others like the presentation of Petitions may vary in frequency.

To assist with interpreting the various terms which are used in this guide the following definitions may be of assistance:

Bill

This is the form which legislation takes when it is first introduced into, and during its passage through, Parliament. Bills become Acts of Parliament after passing through the legislative process of both Houses and receiving the Royal Assent.

Motion

Any Member can move a motion expressing his or her view on a particular subject. This has the effect of causing a debate and, as a result of that debate, drawing the attention of the Government, public and the media to the particular matter, defect or problem about which the Member is concerned.

Notice

Giving notice refers to the practice of giving advance indication of intention to move a motion or ask a question.

Notice Paper

The Notice Paper contains details of all motions previously moved and adjourned, or for which notice has been given. In general terms it is the agenda for the meetings of the House and is produced each sitting day.

The President

Is the Presiding Officer of the Legislative Council and is elected by the Members of the Legislative Council. The function of the Presiding Officer is to regulate debate and to ensure that the proceedings are carried out in accordance with the Standing Orders and established parliamentary custom.

Standing Orders

Section 34 of the Constitution Act 1889 authorises the Legislative Council and the Legislative Assembly to adopt standing rules and orders. The Standing Orders regulate the conduct of the Council's proceedings and its despatch of business.

Sessional Orders

The House by motion can adopt rules that override or are additional to Standing Orders for a specified time. This allows the House to monitor how the new rules work in practice before adopting them as Standing Orders.

See Order of Business

2. Days and Times of Meeting [Standing Order 5]

(1)    Unless otherwise ordered and subject to Standing Order 6, the Council shall meet for business on the days and at the times

as follows –

Tuesday        2.00 pm

Wednesday    1.00 pm

Thursday       10.00 am

(2)    Unless otherwise ordered by the President, the proceedings of the Council shall be suspended on the days and at the times

as follows –

Tuesday        6.00 pm to 7.30 pm

Wednesday    4.15 pm to 4.30 pm

Thursday       1.00 pm to 2.00 pm  and     4.15 pm to 4.30 pm

(3)    Unless sooner adjourned or following business taken under (5), the Council stands adjourned at the following times –

Tuesday        10.25 pm

Wednesday    10.25 pm

Thursday       6.00 pm

(4)    The Council may be adjourned earlier than the time specified in (3) by a Minister moving that Members’ Statements be

now taken.

(5)    At the conclusion of Members’ Statements, no further business shall be transacted by the Council, except –

(a)      at the discretion of the President, a further 10 minutes of Members’ Statements, during which a Member who has not

  made a Member’s Statement may respond to a matter raised by another Member during Members’ Statements;

(b)      the receipt of Messages and, in the case of a Bill received from the Assembly, the moving of its second reading by

  the Member in charge of the Bill; and

(c)     a motion for the Council to adjourn until a date and/or time different than provided for by (1).

 

3. Order of Business

Formal Business [Standing Order 14]

(1)    Unless otherwise ordered, the Council shall proceed with formal business each sitting day in the following order –

(a)      prayers;

(b)      condolence motions;

(c)      reporting of Governor’s messages;

(d)      presentation of petitions;

(e)      statements by Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries;

(f)      presentation of papers for tabling;

(g)      giving notices of questions;

(h)      giving notices of motions to introduce Bills;

(i)       giving notices of motions to disallow statutory instruments;

(j)      giving notices of motions; and

(k)      motions without notice.

(2)    At the completion of formal business and subject to Standing Order 15, the Council shall proceed to Orders of the Day as

set down on the Business Program.

See Order of Business

(a) Prayers
At the commencement of each sitting day the President reads two prayers; the Legislative Council prayer and the Lord’s prayer.

(b) Condolence Motions
Condolence motions are only moved when a Member or former Member of the Legislative Council has passed away. The Leader of the House moves the condolence motion. There is no time limit on debate and each Member can speak to the motion. At the end of the speeches the President rises and thanks Members for their kind remarks and asks Members to stand in their places for one minute’s silence.

(c) Reporting of Governor’s Messages
His Excellency the Governor sends formal notices, known as Governor’s Messages to the Legislative Council and the Legislative Assembly to indicate when a Bill has been assented to. In other words, when a Bill becomes an Act.

(d) Presentation of Petitions:
Immediately after prayers the President calls for the presentation of any petitions. If a Member has a petition for presentation he or she rises and informs the House of the nature of the request contained in the Petition and the number of signatories to the petition. The petition is then tabled (laid upon the Table of the House). The House has established an Environment and Public Affairs Committee whose role it is to review petitions following tabling. [SOs 100 and 101].

(e) Statements by Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries
A Minister or Parliamentary Secretary may make a statement at the time specified under Standing Order 14, or by leave when no other business is before the Council. A statement must impart factual information relating to public affairs, and must not contain debateable matter other than matter that is inherent in the content of the statement. [SO 102].

