A fundamental part of a legislator’s job is to vote on items considered by the House. A variety of matters are brought before the Legislative Council. This includes bills, amendments to items proposed, motions to establish committee inquiries, and orders for the production of state papers.
When debate on a motion has concluded, the Chair puts the question and the House decides whether it is for or against the proposal. The Chair then gives their opinion on whether the majority of voices are for the ‘ayes’ or ‘noes’. If there is no challenge, the Chair declares that the ayes or the noes ‘have it’ – namely, the side that is in the majority. This is known as voting on the voices and is the most common way the Legislative Council resolves its votes.
Another common way for the House to decide a matter is by division. Two or more members who have given their voices against the majority declared by the Chair can challenge that opinion and call for a division. Members may call for a division because they expect the numbers to be very close, or because they feel strongly about the matter before the House and want to ensure their vote for or against is recorded in the minutes of proceedings. On the calling of a division the division bells are rung for five minutes and simultaneously a minute glass is turned by one of the Clerks-at-the-Table.
After five minutes the division bells cease. The Chair then orders that the Chamber doors be locked, restates the question, and directs members to take their seats: the ayes to the right and noes to the left of the Chair. No member is permitted to enter or leave the chamber after the Chair has ordered the doors to be locked. A member is not entitled to vote in a division unless the member is present in the Chamber when the question is put with the doors locked.
Under a sessional order adopted in 2016, at the discretion of the President, a member need not be present in the chamber to vote if they have the care of a child and are seated in the President’s gallery when the question is put and the doors are locked.
The Chair appoints two tellers from each side, who record the names and number of members voting for the ayes and the noes, sign the division lists and present them to the Chair. The Chair declares the result of the division to the House. The lists of members voting in a division are recorded in the minutes of proceedings and in Hansard. In the case of an equality of votes, the Chair must give a casting vote. The Chair may give reasons given for the casting vote which are recorded in the minutes.
If a member of the government or opposition cannot be present for a vote they may arrange a ‘pair’ with a member of the opposite side through the Whips. In this case neither member votes, but their names are recorded by the tellers and printed in the minutes of proceedings and Hansard.
For further information about the Legislative Council’s voting and divisions processes please see Section 22I of the Constitution Act 1902 and standing orders 112-119.