On 26 July 2022, the two Houses of the Parliament met for the opening of the 47th Parliament. This date was set by the Governor-General, His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Retd), who, on advice from the government, issued a proclamation calling the parliament to meet for the first time since the federal election.
The opening of Parliament ceremony involves some traditions adapted from the UK Parliament, which are reflected in the procedures set out in the standing orders (rules) of the Senate and House of Representatives. One practice borrowed from the UK Parliament is that the new Parliament is declared open by the monarch or their representative in the upper house, rather than the lower house. In Australia, this means that the opening of Parliament, including the Governor-General's speech, occurs in the Senate, not the House of Representatives.
This tradition dates back to the practice of the British Parliament where, since the seventeenth century, the monarch has not entered the House of Commons. In Australia, the Governor-General does not enter the House of Representatives though it must be doubted whether the British practice has any application to a modern Australian legislature. As a former Clerk of the Senate, Harry Evans, noted:
The custom is clearly no longer apposite. The Crown and its representatives are not a threat to freedom of debate.
Welcome to country
Image: Welcome to Country being performed by representatives of the Ngunnawal-Ngambri people (Photo: AUSPIC)
The day began with a Welcome to Country in the Great Hall and a smoking ceremony on the Forecourt of Parliament House. This was conducted by Dr Aunty Matilda House-Williams and her son Paul Girrawah House, representatives of the Ngunnawal and Ngambri peoples, the traditional custodians of the Canberra area. The ceremony was first performed in 2008 and has been included in the standing orders of both houses.
Proclamation and Deputy
At 10.30am, the Clerk of the Senate read a proclamation from the Governor-General calling the Parliament together. The Governor-General appointed a Deputy, Chief Justice of the High Court, the Hon Chief Justice Susan Kiefel AC (accompanied by another High Court Justice, the Hon Justice Stephen Gageler AC), to act on his behalf to open the Parliament. Led by the Usher of the Black Rod (Black Rod) into the Senate chamber, the Deputy asked the Black Rod to summon members of the House of Representatives. Once all senators and members were assembled in the Senate, the Deputy declared the Parliament open.
The Parliament’s open, now what?
After Parliament was declared open, it was time to swear-in senators and choose a new President (the Senate’s presiding officer). Senators were sworn-in by the Deputy by either making an oath or an affirmation of allegiance.
After senators were sworn-in, the Leader of the Government in the Senate and Senator Waters both proposed candidates for the position of the President: Senator Lines and Senator Cox respectively. After senators voted by secret ballot, Senator Lines was announced as President. The Senate then suspended till the afternoon.
Image: Usher of the Black Rod, John Begley, on his way to the House of Representative to summon members to the Senate Chamber (Photo: AUSPIC)
At 2.00 pm the Governor-General arrived at Parliament House, undertook ceremonial duties on the Forecourt, and was escorted by the Black Rod into the Senate. The Governor-General instructed the Black Rod to summon the members from the House of Representatives to the Senate. The Black Rod, carrying the ceremonial rod, walked across the Member’s Hall, knocked on the closed House of Representatives chamber door and addressed the House by saying:
Mr Speaker, His Excellency the Governor-General desires the attendance of Honourable members in the Senate.
Image: The Governor-General, His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Retd), giving his speech to senators and members.
Once all senators and members were again assembled in the Senate, the Governor-General made a speech that outlined the government’s legislative program. A 19-gun salute on the Forecourt signalled the end of the speech.
The Senate was then suspended and resumed at 5.00 pm to consider other items of business such as announcements relating to ministerial and office-holder arrangements, the election of the Deputy President and the appointment of senators to serve on Senate committees in the new Parliament.
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