Recent House in Review articles have detailed the passage of the newly assented Abortion Law Reform Act. Readers who have followed the progress of the bill may be wondering: how can members express their opposition to a bill that has been passed by the House?

Standing Order 161 provides such an opportunity:

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During formalities last Thursday morning, the Acting President reported receipt of a protest against the passing of what was previously known as the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill. In accordance with the standing order, the protest was recorded in the minutes and a copy was forwarded to the Governor.

Protests usually include a statement of reasons for the protest and the signatures of all protesting members. You can view Thursday’s protest in the official minutes of proceedings.

The first protest ever recorded in the Legislative Council was received from Mr Lutwyche in February 1857, following the passing of a Loan Bill. With no standing order or precedent to follow, Mr Lutwyche referred to UK House of Lords practice, and the protest was included in the minutes of proceedings for the day.

Lodgement of protests increased over the next few years, so in 1860 the House responded to a recommendation of the Standing Orders Committee by adopting a standing order to formalise the process. Protests were lodged regularly until 1899, when the practice fell into disuse.

In modern times, three protests were lodged in 1986, then none until 2005. Twelve protests have been lodged since then on a broad range of topics including terrorism detention, electricity network assets, biodiversity, greyhound racing, and most recently abortion.

The protest book is kept in the Office of the Clerk and is treated with the greatest of care – cotton gloves are a must! Like the Parliamentary precinct where it is kept, the protest book is a living piece of our state’s history. Please enjoy the image below showing the beautiful penmanship of the Clerk who recorded Mr Lutwyche’s protest in 1857 – an enviable skill sadly not shared by the officer who wrote this blog post!

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