Fact Sheet A1
Summary: A sitting day in the Legislative Assembly involves debates on a wide range of issues. Different rules apply to each type of debate, including time limits for speeches. The Assembly also deals with administrative matters such as tabling documents and petitions. See the chart, Outline of business on normal sitting days, in this factsheet.
The House normally meets on a Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of a sitting week. On a Tuesday the House starts sitting at 12.00 noon and, on other days, at 9.30 am.
On a Wednesday and Thursday, the Assembly breaks for lunch between 1.00 and 2.00 pm.
The business of the Legislative Assembly for each sitting day is shown in the notice paper (agenda). Items of business (called orders of the day) are listed in the order they will be considered, but this order often changes during the day.
Every sitting day, bells ring throughout the Parliament House to call members to the Chamber for the start of the sitting. Lights near the bells distinguish between bells for the Legislative Assembly (green) and the Legislative Council (red).
When a quorum is present, the Speaker enters the Chamber, led by the Serjeant-at-Arms, who announces, ‘Honourable Members — the Speaker’. The Serjeant escorts the Speaker to the chair, and places the mace on the table in the centre of the Chamber.
The Speaker bows to members and the clerks, who bow in return. The Speaker then reads the Lord’s Prayer while members stand in their places. On Tuesdays, the Speaker also makes an acknowledgement of Country. The business of the Assembly then begins.
Question time begins immediately after the acknowledgement of Country on a Tuesday and at 11.00 am on a Wednesday and Thursday. The Speaker asks, ‘Are there any questions?’ and members stand to attract the Speaker’s attention.Questions without notice are asked by non-government members.
Question time lasts for about an hour and includes questions without notice, ministers' statements and constituency questions.
Find out more: Fact Sheet B2: Question Time.
Formal business is a time for the Legislative Assembly to deal with administrative issues. It follows question time on a Tuesday and takes place at the start of other days. It includes:
- introduction of bills
- notices of government motion (see Fact Sheet D1: Motions)
- tabling petitions (see Fact Sheet G1: Petitions)
- tabling committee reports
- tabling other documents to comply with the law
- messages from the Council
- messages from the Governor
- motions by leave.
After formal business, members may make statements on any topic of concern. Member have just 90 seconds to give their statement, and the total time allocated for all members is 30 minutes.
Each sitting Wednesday, members may make statements about any parliamentary committee report (except some reports of the Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee) tabled during the current parliament. Members may speak for up to five minutes. The total time allocated is 30 minutes, or until six members have spoken, whichever is the shorter.
Find out more: Fact Sheet G2: Parliamentary Committees.
Each sitting Wednesday (except when there is a grievance debate) members discuss a matter of public importance. Government and non-Government members take turns deciding what matter to discuss.
Once decided, a member gives the matter to the Speaker for approval. The discussion starts at 2.00 pm and lasts two hours. The first government and non-government speakers may speak for 15 minutes maximum. Other member have a maximum of 10 minutes. As the matter of public importance is a discussion, not debate on a motion, members do not vote on it.
Find out more: Fact Sheet B3: Matters of Public Importance.
Every third sitting Wednesday, members debate the question ‘That grievances be noted’. Members use the debate to raise concerns about individual constituents or other significant issues. Each member may speak for 15 minutes. The grievance debate lasts for two hours, or until eight members have spoken, whichever is the shorter.
Government business consists of legislation and motions introduced by ministers. This takes up the largest portion of the Legislative Assembly's time and includes, for example, debate on bills.
The length of time devoted to debate on each item depends on its urgency, the amount of time available and how many members speak. Often, these matters are negotiated between the parties.
When the debate on an item has finished, members vote. This may be without a count (known as ‘on the voices’) or, if a members disputes the result, by a division. If a member calls a division, the Clerk rings the bells to summon members to the Chamber.
Traditionally, members have moved to opposite sides of the Chamber to vote for or against a question. However, divisions are normally by party vote under current procedures. The independent members each vote, and then the whip of each party casts votes on behalf of all their party members present. The Clerk tallies the votes, and the Chair announces the result. The members voting for and against are recorded in the Votes and Proceedings (minutes).
Find out more: Fact Sheet D2: Divisions.
At 7.00 pm on a Tuesday and Wednesday, and at 5.00 pm on a Thursday, unless a minister moves a motion to continue the sitting, the Chair interrupts debate. The Legislative Assembly then starts the adjournment debate. The bills ring twice to indicate the start of the debate.
The adjournment debate gives members a chance to raise specific issues with the relevant ministers. Members have three minutes each to raise issues. The total time allocated is 30 minutes, or until 10 members have spoken, whichever is shorter. Ministers then have a chance to respond to any of those issues within 30 minutes.
If a minister is not in the chamber to respond during the debate, that minister must reply in writing within 30 days.
At the end of the adjournment debate, the Serjeant-at-Arms escorts the Speaker out of the Chamber and the bells ring four times to signal the Assembly is adjourning.
Find out more: Fact Sheet B5: Adjournment Debate.
- Last Updated: Monday, 12 September 2016 11:37