The two chambers of the NSW Parliament are constituted as separate and sovereign institutions. However, the two must reach agreement on various matters, including agreement on proposed legislation before it can become law (see So you want to amend a bill). Therefore, effective communication between the Houses is vital for a functioning parliamentary system… just as it is for any functioning relationship!
So how do the Houses communicate? Via message.
Messages are the most direct method by which the two Houses officially keep in contact. They are commonly used to forward bills, amendments to bills, to advise of any committee membership changes, and to transmit resolutions for agreement.
When the Legislative Council wishes to deliver a message to the Assembly, it must be in writing and signed by the President, and its subject must be recorded, by hand, in a book that is maintained by the Council Clerks. Each message is also recorded in the minutes together with any answer given. The message is then physically delivered, in person, by the Usher of the Black Rod to the lower house.
The practice of delivering messages derives from the English parliamentary procedure for communications between the House of Lords and House of Commons. So, although it may seem rather outdated to not use the speedy, online means of communication available today, delivering messages by hand is a historically significant tradition. In fact, delivering a meaningful message by hand, not by DM, might go a long way for you this Valentine’s!
Tune in next week for the procedural topic Disagreements between the Houses… and you’ll learn that breaking up is hard to do!