Having followed our election posts, you would know that we are now waiting for the Electoral Commissioner to return the election writs to the Governor to finalise the election process.* However, we are not twiddling our thumbs. In fact, as the Council must meet no later than the 7th day after the date for the return of the writs (section 78 of the Electoral Act 2017 (NSW)), we are now busily preparing for the first meeting of the new parliament. So, we want to share with you one of the things that has been keeping us busy—the sessional orders.
The NSW Constitution gives the Legislative Council the power, subject to the approval of the Governor, to make rules to regulate its proceedings. Collectively, these rules are known as Standing Orders. From time to time, however, the House adopts temporary rules that override, vary or supplement the standing orders, known as sessional orders. Sessional orders are also used to trial new procedures or rules before they are formally adopted as standing orders.
As their name suggests, sessional orders lapse at the end of a session (or at an earlier time if the House so decides) and may or may not be re-adopted in the following session.
Sessional orders are practical. Under Standing order 35, the House must, from time to time, determine the days and times of meetings of the House in each sitting week. And so, at the beginning of each session the House agrees to a sessional order which outlines what these days and times will be. There are also sessional orders allocating time for Questions and committee report debates.
Sessional orders keep the House effective and relevant. For example, a 2014 sessional order requires the Government to respond to petitions with more than 500 signatures, which aims to encourage the Government to be more responsive to community concerns raised by elected representatives. In another case, a sessional order adopted in 2016 allows a member caring for a child and sitting in the President’s gallery to vote in a division. This rule reflects the willingness of the House to better meet community expectation of a modern parliament.
So, what are the sessional orders for the new parliament? The Government will present a proposed suite of sessional orders for the House to consider in the first week of the new parliament. Private members may also propose sessional orders for the House to consider. You can click here to read sessional orders from the last parliament.
Now, sit back and relax. Once the election writs are returned to the Governor, we will provide a further update on the opening of the 57th Parliament. *Not sure about what election writs are? Read our earlier blog post “Puttin’ on the writs” for all you need to know about writs.