(f) Presentation of Papers for Tabling:
Ministers regularly table a wide range of documents and statutory instruments. A large number of these documents are the annual reports of various Government departments and instrumentalities. Statutory instruments include the notes, regulations, local laws and by-laws that the parliament, by statute, has authorised the government or some other body to create. These instruments are sometimes referred to as subordinate, subsidiary or delegated legislation. [SO 20].

Under section 42 of the Interpretation Act 1984 certain types of subsidiary legislation must be laid on the Table of each House of Parliament within six sitting days of publication and remain there for 14 sitting days to enable scrutiny by the Members of Parliament. During this time Members may move a motion to disallow the subsidiary legislation. Members may also move to disallow some other forms of Government regulation such as Metropolitan Region Scheme amendments.

The Parliament has established a Joint Standing Committee on Delegated Legislation whose role it is to review subsidiary legislation following tabling.

(g) Giving Notices of Questions:
There are different options for addressing questions to and receiving replies from Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries:

1. Questions on notice [SOs 103-107] to be dealt with by written reply;
2. Questions on notice lodged orally in the House [SOs 106(2) and 14(1)(g)]; and
3. Questions without notice [SOs 103-105 and 108] by oral query in the House.

Questions on Notice require Members to submit their question in writing to the Clerk's Office. The questions are checked to ensure that they comply with the Standing Orders and are then transmitted to the relevant Minister's office for answer. The questions and answers to questions for which notice was given at a previous sitting are provided to all Members and made available to the public and the media on the Parliament web site.

Members generally take the opportunity to use the second method and give oral notice of a question when the content is such that they desire to gain some publicity on the issue. 

Questions without notice are taken at Question Time at 4.30pm each sitting day. Question Time generally continues for 30 minutes. This offers Members an opportunity to ask oral questions of Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries on matters relating to their portfolio responsibilities.

Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries in the Legislative Council also represent Ministers of the Legislative Assembly. It is therefore difficult for them to be in a position immediately to answer questions about matters for which the Legislative Assembly Ministers are responsible. As a result, a practice has developed for unofficial notice of the questions to be given to the Council Minister to enable him or her to obtain a response from the responsible Assembly Minister. The Council Minister or Parliamentary Secretary is required to take responsibility for the answer provided.

(h) Giving Notice of Motions to Introduce Bills:
Ministers or Members are required to give notice of their intention to introduce a Bill into the House. Following notice being given, the motion for introduction and first reading is included in the Notice Paper for the next day of sitting under the heading of "Bills for Introduction". [SO 121].

(i) Giving Notices of Motions to Disallow Statutory Instruments
A notice of motion to disallow a regulation has precedence over other notices of motions. If the motion hasn’t been moved two sitting days after notice was given, then it is deemed to have been moved pro forma and becomes an Order of the Day retaining precedence for a further 17 sitting days unless resolved sooner. [SO 66].

(j) Giving Notice of Motions:
Members have the opportunity to give notice of motions which they wish to move at a future sitting. Such motions are included in the Notice Paper for the next day of sitting under the heading of "Motions". Motions generally are dealt with in the order that they are added to the Notice Paper. Consequently, it may be some time before a motion is actually debated by the House. Motions are debated each sitting Wednesday immediately after formal business for two hours (with a total debate time of up to four hours for each motion).

The giving of notice alerts other Members, and the Government, to the general nature of the motion and enables all parties to undertake research into the subject of the motion, although the full arguments are not known until the motion is ultimately debated. [SOs 59-63].

(k) Motions Without Notice:
Opportunity is given for Members to move motions without notice. Motions without notice are moved infrequently and are often procedural in nature. On some occasions the motions are moved by the Government or the Opposition to suspend Standing Orders to enable matters to be debated immediately. In such cases the matter often concerns an issue of political importance to either party. [SO 64(2)].

Orders of the Day:
Each sitting day the Council considers Orders of the Day as set down on the Business Program. Orders of the Day consist of those motions which have been moved and later adjourned; proceedings on Bills which have been introduced and are at various stages in their passage and any other matters which the House has determined should be placed on the Notice Paper for future debate.

The order of the items listed as Orders of the Day are determined by the Leader of the House. Once the House commences debate on the Orders of the Day it continues to deal with those matters in the order in which they appear unless the House determines to take them in some other order.

Bills become Orders of the Day and are dealt with as such after they are read a first time. Before a Bill can become an Act of Parliament it must pass through various stages of the legislative process in both the Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council.

 

Weekly Business [Standing Order 15]

The following business shall be taken each sitting week.

(1)    Questions without Notice

Questions without notice shall be taken at 4.30pm each day for a period of approximately 30 minutes.

(2)    Motions on Notice

After the conclusion of formal business each Wednesday, motions on notice shall be taken for a period of 120 minutes.

