Information Sheet 14 - A Sitting Day in the Legislative Council
The Legislative Council’s days and hours of meeting
Although the House's hours of meeting can vary, particularly in terms of finishing times, the usual sitting times are as follows:
- Tuesday 2.00 p.m. – 10.00 p.m. (commencement of Adjournment debate).
- Wednesday 9.30 a.m. – 6.30 p.m. (commencement of Adjournment debate).
- Thursday 9.30 a.m. – 10.00 p.m. (commencement of Adjournment debate).
- Friday 9.30 a.m. – 4.00 p.m. (commencement of Adjournment debate), however, Friday sittings are infrequent.
The time at which the Council actually rises is dependent on the Adjournment debate's length. In most cases, the Adjournment debate does not exceed 45 minutes.Friday sittings are rare and the principal purpose of a Friday sitting is to complete Government Business. On Friday, the time allowed for Members to raise matters in the Adjournment debate is limited to 30 minutes.
How a Sitting Day commences
The ringing of the bells marks the commencement of all sitting days. The Clerk, at the appointed time of meeting, will ring the bells to call Members to the Chamber. Once a quorum is formed (15 or more Council Members), and a Minister is present, the Usher of the Black Rod formally leads the President into the Chamber. As they enter the Chamber, the bells cease ringing and the Usher announces: “Members of the Council –– the President”. On taking the Chair, the President bows to each side of the Chamber and to the Clerks. The Members and Clerks then bow to the President. Following this, the President reads the Lord's Prayer.
Routine of Business
Each day in a sitting week is structured slightly differently, both in terms of the House's hours of operation and routine of business.
The following chart provides a colour coded break down of the major elements of each sitting day of the week:
Routine of Business118.51 KB
- Formal Business includes notices of motion, presentation of petitions and tabling of Committee reports and other papers.
- Adjournment: At 10.00 pm - a Minister may declare the sitting be extended for one hour and then may declare the sitting be extended for one further hour. Following that, a motion to continue the sitting may be moved.
The Prayer is commonly followed by the reading of Messages by the President. All communications between the Legislative Council and the Legislative Assembly are by Message, as are communications between Parliament and the Crown (represented by the Governor in Victoria).
The first Messages read by the President are those received from the Governor. These are usually notifications that certain Acts have received Royal Assent. Messages received from the Legislative Assembly will then be read. These Messages may relate to a number of matters, including:
- the transmission of Bills seeking the Council's agreement;
- resolutions concerning amendments to Assembly Bills by the Council, and Assembly amendments to Council Bills;
- the appointment of Joint Committees, and Members to those Committees; and
- general resolutions seeking the Council's agreement, such as joint sittings or the appointment of auditors to undertake work in the Auditor General's Office.
Formal Business commences on a Tuesday after Question Time and follows the reading of Messages on a Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Formal Business includes the:
- presentation of petitions;
- introduction and first reading of Bills;
- presentation of papers, including Parliamentary committee reports; and
- giving of notices of motion.
The President will first ask if there are any petitions for presentation. Petitions provide a direct means by which any citizen or group can express a concern to the Parliament. Petitions need to be lodged for presentation in the House by a Member. However, the Member who presents the petition does not necessarily agree with its content. The President will also ask if there are any notices of intention to make a statement on a report or paper tabled in the Council (see below for details).
The President then asks if there are any Bills for introduction, by leave. Leave (the House's permission) is required to enable Bills being initiated in the Council to be introduced without notice. A Member would then present the Bill and move that it be read a first time. Alternatively, notice can be given regarding the introduction of a Bill which will then be given its first reading on a subsequent day.
Papers are then tabled in the following order:
- papers tabled by Ministers by command of the Governor, such as reports of Royal Commissions;
- papers tabled by Ministers by leave, commonly known as “returns to orders”. These papers include those that are not required by an Act of Parliament to automatically be tabled and therefore require the House to authorise their tabling;
- reports of Parliamentary committees tabled by the committee chair or another member of the committee. The Member tabling the report may then move a motion without notice that the Council take note of the report, enabling Members to speak about the report;
- reports tabled by the Clerk pursuant to statute (an ‘Act of Parliament’). These include annual reports of government departments and other public bodies, amendments to planning schemes and statutory rules (sometimes referred to as ‘regulations’).
