The 57th Parliament of New South Wales will be officially opened next week on Tuesday 7 May. The opening of a new parliament is an auspicious occasion steeped in traditional Westminster procedure and ceremony.

It begins with three Commissioners

The opening of Parliament commences in the Chamber of the Legislative Council with the Members of the Legislative Council, current and recently elected, assembling in the Legislative Council chamber. At the beginning of proceedings the Clerk of the Parliaments will read aloud the Governor’s proclamation calling the Houses together. The Clerk will then announce the Commissioners appointed to open the Parliament who will take a seat on the dais, the elevated level located at the head of the Chamber. The Commissioners are usually three Government ministers.

Once seated, one of the Commissioners will direct the Usher of the Black Rod to request that the Members of the Legislative Assembly attend the Legislative Council Chamber to ‘hear the Commissioners’ message for the opening of Parliament read’.

The Usher of the Black Rod – bringing the Houses together

The Usher, carrying the ebony and gold rod, will walk across to the Legislative Assembly Chamber to request their attendance.

As the Usher approaches the door of the Legislative Assembly Chamber, where the Members of the Assembly are assembled, the door will be slammed shut, symbolising the independence of the Assembly. The Usher will then knock on the door three times sharply with the end of the Black Rod.

The door will be opened ‘to admit Black Rod’. Having delivered the commissioner’s message the Usher of the Black Rod will lead the precession of Legislative Assembly members to the Legislative Council Chamber. Once the Assembly members have taken their seats in the Council Chamber, the Commission for opening of parliament will be read and a message from Her Excellency the Governor which concludes:

We are further commanded to acquaint you that the Governor desires that measures be taken by you, as many be deemed expedient, to provide for the peace, welfare and good Government of the State.

Following the reading of this message, the Members of the Legislative Assembly will withdraw.

 Swearing in the Class of 2019 and election of the President

Once the members of the Legislative Assembly have left the Chamber, the Clerk of the Parliaments will announce the members who were elected at the periodic election. He will also announce the three Commissioners appointed to administer the Pledge of Loyalty or the Oath of Allegiance. Each of the recently elected members will take the Oath or the Pledge, one after the other, and will sign the roll of the House as every other member of the Legislative Council has done. These members have now completed all requirements necessary to take their seats as Members of the Legislative Council.

The first item of business is for the House to elect a new President as the business of the House cannot proceed until the President is elected. After the President has been elected, and a number of other matters are dealt with, the House will be suspended until the Governor arrives later in the day.

Her Excellency, the Governor of New South Wales

The Governor of New South Wales, Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AO QC, will arrive at the front gates of Parliament House. Her Excellency will be met at the gates by the newly elected President, the Speaker, the Usher of the Black Rod and the Serjeant at Arms. The Governor will receive the Vice Regal salute and then inspect an honour guard formed by representatives of the three armed forces.

A welcome to country and traditional Aboriginal smoking ceremony will be performed in the Parliament House forecourt. Her Excellency will then proceed to the Jubilee Room where the House will present its new President to the Governor.

Soon after, the sitting of the Legislative Council will resume at 2.30 pm. The Usher of the Black Rod will announce the Governor who will take her place in the Vice Regal Chair on the dais. The Governor will direct the Usher of the Black Rod to let the Legislative Assembly know that they should attend the Legislative Council Chamber immediately to hear the Governor’s speech.

The Usher will again make her way to the Assembly and lead the Members of the Assembly to the Council Chamber where they will hear the Governor’s speech. Once Her Excellency has concluded her speech, the members of the Assembly will withdraw and the business of the 57th Parliament of New South Wales will officially commence.

 Next week we will post about the full history and significance of the Governor’s speech and the Vice Regal elements of Parliament including the Vice Regal Chair.