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A petition is a document that allows members of a community, through the gathering and presentation of signatures to Parliament, to publicly seek redress of their grievance by requesting that Parliament give consideration to a particular course of action. Petitioning Parliament dates back to the reign of Kind Edward 1 (1239-1307) with its use being an important factor in the development of democratic values

The principles first set out in the Magna Carta are the foundations of our concepts of a free and fair society founded on the rule of law, including the right of peaceful protest. The right to protest is another way in which people, communities and societies are able to be heard by members of Parliament and the Government

Parliamentary committees are part of the established procedure of most Westminster style Parliaments. In Western Australia, both the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council have established a number of committees to carry out much of the work of their respective houses. In doing so, committees assist Parliament in its functions of legislating; monitoring and reviewing legislation, administration and
expenditure; gathering information; and publicising issues.



Citizens voting rights

Preferential Voting

The conduct of regular and fair elections is one of the central features of a modern representative democracy. For many citizens
voting is one action that they recognise as being political.

In Western Australia general elections are constitutionally required for both houses of Parliament at least once every four years.

The quest to gain the right to vote, sometimes known as the franchise (or suffrage), is one of the most interesting and important democratic right in parliamentary history. Many histories of voting rights in Australia followed related actions which commenced in Britain.

Preferential voting, sometimes known as the ‘alternative vote’, is the system of voting used for the election of members to the Legislative Assembly. This system of voting differs from the proportional representation system that is used to elect the Legislative Council.


Parliamentary Government

Governor and Executive Council

Three Branches of Government

It is often said that Western Australia has a parliamentary system of government. This has two main strands which are known as responsible government and democratic government. Responsible government, based on British constitutional practice, was adopted in Western Australia in 1890 and is a political system in which, to have power, a government must have the confidence of a majority of members of the Legislative Assembly (the lower house of Parliament).

According to constitutional documents, the Western Australian Parliament consists of His Excellency the Governor (representing Her Majesty the Queen), the Legislative Council, and the Legislative Assembly. All three components work together to carry out the functions of Parliament.

The system of government in Western Australia is that of a parliamentary democracy based on the rule of law. More than 250 years ago, a famous French philosopher, the Baron de Montesquieu, published a book The Spirit of the Laws (1748).



Leader of the Opposition

The Premier of Western Australia is the head of the executive government. Following a general election, the Premier, who is the leader of the party or coalition of parties holding a majority in the Legislative Assembly, is by convention commissioned by the Governor to form government.

Minister is a high ranking government member and a member of the Cabinet (executive government). Ministers are vested with the responsibility for administering one or more government departments (or portfolios) and are answerable to the Parliament for all actions taken by the department(s) under his/her authority.

The leader of the largest political party or coalition of parties not in government in the Legislative Assembly is known as the Leader of the Opposition. The term ‘Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition’ originated in the British Parliament in 1826. This term is rarely used in Australia. The Western Australian Parliament did not officially
recognise the position of Leader of the Opposition until 1905.

Members of Parliament

Meetings of Parliament

Political Parties in Parliament

To be a member of the Western Australian Parliament, a person must be an Australian citizen over the age of 18 and be eligible to vote in this state. This means that the person must be a Western Australian resident.

A Parliament lasts for the term of the Legislative Assembly, which is a maximum of four years calculated from the day on which it first meets after a general election. The Legislative Assembly is subject to earlier dissolution by the Governor. Members of the Legislative Council (MLCs) are elected for a fixed term of four years, and take office on 22 May following their election. Unlike the Legislative Assembly, the Legislative Council cannot be dissolved before its full term expires.

A political party is a voluntary group of people with a common ideology or similar views on issues and policies who establish an association to contest elections. The main aim of political parties contesting elections is for their elected representatives to either form a government or to influence a government.

Recording of Parliamentary Proceedings

Parliamentary Questions

Right of Reply

Hansard is the name by which the official printed record of parliamentary debates is usually known. If you would like to know what is said during parliamentary debates, refer to Hansard.

Parliamentary questions are an important means used by Members of Parliament to ensure the government is accountable for its policies and actions to the Parliament and, through the Parliament, to the people.

Sometimes people are offended or aggrieved by remarks made by parliamentarians or by the contents of a parliamentary report. As members of Parliament under Article 9 of the Bill of Rights 1689 and the Western Australian Parliamentary Privileges Act 1891 have the freedom to speak their minds without fear of legal action for what they might say, people may sometimes feel adversely affected by some of these statements.

Women Parliamentarians

Parliament and the Media

Parliamentary Privilege

When Western Australia gained responsible (self) government in 1890, women could not vote in Legislative Assembly elections or stand as a candidate for a seat.
This was despite the fact that during the period of representative government from 1876 women did have the right to vote in municipal elections, and were permitted to sit on school boards.

Our knowledge and understanding of Parliament and politics in Western Australia, and beyond to national and international politics, is mostly conveyed by the media. ‘Free press or media without government interference’ is universally acknowledged to be a vital element of a democratic system.

