Last week the Council met to pass legislation to deal with the COVID-19 crisis. During this sitting day the House also agreed to a number of procedural motions that formalised arrangements for the House and Committees to conduct business during the pandemic. One such motion moved by the Leader of the Government adjourned the Legislative Council until Tuesday 15 September 2020. In this week’s post we’re looking at this procedure  – the special adjournment.

The special adjournment motion

Under Standing Order 74, a Minister may move a special adjournment motion to adjourn the House to a date beyond that previously resolved by the House. This is a topic we touched on briefly in the lead up to the 2019 election, in a blog post explaining when the House would next sit.

Previous practice

At the commencement of each Parliament, the House adopts a sessional order which sets out the times that the House is to meet each day. To ensure that the House can meet and discuss business as often as is necessary, times are set out for every day of the week from Monday to Friday.

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However, in practice a standard parliamentary sitting week is from Tuesday to Thursday only, with Mondays and Fridays used by committees to hold meeting and hearings. Until somewhat recently, special adjournments were moved every Thursday of a sitting week to adjourn the House until the next sitting Tuesday – this way bypassing the agreed to Friday and Monday sittings.

Current practice

However, this practice is no longer required, as since 2016 the House has agreed to Government motions nominating the precise sitting dates for each calendar year:

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The special adjournment however is still used a couple of times each year during lengthier breaks  such as before the winter and summer recesses – more on this in our next procedural post.

The special adjournment last week

As noted in the sitting schedule above, the House was due to meet in April, May, June and August 2020. However, a special adjournment motion was moved by the Leader of the Government last week to instead resolve that the House next meet in September:

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The Leader of the Government explained the rationale for adjourning until September:

The reasons though for this are quite clear and quite well known to all members. The Government is proposing this based on the advice that it has received from NSW Health, the dimension of the public health crisis facing the State from COVID-19 and having taken note of what the Federal Parliament did yesterday, facing similar circumstances. The date chosen in the special adjournment is the next scheduled sitting date of the Legislative Council after the date chosen by the Federal Parliament, so that is the logic behind the particular date chosen.

So there you have it – according to that resolution, the House will not meet again until 15 September, unless the President fixes an earlier date.

But readers may wonder – what if members of the Legislative Council want to meet before September to discuss urgent business? Fear not – there are provisions in place for such circumstances. Stay tuned for the next Procedural post on Standing Order 36 – Recall of the House.

Message from the Upper House blog team

During the COVID-19 pandemic we will continue posting blogs every Thursday and will alternate between House and Committee content.

Write in to let us know if there are particular matters you would like us to cover during this time!

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