The Official Secretary to the Governor-General has just read the proclamation proroguing the parliament and dissolving the House of Representatives, officially bringing an end to the 46th Parliament.
When the House is dissolved, this triggers a general election. At the same time, the Governor-General has also prorogued the Parliament. What does this all mean?
Proroguing a parliament means to end the current session of Parliament. A parliament can consist of more than one session, although recently almost all have consisted of a single session (with the exception of the 44th Parliament, which was prorogued and returned for a second session in 2016). Since 1993, the Parliament has been prorogued just before the House is dissolved.
Only the Governor-General can prorogue a parliament. This is done on the advice of the Prime Minister.
At prorogation, all business before the House stops, and the House and the Senate do not meet.
The end of a Parliament
The most common way for a parliament to be terminated is by the dissolution of the House.
Like prorogation, dissolving the House is a power held by the Governor-General. In practice, this is done on the Prime Minister’s advice. In special circumstances, the Senate can also be dissolved at the same time (a ‘double dissolution’).
‘Expiry by the effluxion of time’ is the other way for a parliament to end—although this has only happened once so far. The Constitution does not allow the House to continue for longer than three years from its first meeting, so if the House has not already been dissolved it expires at midnight on the day before the third anniversary of the first day of sitting.
Image: The signed proclamation to prorogue the 46th Parliament and to dissolve the House of Representatives.
What happens now?
Now that the House has been dissolved, all business in the House has lapsed, House and joint committees no longer exist, and Members are no longer Members.
The Prime Minister has announced a general election for the House will be held on 21 May 2022. A half-Senate election will be held at the same time.
Ministers continue in office during the election period, though caretaker conventions apply.
The Speaker is deemed to continue on as Speaker for administrative purposes until a Speaker is chosen in the next parliament.
Image: A 19-gun salute by the Federation Guard.
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Images courtesy of Auspic, DPS.