Chapter 1 - The opening of Parliament

  

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2      Governor-General’s speech

  1. When the Governor-General has arrived at the chamber, the Usher of the Black Rod shall announce and conduct the Governor-General to the chair, the President leaving the chair and sitting to the right.

  2. The Governor-General will direct the Usher of the Black Rod to command the immediate attendance of the House of Representatives in the Senate chamber.

  3. When the members of the House of Representatives have come with their Speaker into the Senate chamber the Governor-General will declare the cause of calling the Parliament together.

  4. The President and the Speaker will each receive a copy of the Governor-General’s speech, the Governor-General will withdraw from the Senate chamber, and the President shall again take the chair.

Amendment history

Adopted: 19 August 1903 as SOs 5, 6 and 7 (corresponding to paragraphs (1) to (3)) and 8 and 9 (corresponding to paragraph (4)) but renumbered as SOs 3 to 7 for the first printed edition

Amended: 1 August 1934, J.459–61 (with effect from 1 October 1934) (amendment to paragraph (4) – now superseded – to replace “from his Private Secretary” with “from a member of His Excellency’s staff”)

1989 revision: Old SOs 3 to 7 combined into one, restructured as four paragraphs and renumbered as SO 2; language modernised, including by removing gender-specific terminology, and expression streamlined, including by deletion of reference to the Governor-General’s staff

Commentary

  Opening speech by the Governor-General, Major General Michael Jeffery
 

The Governor-General, Major General Michael Jeffery, AC, CVO, MC, delivers the opening speech at the commencement of the 42nd Parliament on 12 February 2008. Unusually, he chose to stand (Photo courtesy of AUSPIC)

   
  Copy of the Governor-General's opening speech
 

A copy of the Governor-General's opening speech as presented to the President of the Senate

Like SO 1, SO 2 also sets out a very structured procedure for the presentation of the Governor-General’s opening speech which usually occurs in the afternoon of opening day in accordance with the following script:

AFTERNOON PROCEEDINGS (3 pm)

~~~~~~~~~

At 2.55 pm the bells will ring for five minutes.

The Senate will re-assemble at 3 pm.

Black Rod:

Honourable senators, the President.

The President takes the vice-regal chair.

The approach of His/Her Excellency the Governor-General will be announced by the Usher of the Black Rod at the Bar of the Senate.

Black Rod:

Mr/Madam President, His/Her Excellency the Governor-General approaches the Senate chamber.

The President will stand to the right of the vice-regalchair.

President to bow to the Governor-General as he/she approachesthe dais.

Governor-General:

Honourable senators, please beseated.

Black Rod, please let the members of the House of Representatives know that I desire their attendance in the Senate chamber.

Black Rod will bow to the Governor-General and proceed across the Members’ Hall and knock three times on the door of the House of Representatives. Having been announced by the Serjeant-at-Arms, Black Rod will advance to the Bar of the House where he/she will bow to the Speaker.

Black Rod:

Mr Speaker, His Excellency the Governor-General desires the attendance of honourable members in the Senate chamber.

Black Rod will again bow to the Speaker and return to his/her place in the Senate.

When the Speaker arrives at the end of the Senate table, he/she will bow to the Governor-General and take his/her seat.

Governor-General’s opening speech to be made.

At the conclusion of the speech, a copy will be handed to the President and the Speaker by the Official Secretary to the Governor-General.

When the Governor-General rises to leave the Senate chamber, senators and members will stand.

The President will resume the chair and await the departure of the members of the House of Representatives and the Justices of the High Court.

President:

The sitting of the Senate is suspended until the ringing of the bells at approximately 4.55 pm.

_________________________


  Members of the House of Representatives are summoned by the Usher of the Black Rod
 

The Usher of the Black Rod knocks on the door of the House of Representatives to summon members to the Senate chamber to hear the Governor-General's opening speech – a 'tradition' recreated possibly for the Queen's visit in 1954 (Photo courtesy of AUSPIC)

A minor amendment was made to paragraph (4) in 1934 on there commendation of the Standing Orders Committee to replace “from his Private Secretary” with “from a member of His Excellency’s staff”.[1] The amendment provided greater flexibility by not tying the standing order to a specific member of the Governor-General’s staff. The 1989 revision enhanced that flexibility even further by removing all reference to the Governor-General’s staff although, in practice, as the script indicates, the Governor-General’s Official Secretary continues to provide a copy of the speech to the President and the Speaker.

The 1938 MS casts an interesting light on the “tradition” of the Usher knocking three times on the closed door of the House of Representatives. According to Edwards:

The Usher walks across King’s Hall, and finds the doors of the House of Representatives Chamber wide open to receive him. This is in sharp contrast to the time-honored practice of the House of Commons, where the door is closed and bolted in his face, and he has to knock and seek admittance.

The Serjeant-at-Arms, who is on the look-out for the Usher, announces him to the waiting House of Representatives, and the Usher walks straight to the Bar of the House, bows to the Speaker and delivers [his] message.

Like senators waving pieces of paper over their heads to take a point of order during a division (see SO 103), this practice may owe more to mid-twentieth century yearnings for all things British than to the procedures actually established by the Commonwealth Houses at Federation.

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