(3)    Consideration of Committee Reports

After the conclusion of motions on notice under (2) each Wednesday, consideration of Committee reports shall be taken for a period of 60 minutes.

(4)    Non-Government Business

After the conclusion of formal business each Thursday, Non-Government Business shall be taken for a period of 80 minutes.

(5)    Private Members’ Business

After the conclusion of Non-Government Business each Thursday, Private Members’ Business shall be taken for a period of 60 minutes.

(6)    Members’ Statements

Members’ statements shall be taken 40 minutes prior to the adjournment of the Council on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

 

Precedence of Business [Standing Order 16]

When under Standing or Temporary Orders the time has arrived for other business to commence, the President shall interrupt and adjourn the matter under consideration.

 

Business Program [Standing Order 17]

(1)    A Business Program shall be prepared for each sitting day, detailing the business proposed by the Leader of the House to

be considered during that sitting of the Council, subject to Standing and Temporary Orders.

(2)    The Leader of the House may arrange the sequence of orders of the day on the Business Program.

(3)    A Minister or Parliamentary Secretary may move without notice that the sequence of orders of the day on the

Business Program be varied, or other items of business on the Notice Paper be added to the Business Program. 

Any such motion shall be put without amendment or debate.

(4)    A Member may move without notice that any matter listed on the Business Program under the Member’s name

be postponed to a later sitting of the Council.  Any such motion shall be put without amendment or debate.

(5)    A Member may move without notice that an order of the day or a notice of motion listed on the Notice Paper in the

Member’s name be made order of the day No. 1 or motion No. 1 on the Business Program for the next sitting of the Council.

Any such motion shall be put without amendment or debate.

 

Order of the Notice Paper [Standing Order 18]

(1)    All notices of motion and orders of the day shall be placed on the Notice Paper in the order they were given or made.

(2)    Any notices of motion or orders of the day not called on or not disposed of at the conclusion of a sitting day shall be set

down on the Notice Paper as business for the next sitting day.

 

Motion Related to Conduct of Council Business [Standing Order 19]

Any motion connected with the conduct of the business of the Council may be moved by a Minister or Parliamentary Secretary at any time without notice.

 

Presentation of Papers and Committee Reports [Standing Order 20]

(1)    The President, a Minister or a Parliamentary Secretary may present a paper in the course of related business or at any

time when other business is not before the Council.

(2)    Other Members, by leave, may present a paper in the course of related business.

(3)    A Committee Chair, or other Member nominated by a Committee for this purpose, may present a Committee report at

any time when other business is not before the Council.

 

4. Non-Government and Private Members' Business

Non-Government Business [Standing Order 110]

(1)    Motions without notice, Bills for introduction and orders of the day that are in the name of non-Government Members may

be listed for consideration by the Council during the period prescribed under Standing Order 15(4).

(2)    For the purposes of this Standing Order, a non-Government Member is a Member who does not support the Government.

(3)    Business subject to this Standing Order –

(a)    shall be allocated according to the proportion of representation of political groups of non-Government Members;

        and

(b)    is to be provided, together with the text of any motion without notice, to the Clerk by 4.00pm on the Wednesday prior.

(4)    The weekly rotation schedule under (3)(a) shall be tabled by the President at the commencement of each Parliament,

and otherwise as required, and must be adopted by the Council prior to its application.

(5)    A motion without notice moved under this Standing Order –

(a)    cannot be amended;

(b)    cannot be adjourned; and

(c)    lapses at the conclusion of the debate.

 

Private Members’ Business [Standing Order 111]

(1)    Motions without notice, Bills for introduction and orders of the day that are in the name of Private Members may be listed

for consideration by the Council during the period prescribed under Standing Order 15(5).

(2)    For the purposes of this Standing Order, a Private Member is a Member who supports the Government but is not a Minister

or a Parliamentary Secretary.

(3)    Business subject to this Standing Order –

(a)      shall be allocated according to the proportion of representation of political groups of Private Members;

          and

(b)      is to be provided, together with the text of any motion without notice, to the Clerk by 4.00pm on the Wednesday

  prior.

(4)    The weekly rotation schedule under (3)(a) shall be tabled by the President at the commencement of each Parliament,

and otherwise as required, and must be adopted by the Council prior to its application.

(5)    A motion without notice moved under this Standing Order –

(a)      cannot be amended;

(b)      cannot be adjourned; and

(c)      lapses at the conclusion of the debate.

 

Non-Government Member” is a Member of the Legislative Council who does not support the Government.

Private Member” is a Member of the Legislative Council who supports the Government but is not a Minister or Parliamentary Secretary.

 

5. Minutes

During the day's proceedings minutes are taken by the table officers. These are approved and published by the Clerk of the Legislative Council and become the official record of what has been decided by the Legislative Council on that sitting day.