The first session of the 57th Parliament was officially opened on Tuesday 7 May 2019.
History of Openings
The origin of official openings can be traced back to the struggle for power over several centuries in Britain between the sovereign and Parliament. The English Civil War in the mid 17th century cemented the supremacy of the Parliament against the monarchy.
The barring of the lower House doors to the Monarch or his or her representative arose from the well-known incident in the 1642 in the months before the English Civil War broke out, when Charles I entered the House of Commons, accompanied by armed soldiers in an attempt to arrest five members of the House. This is the only occasion that a Monarch has entered a lower house and indignant at this breach of privilege and in defence of their rights, lower Houses have barred their doors to the Monarchy ever since.
Among the traditional pomp and ceremony of the official opening, two new innovations were introduced to the day.
Firstly, the President made a statement acknowledging and promoting Aboriginal culture and heritage, as part of the commitments made by the Government in response to the June 2016 Legislative Council Portfolio Committee No. 3 report on reparations for the Stolen Generations in New South Wales:
“Let us mark the historic opening of the Fifty-Seventh Parliament with a renewed commitment to support Aboriginal people in their efforts to strengthen and share their culture and heritage and to create a future that celebrates and values every person in New South Wales.”
Secondly, members of the Gamilaraay nation addressed members, guests and the Governor from the Bar of the House in their language and handed the message stick to the Usher of the Black Rod for placement on the dais. This new practice was introduced as part of the presentation of the message stick to the New South Wales Parliament on 11 October 2017, during the ceremony to mark the introduction of the Aboriginal Languages Bill 2017.
Highlights from the day
Newly elected members of the Legislative Council were sworn in, with members taking either the Pledge of Loyalty or the Oath of Allegiance and signing the roll of the House.
The Honourable Margaret Beazley AO QC, Governor of New South Wales attended the Opening of Parliament and was welcomed by the newly elected President, the Speaker, the Usher of the Black Rod and the Serjeant at Arms. The Governor’s welcome included a Vice Regal salute by a tri military Honour Guard and the Royal Australian Navy band. A welcome to country and traditional Aboriginal smoking ceremony were also performed in the Parliament House forecourt.
An informal reception was held in honour of Her Excellency with members and invited guests in attendance commencing with a fanfare performed by the Royal Australian Navy Band.
At 2.30 pm, in the Legislative Council the Governor, after taking her seat in the Vice Regal Chair, directed the Usher of the Black Rod to notify the Legislative Assembly they were required in the Legislative Council Chamber immediately to hear the Governor’s speech.
Once all were present in the Council, the Governor delivered the Opening Speech, which declares the causes of calling Parliament together. As is tradition, the speech reviews current policy issues and outlines the government’s broad legislative program for the upcoming session.