58th Parliament to open on 23 December

Parliament_House

Victoria's 58th Parliament will be opened on Tuesday, 23 December 2014.

The opening day schedule will include a series of ceremonies.

9:30 am: Welcome to Country by Aboriginal Elders

10:00 am: Swearing in of Members of the Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council followed by election of the Presiding Officers – Speaker in the Legislative Assembly and President in the Legislative Council

11:30 am: Governor arrives at Parliament House and smoking ceremony on front steps

12 noon: Governor’s speech opening Parliament in the Legislative Council Chamber

2:00 pm: Question Time in both Houses

The Welcome to Country was introduced to the opening day program in the last Parliament. Smoking ceremonies on the steps of Parliament House have been held for a number of previous openings.

Other parts of the ceremony are based on procedure and custom used in the United Kingdom Parliament at Westminster, from where Victoria’s parliamentary system originates.

The customs include the following:

  • The Speaker symbolically struggles to the chair when elected. This is because in medieval times the job of Speaker was a dangerous one. The Speaker was spokesperson for the parliament in disputes with the monarchy and sometimes this led to the demise of the Speaker, with some Speakers being arrested or killed.

  • The Governor’s speech is held in the Legislative Council (the upper house of parliament) because the Queen’s representative never enters the Legislative Assembly (lower house). This custom can be traced back to 1642 when King Charles I accompanied by armed guards tried to enter the chamber of the House of Commons in England to arrest some MPs who had challenged the monarch. The then Speaker refused to reveal the whereabouts of the MPs and from that day on no monarch has ever again tried to enter the lower house of a Westminster parliament.

  • The Usher of the Black Rod (a parliamentary officer) knocks on the Legislative Assembly door three times to summon the members of the Legislative Assembly to hear the Governor’s speech in the Legislative Council. This tradition can be traced back to 1641 when members of the House of Commons in England took offence at the Usher arriving in their chamber uninvited and without the Black Rod in order to summon the members to hear the Sovereign’s Speech in the House of Lords. From that time on the House required the Usher to knock three times on the door and wait to be admitted before delivering the summons for members to attend the other chamber.

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Once the ceremony is complete, Parliament begins its business for a four year term.

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