Fact Sheet F4

Fact Sheet F4: Communicating with the Governor and the Council

 

Summary: The Legislative Assembly, the Governor and the Legislative Council mostly communicate in writing. Depending on the situation, the document sent is called a message, or an address. These range from routine messages about bills, to formal addresses to the Governor.

Contact with the Governor and the Council

Governor’s messages

Addresses to the Governor

Queen’s messages

Presenting addresses to the Governor

Contact with the Legislative Council

Messages during disputes with the Council

 

Contact with the Governor and the Council

The Victorian Parliament consists of the Governor (the Queen’s representative), the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council.

The only time all three meet is at the Governor’s speech in the Council Chamber at the start of a new Parliament. Assembly members attend to hear the speech.

At other times the Assembly still needs to communicate with the Governor and the Council. The Assembly does this by sending two types of documents, messages or addresses.  In effect these are official memorandums.

The Assembly sends addresses to the Governor. The Assembly and Council communicate by message. The Speaker signs both Assembly messages and addresses.

The Governor contacts the Assembly by sending a written message (see ‘Governor’s messages’ below). 

When the Assembly receives a message, the Chair reads it out in the Chamber. This usually occurs at the start of the sitting day.  However, in between debates, the Chair reads out Council messages received during the day.  The Votes and Proceedings (minutes) lists all messages the Assembly receives.

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Governor’s messages

These relate to bills. The most common ones are royal assent and appropriation messages.

Royal assent messages

A bill becomes an Act when the Governor assents (agrees) to it on behalf of the Queen.  The Governor sends messages to the Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council, stating the royal assent date and the Act’s reference number.

Appropriation messages

A proposal in a bill to spend public money is called an appropriation.  Before the Assembly can pass a bill causing public spending, the Governor must recommend the appropriation. The Governor does this in a message. 

Addresses to the Governor

If the Legislative Assembly wants to pass its views to the Governor or Queen, it sends an address. The Assembly can also make an address jointly with the Legislative Council.

For the Governor

The most common address is the address-in-reply. This is the Assembly’s formal response to the Governor’s speech at the opening of Parliament.

Addresses can also be about the Governor personally.  In 1934, the Assembly sent an address to welcome a new Governor when he first arrived in Victoria. 

For the Queen

Sometimes the Assembly asks the Governor to pass an address on to the Queen. These are normally about issues personal to the royal family.  For example, in 2002, the Assembly sent condolences when Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, died. 

Dismissing a judge or magistrate

An address is part of a legal process to dismiss a judge or magistrate for misbehaviour or incapacity.  Both the Assembly and Council must agree to an address to the Governor, supporting the dismissal. The Governor may then dismiss the judge or magistrate. 

For a Head of State

The Assembly can only contact another country’s Head of State through the Governor-General in Canberra.  The Assembly sends an address to the Governor of Victoria, asking the Governor to pass details on to the Governor-General. 

In 2001, the Assembly and Council passed a sympathy motion after the terrorist attacks in the United States of America.  They asked the Governor-General, through the Governor, to pass on sympathy to the President of the United States.

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Queen’s messages

The Queen contacts the Legislative Assembly through the Governor.  In 1956, for the Parliament’s centenary celebrations, she sent a congratulatory message to the Governor, which he passed onto the Parliament.

Presenting addresses to the Governor

The Speaker presents the address-in-reply at Government House.  The clerks and Serjeant-at-Arms, who brings the mace, accompany the Speaker.  Some members also attend.  This is one of the few ceremonial occasions outside Parliament House. Find out more about the Serjeant’s role: Fact Sheet H4: The Serjeant-at-Arms.

The Speaker also presents other addresses, or the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly may present them on the Speaker’s behalf. The Assembly can also make specific arrangements, such as deciding that particular members should attend.

Joint addresses are presented by the Speaker and the President of the Legislative Council. Members from the Assembly and the Council may also attend.

Contact with the Legislative Council

Messages between the Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council usually concern bills. For example, when the Assembly passes a bill, it sends it a message asking the Council to agree to it.  If the Council then passes, amends or rejects the bill, it informs the Assembly by message.

Sometimes the Assembly and Council meet together at joint sittings.  One House suggests a meeting in a message, and the other confirms it agrees, also by message. 

The Assembly and Council meet in a joint sitting for a few reasons.  For example, if a Council member resigns during a Parliament, the Houses meet at a joint sitting to select a new member.  The same process applies to replace a Victorian Senator in the Commonwealth Parliament, Canberra. 

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Messages during disputes with the Council

Disputes about the Council’s powers

Most messages are routine and non-controversial.  However, sometimes messages are sent by the Legislative Assembly when it believes the Legislative Council acted outside its powers. 

Only the Assembly can introduce bills or amendments which cause government spending.  Most disputes occur when the Council amends an Assembly bill to cause government spending, and asks the Assembly to agree to the amendments.

The Assembly refuses to consider amendments it considers the Council has no power to make.  The Assembly sends its views in a message to the Council.

Controversial wording of a message

The message’s wording can itself cause a dispute.  In 2007, the Council sent a message asking several Assembly members to attend a Council committee. The Assembly refused permission and sent a message back to the Council. In the message, the Assembly claimed the Council was interfering with the Assembly's operations, and undermining principles of democracy.  

Council members were unhappy about the message's wording, and members debated the issue extensively.  Assembly and Council Committees met to discuss the language of messages.  Even though Assembly members acknowledged Council members were unhappy, all members realised that each House is independent.  Sometimes they will disagree, and one House cannot control what the other decides.

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