An Address to the Sovereign or the Governor-General is a method traditionally employed by the House for making its desires, feelings and opinions known to the Crown. The standing orders make provision for Addresses to Her Majesty, the Governor-General and members of the Royal Family.
From time to time what have purported to be Addresses to other persons have been entered in the Votes and Proceedings:
- an Address to a former Governor-General on his departure from Australia was moved and agreed to; this should have been more properly termed a resolution;
- an Address of welcome from the Parliament in connection with the visit of an American fleet to Australia; the Speaker presented the Address which had been presented in the Senate Chamber; there had been no formal consideration of the Address by the House prior to its presentation; and
- the terms of an Address of congratulations from the Parliament to the Lieutenant-Governor, Legislature and people of the Isle of Man on the occasion of the Millennium of the Tynwald was announced by the Speaker; the Address had not been considered by the House.
With the exception of the Address in Reply, an Address to the Sovereign or Governor-General is moved, except in cases of urgency, after notice in the usual manner, but Addresses of congratulation or condolence to members of the Royal Family may be moved by a Minister without notice. An Address to the Governor-General has been moved as an amendment to a motion to print papers.
(For coverage of the Address in Reply see Chapter on ‘The parliamentary calendar’.)
To the Sovereign
Addresses which have been agreed to by the House and presented to the Sovereign have included the following subjects:
- the coronation of the Sovereign and other matters concerning the Royal Family;
- the cessation of wartime hostilities;
- praying that the Sovereign give directions that a Mace be presented by and on behalf of the Parliament to another legislature; and
- on the subject of home rule for Ireland.
The House and Senate have often agreed to joint Addresses to the Sovereign, the Addresses being drafted in the form of joint Addresses before being considered by each House separately and no message passing between the Houses requesting concurrence.
To members of the Royal Family
On three occasions Addresses of welcome have been presented to members of the Royal Family.
To the Governor-General
Apart from the Address in Reply, Addresses have been presented to Governors-General on their departure from the Commonwealth and requesting that the Governor-General forward to the King, for communication to the President of the United States, a resolution of sympathy following the assassination of President McKinley.
On two occasions the House has ordered that resolutions of the House be forwarded by Address to the Governor-General. On neither occasion did the House consider the Address as such, nor were replies from the Governor-General announced to the House.
The Constitution and various Commonwealth statutes provide for Addresses to the Governor-General from both Houses in respect of the removal of certain persons from office under special circumstances, for example:
- Justices of the High Court and other federal courts (Constitution, s. 72);
- Auditor-General and Independent Auditor (Auditor-General Act 1997, schedules 1 and 2);
- Public Service Commissioner (Public Service Act 1999, s. 47);
- Australian Statistician (Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975, s. 12);
- Member of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975, s. 13); and
- Ombudsman (Ombudsman Act 1976, s. 28).
There is no precedent for any such Address in the Commonwealth Parliament.
Resolutions to Sovereign and Governor-General
Resolutions as distinct from Addresses have been agreed to by the House and forwarded to the Sovereign:
- on the death of a Sovereign or otherwise concerning the Sovereign or Royal Family;
- expressing determination that World War I continue to a victorious end;
- thanking the Sovereign for the gift of despatch boxes;
- thanking the Sovereign for his message on the occasion of the establishment of the seat of Government in Canberra; and
- expressing congratulations on the 50th anniversary of Her Majesty’s coronation.
On occasions when Parliament has not been meeting, messages have been sent to the Sovereign on the Sovereign’s accession to the throne and in respect of the death of the Sovereign’s predecessor.
Resolutions have been forwarded to the Governor-General:
- on the death of a member of his family;
- requesting him to summon the first meeting of the 10th Parliament at Canberra; and
- relating to arrangements for the opening of future sessions of the Parliament.
Presentation of Addresses
Addresses to the Sovereign or members of the Royal Family are transmitted by the Speaker to the Governor-General (usually by letter) with the request that they be sent for presentation. Unless the House otherwise orders, Addresses to the Governor-General are presented by the Speaker. When an Address is ordered to be presented by the whole House, the Speaker proceeds with Members to a place appointed by the Governor-General and reads the Address to the Governor-General. While the standing orders provide that the Members who moved and seconded the Address stand to the left of the Speaker, in practice, they have stood behind the Speaker.
The Address to the King on the cessation of hostilities at the end of World War I was presented to the Governor-General on the steps of Parliament House by the Speaker, accompanied by Members. The Speaker has personally presented Addresses to members of the Royal Family. On the occasion of a joint Address to King George V on the 25th anniversary of his accession to the throne, the Governor-General suggested that the Prime Minister (at that time in the United Kingdom) hand the Address to the King. The Speaker agreed to the proposal, assuming the suggestion would meet with the concurrence of Members.
The Governor-General’s answer to any Address presented by the whole House must be reported by the Speaker. A reply from the Sovereign to any Address is also announced to the House by the Speaker. The reply is transmitted to the Speaker through the Governor-General.
Address to the Presiding Officers
The Presiding Officers may remove the Parliamentary Service Commissioner from office if each House presents an Address praying for removal.