The term ‘parliamentary privilege’ refers to the immunities and powers possessed by each house of Parliament and their members to allow them to carry out their parliamentary functions effectively. Without these immunities and powers, members of Parliament could not function properly when inquiring, debating and legislating.

Parliamentary Positions

The office of the President can be traced back to the Lord Chancellor of the House of Lords in the British Parliament. The office of the Lord Chancellor dates back to at least 1066. In order to gain the cooperation and confidence of members from both sides of the house, the President (also known as the Presiding Officer) must exercise the office with political impartiality.

The role of the Speaker is an ancient and important office of the Westminster parliamentary system. The first person to be called the Speaker of the House of Commons was appointed in 1377. The name Speaker dates from a time when the House of Commons1 was only allowed to address humble petitions to the Crown through its appointed spokesman, the Speaker.

The Term 'whip' originated in the Parliament of the United Kingdom and is derived from an English fox-hunting term 'whipper-in'. This was the person who kept the hounds in order and controlled their straying from the pack. In Parliament a whip is a member of a political party whose task it is to ensure that members of the party attend the chamber and support their party when a vote is taken.

Clerk of the two houses - the Clerk of the Legislative Council and the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly are the senior permanent officers serving each house. The Clerks advise the President and Speaker and members of their house on the Standing Orders (rules of debate) and matters of procedure in an impartial (non-political) way.

The Usher of the Black Rod, known as ‘Black Rod’, is an officer of the Legislative Council who is appointed by the Governor. The office is derived from the British Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod who is appointed by the Crown to attend the House of Lords.

The Sergeant-at-Arms is an officer of the Legislative Assembly who attends upon the Speaker on ceremonial occasions such as the opening of Parliament. The Sergeant-at-arms carries the mace.

One of the main functions of Parliament is to make laws for the ‘peace, order and good government’ of the state. To make laws, Parliament must pass legislation which is also known as ‘statutes’ or Acts of Parliament. An Act of Parliament starts as a bill in either the Legislative Assembly (Lower House) or the Legislative Council (Upper House).
Committee systems are often associated with the work of upper houses, as they complement the function of a “house of review”. In a bicameral system, the government will not necessarily have control of the upper house. As such, upper houses and, by extension their committees, are sometimes regarded as having greater independence from government.
Parliamentary committees are made up of Members of Parliament and assist Parliament in its scrutiny and review function by holding inquiries into complex issues. They investigate and report on matters of public importance within their area of responsibility.

Parliament has established by statute (legislation) several key agencies to help ensure accountability. Important statutory officers at the head of these agencies include the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administrative Investigations (often referred to as the Ombudsman), the Auditor General, the Information Commissioner, the Public Sector Commissioner, the Parliamentary Inspector of the Corruption and Crime Commission, and the Commissioner for Children and Young People.

The Parliamentary Inspector of the Corruption and Crime Commission (CCC) is an officer of the Western Australian Parliament. In 2003 when the Parliament was debating the establishment of the CCC, it decided to establish the Office of Parliamentary Inspector and a Joint Parliamentary Standing Committee to help ensure an accountability framework in Western Australia.

The main goal of a lobbyist is to influence parliamentarians to debate and vote on legislation in a way that advances the interests they represent, and influence the decision making process.

History of Parliament

Brief History of Parliament

History of Parliament House

The Constitution and the Role of Parliament

The word Parliament comes from the Latin parliamentum and the French parler (to speak), and describes the method by which members reach decisions in our Houses of Parliament
- by talking to each other.

Parliamentary Government is steeped in English history. From early Saxon times the sovereign (the King or Queen) took counsel with the most powerful of his or her subjects.

Parliament House commenced construction with the foundation stone being laid 31 July 1902, it took two years to be built with the first parliamentary sitting in 1904. The cost of the building was 35,623/3s/1d. The building was only partially competed with temporary corrugated iron buildings constructed between the two chambers to house Parliamentary staff.

Although the origins of Western Australia’s parliamentary system can be historically traced and linked to the British Parliament located at the Palace of Westminster in London, there is no single document that contains Western Australia's constitution.

Parliament of Western Australia

Legislative Council

Legislative Assembly

The Western Australian Parliamentary Crest, representing the States Fauna Emblem the Black Swan and the Mace, the symbol of the Legislative Assembly and the Black Rod the symbol of the Legislative Council.

Parliament of Western Australia has, as its genesis, an OrderinCouncil issued in England in November 1830, and received and published in Western Australia in December 1831. The OrderinCouncil allowed for the establishment of a Legislative Council to make all necessary laws and to constitute all necessary courts for the ‘peace, order and good government of the settlement’.

The Legislative Assembly is traditionally referred to as the lower house of Parliament. Its origins stem from the British House of Commons, whose members were principally merchants and lesser knightly and untitled classes (commoners) and were of lower social status than the lords and barons who sat in the House of Lords (the upper house).

