Fact Sheet B5

Fact Sheet B5: Adjournment Debate

 

Summary: Each sitting day ends with the Legislative Assembly adjourning. As part of the adjournment process, members raise matters with ministers in the ‘adjournment debate'. Topics are wide ranging, but members must request ministers take action in areas of government responsibility. Ministers in the Chamber respond to the issues raised within their areas of responsibility. Other ministers respond later and their responses are published online.

How sitting days end Adjourning to the next sitting day
Adjournment debate

Other ways of adjourning

How sitting days end

The Legislative Assembly normally adjourns in one of two ways.

Chair interrupts debate

The Chair interrupts the Assembly at 7.00 pm on a Tuesday and Wednesday and at 5.00 pm on a Thursday. If there is a division in progress at this time, the Chair waits until it has finished.

After the Chair interrupts, a minister may move that the Assembly continues sitting. Members cannot debate the motion and have to vote on it immediately. If the Legislative Assembly does not continue sitting, the Chair proposes 'That the House now adjourns'.

Any business the Assembly has not finished is set aside for the next sitting day, and members begin the adjournment debate (see 'Adjournment debate' below).

Minister moves a motion

To start the adjournment debate at other times, a minister moves a motion that 'remaining business be postponed'. If the Assembly agrees, the adjournment debate starts.

Adjournment debate

The adjournment debate gives members the chance to request action on topical issues from the relevant minister. The period for raising matters is 30 minutes, or until 10 members have spoken, whichever is shorter. Within that overall period, a member may speak for a maximum of three minutes.

Unlike question time, normally only a few ministers attend the adjournment debate. They respond to issues raised at the end of the debate or later, in writing.

Types of issues members can raise

The adjournment debate is different from question time. Members do not ask questions, but request ministers to take action about specific issues. These must be current issues which relate to government administration. Each member can only raise one issue per day.

Members must request an action when they speak. Asking a minister to continue to do something, or to refer a matter to a federal minister, does not count as requesting an action. Members cannot ask for legislation.

Members are not allowed to raise an issue that has already been raised during the same adjournment debate. However, they can raise the same issue on another day.

Best technique for members when raising an issue

The Speaker advises members to:

1. set out their complaint

2. indicate the minister or department involved

3. give a brief summary of the facts

4. ask the minister to take specific action.

It helps if members request action as soon as possible in their speeches. For example, a member can outline the action early on, and then deal with it in more detail later in their speech. This avoids other members taking points of order, claiming that requests are invalid.

Points of order during the adjournment debate

Each member only has three minutes to raise a matter. If other members make points of order, it eats into a member's speaking time. To prevent valuable time being lost, the Chair encourages members to take general points of order at the end of the adjournment debate, rather than interrupting a member.

If members make frivolous points of order, the Chair may grant extra time to the member speaking, but cannot extend the overall time for members to speak. The Chair has to balance the rights of all members, as granting extra time to one means the last member to speak may have less time.

Ministers responding to issues

After members have raised issues, ministers in the Chamber respond. The overall maximum time period for all responses is 30 minutes.

Within the overall time limit, there is no maximum time limit for an individual response. The overall time may run out before ministers have responded to all issues.

Ministers present in the Chamber respond to matters raised within their areas of responsibility. One of the ministers acknowledges all other matters raised, and confirms they will refer them to the relevant ministers.

When a matter is referred to a minister who is not present for a response, they must respond in writing to the member concerned within 30 days. The written response is then published online.

Adjourning to the next sitting day

When the ministers have finished their responses, the Legislative Assembly adjourns to the next sitting day.

At the end of the sitting year the Assembly sometimes adjourns until a 'day and hour to be fixed by the Speaker' rather than to a specific date.

This keeps the date of the next sitting day flexible, so it can be changed if an urgent issue arises. When the date is definite, the Speaker writes to members, giving them two to three weeks notice.

Other ways of adjourning

The Legislative Assembly sometimes adjourns after a condolence motion, as a mark of respect. The adjournment is usually only for one hour, but it can be until the next sitting day. When this happens there is no adjournment debate.

The Speaker can also adjourn the Assembly if there is no quorum (20 members, excluding the Chair) or if there is grave disorder in the Chamber. Again, no adjournment debate takes place, rather the Assembly adjourns immediately.

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