After the rising of the House in late November, and in the lead up to the commencement of the 57th Parliament, we will be posting each Thursday on a range of procedural topics and interesting events both upcoming and past. This first post will (almost) answer a question that the Parliament has been asked very frequently of late – when will the House sit in 2019?
Currently, there are two perfectly legitimate answers to this question.
The first answer is slightly tricky, and can be found in the minutes of proceedings of the final sitting day of 2018, under the title of “Special Adjournment”. On the last sitting day, the Leader of the Government moved that the House adjourn until Tuesday 26 February 2019 at 2.30 pm, unless the President fixes an alternative. As the Constitution Act 1902 prevents the Legislative Council from sitting after the Legislative Assembly dissolves, the special adjournment date is nominated according to convention as the Tuesday immediately before dissolution, which in 2019 will be Tuesday 26 February.
While it might seem that the House will sit in February, this is actually a red herring, as in reality the Governor will prorogue the Parliament before that date arrives. The act of prorogation brings the session of parliament to a close, with the date specified by the Governor. According to the Constitution, prorogation can occur any time after 26 January (Australia Day) but before the date specified in the Constitution on which the Legislative Assembly must dissolve – the first Friday in March.
After the Assembly dissolves, the Governor will issue the election writs (tune in to next week’s blog for more on writs) and the Government will enter the caretaker period, when policy decisions and new contracts are restricted.
The election must take place on the fourth Saturday in March. The writs are to be returned to the Governor approximately seven weeks later, then the House must meet no later than the seventh clear day afterwards. By these dates, it is very likely that the House will sit again by late May.
But when will the House really sit?
The second answer is: we don’t precisely know! While the legislation and circumstances described above provide for the election and earliest commencement of a new Parliament, the sitting calendar is prepared by the Executive Government and circulated in the first sitting week.
The House in Review looks forward to covering more procedural topics throughout 2019, and wishes all readers a happy new year.