Black Rod
Black Rod


Coat of Arms

The symbol of office of the Usher of the Black Rod is a black rod about one metre in length.
The Black Rod now in use was specifically designed for Western Australia by the Crown Jeweller and was presented to the Legislative Council to mark the visit of Her Majesty the Queen in 1954.

The Black Rod was the gift of Hon Harry Hearn, OBE, member of the Legislative Council (1948 to 1956) for the Metropolitan Province.

The Sergeant-at Arms' mace had originally been part of the normal fighting equipment of mounted men at arms, together with their lances, swords and armour. Over time, the mace became ornamental and was recognised as the emblem of a Royal Sergeant-at-Arms.

The Western Australian mace was designed by the state Works Department in 1887 and was manufactured in South Australia by S. Schlank's Beaver Factory in Adelaide at a cost of 70. Made of silver and gold leaf, it was first used in the Legislative Council in 1888, and was transferred along with the Sergeant-at-Arms to the Legislative Assembly upon its establishment in 1890. It is the oldest Parliamentary mace in Australia.

A beautifully carved British Coat of Arms representing the Lion of England and the Unicorn of Scotland. It tops the Speaker and Presidents' Chairs and dates the pre-federation era when there was no Australian or Western Australian coat of arms.

Passage of Legislation

Division Bells

Delegated Legislation

One of the main functions of Parliament is to make laws for the ‘peace, order and good government’ of the state. To make laws, Parliament must pass legislation which is also known as ‘statutes’ or Acts of Parliament. An Act of Parliament starts as a Bill in either the Legislative Assembly (Lower House) or the Legislative Council (Upper House). A bill is a draft of a proposed law which must be passed by both houses before it can become law.

When a division is called by a member, the Chair declares ‘Is a Division required’? Any ‘strangers’ withdraw from the Chamber and the Chair will order the division bells to be rung for two minutes to enable members to return to the Chamber.
  • After the time has expired the Chair will order the doors to be locked and no member will enter or leave the Chamber until after the division.
  • The Chair will state the question and direct the Ayes’ to pass to the right of the Chair and ‘Noes’ to the left.
  • The Chair will appoint at least one Teller (a member) to each side.
An Act of Parliament is often passed in relatively broad terms leaving many of the details of administration to be ‘delegated’ to perhaps a minister, department, statutory authority or local government body. This delegated power is to make rules, regulations, by-laws and local laws, which have the force of law.

Western Australian State Flag

Australian Flag

Australian Aboriginal Flag

The Western Australian flag retains the Union Jack and the blue ensign background, but replaces the Southern Cross with its own State emblem, the black swan. The black swan was confirmed in a dispatch by Governor William Robinson on 27 November 1875 as the fauna emblem of Western Australia.

In the 1830s it had appeared on banknotes when the colony was generally referred to as the Swan River Colony. A design showing the black swan had been selected for Western Australia’s first postage stamp in 1854.

The Union Jack and the blue ensign are a standard feature of all Australian States.

It is interesting to note that the direction that the swan faced was changed in 1953 to look towards the Union Jack in accordance with heraldic principles.

The Australian National Flag is Australia’s foremost national symbol. The flag was first flown in 1901 and has become an expression of Australian identity and pride. The Australian Flag has three elements on a blue background. The Union Jack in the upper left corner (or canton) acknowledges Australia’s historical links with the United Kingdom.

Below the Union Jack is a white Commonwealth Star. It has seven points representing the unity of the six states and the territories of the Commonwealth of Australia. The seventh point was added in 1908 and is the only change to the flag since 1901.

The Australian National Flag flew for the first time on 3 September 1901 from the Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne.

The Australian Aboriginal Flag was designed by artist Harold Thomas has three colours
Black – represents the Aboriginal people of Australia
Yellow circle – represents the Sun, the giver of life and protector
Red – represents the red earth, the red ochre used in ceremonies and Aboriginal peoples’ spiritual relation to the land. It was first flown at Victoria Square in Adelaide, South Australia, on National Aborigines Day, 12 July 1971. It became the official flag for the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra after it was first flown there in 1972. Since then, it has become a widely recognised symbol of the unity and identity of Aboriginal people.
Since the beginning of 2016 the Australian Aboriginal Flag has flown at the Western Australian Parliament

General Information


Federation and Federalism

Contact Parliamentary Education

Citizenship is a very old idea from the classical Greek and Roman worlds. The term was based on the Latin civitas, meaning people living in a city. In Greek city-state or polis, citizenship was the privileged status of the ruling group of men who had full and equal rights to decide what measures should be taken to achieve the collective good for all people in the community.

A federation is a system of government in which a written constitution distributes power and responsibility between a national government and a number of state or regional governments.

The Parliamentary Education Office provides an education function on behalf of both houses of Parliament of Western Australia. The Education Office manages and delivers services for the promotion, awareness, knowledge and understanding of the history, role and function of the Western Australian Parliament. Programs and resources are also aimed at developing positive and informed attitudes towards parliamentary democracy.

Parliament of Western Australia
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