The Constitution provides that every Member of the House of Representatives, before taking his or her seat, must make and subscribe an oath or affirmation of allegiance before the Governor-General or some person authorised by the Governor-General. The oath or affirmation takes the following form:
I, A.B., do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Her heirs and successors according to law. SO HELP ME GOD!
I, A.B., do solemnly and sincerely affirm and declare that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Her heirs and successors according to law.
The oath of allegiance need not necessarily be made on the authorised version of the Bible, although this has been the common practice. A Member may recite the oath while holding another form of Christian holy book, or, in respect of a nonChristian faith, a book or work of such a nature. The essential requirement is that every Member taking an oath should take it in a manner which affects his or her conscience regardless of whether a holy book is used or not.
The oath or affirmation of allegiance taken by all Members at the beginning of a new Parliament is normally administered by a person authorised by the Governor-General, who is usually a Justice of the High Court. This person is ushered into the Chamber and conducted to the Chair by the Serjeant-at-Arms. The commission from the Governor-General to administer the oath or affirmation is read to the House by the Clerk.
The taking of the oath or affirmation follows the presentation by the Clerk of the returns to the writs for the general election, showing the Member elected for each electoral division. A Member may not take part in any proceedings of the House until sworn in. It is also considered that a Member should not participate in the work of committees until sworn in.
All Members elected for that Parliament are called by the Clerk in turn and approach the Table in groups of approximately ten to twelve, make their oath or affirmation, and subscribe (sign) the oath or affirmation form. The Ministry is usually sworn in first, followed by the opposition executive. Other Members are then sworn in. The numbers of Members who have sworn an oath or made an affirmation are inserted on Attestation Forms which are signed by the person authorised.
Members not sworn in at this stage may be sworn in later in the day’s proceedings or on a subsequent sitting day by the Speaker, who receives a commission from the Governor-General to administer the oath or affirmation. This commission is presented to the House by the Speaker. Those Members elected at by-elections during the course of a Parliament are also sworn in by the Speaker. In the case of a vacancy in the Speakership and the election of a new Speaker another commission is provided. A new Member elected at a by-election has been sworn in by an Acting Speaker, an authority for him or her to administer the oath or affirmation during any absence of the Speaker having been issued by the Governor-General. The oath or affirmation is sworn or made by the Member in the presence of the Clerk at the head of the Table. The oath or affirmation form is then signed by the Member and passed to the Speaker for attestation.
The authority from the Governor-General to the Speaker to administer oaths or affirmations to Members is customarily renewed when a new Governor-General is appointed, although this practice may not be strictly necessary.
In the event of the demise of the Crown, the UK House of Commons meets immediately and Members again take the oath. This practice is not followed in Australia.