The President will finally ask if there are any notices of motion, which are motions for new items of business to be placed on the House's Notice Paper (agenda). A notice must be presented in written form to the Table, signed by the Member and include a proposed day on which he or she plans to debate the motion. The Notice must also be read out aloud by the Member.
Following Formal Business on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, up to 15 Members a day may make a statement for a maximum of 90 seconds on any matter of concern or interest. Members are limited to making one statement each sitting week, unless a fellow Member assigns his or her entitlement to another, who may then speak again, provided that he or she has not already made a Members' Statement on that same day. Each party is limited to a maximum of 50% of potential statements each sitting week.
Statements on Reports and Papers
On Wednesdays at 5.00 p.m. up to 60 minutes is set aside for Members to make statements on a report or paper which has been tabled in the House. Members must give at least one day's notice of their intention to make a statement. The reports or papers proposed for discussion each Wednesday are listed on the Notice Paper. Members are limited to a maximum of five minutes when making such statements.
Questions without notice commence at 2.00 p.m. on Tuesday and at midday on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. It is the current practice of the House for ten questions to be asked each Question Time (five from the government side and five from non-government Members). On average Question Time lasts between 45 minutes and one hour.
At the conclusion of Question Time, a Minister, usually the Leader of the Government, advises the House of answers to Questions on Notice and presents them to the House. Under the Standing Orders, Ministers are required to provide a written answer within 30 calendar days of the question being submitted.
For further information regarding Questions without Notice and Questions on Notice see Information Sheet No. 3: ‘Questions'.
Government Business concerns Bills or motions which have been initiated by members of the Government party and often takes up more than half of the Council's time during most sitting weeks. (For an indication of when Government Business is likely to occur, see the chart above.)
- Bills go through first, second and third reading stages in order to pass through the House. Once a Bill has been brought into the Council it is read for a first time, or introduced, and a day is fixed for its second reading, although leave may be given for the second reading to occur that day. The second reading stage includes the responsible Minister’s speech detailing the general principles underlying the proposed legislation. If the Bill originated in the Legislative Assembly, the Minister’s speech is almost always incorporated into Hansard without being read again in the Council. Then there is opportunity for debate on the merits of the Bill. The majority of Government Business is normally spent on these second reading debates. Current Sessional Orders have done away with all of the time limits which previously applied to those contributing to the second reading debate.
If the House wishes to examine the Bill's clauses in detail, the Bill may be referred to:
- A Committee of the whole for further detailed consideration. During this stage, the President leaves the Chair allowing the Deputy President to preside over proceedings. Members are able to propose amendments to the Bill which must be approved by the majority of the Committee to be passed; and/or
- The Legislation Committee to consider the Bill in detail and report to the Council any recommendations for amendments. The Committee consists of seven members, which are appointed by the Council in proportion to party, minority group or independent membership in the Council; or
- A select committee or other parliamentary committee for general or specific inquiry.
The third reading stage is usually a formality and rarely includes further debate. If such debate does occur, it is limited to the specific content (rather than general principles) of the Bill. For further information regarding the passage of a Bill see Information Sheet Number 10: ‘Bills’.
General Business is conducted on a Wednesday when it takes precedence over all other business and follows Members' Statements. General Business involves debate on motions or Bills initiated by Members of the House who are not members of the government party. Current Standing Orders do not include any time limits for General Business. Government Business may only occur on Wednesdays if and when General Business has concluded.
The Adjournment debate (i.e. debate on the motion “That the House do now adjourn”) provides a forum for Members to raise matters of concern related to Victorian Government administration. Unless a Minister has already moved either a motion to extend the sitting of the Council or to adjourn early, the President interrupts business at 10.00 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays to allow the Adjournment debate to commence.
A maximum of 20 Members can raise matters on the Adjournment debate on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and only 30 minutes can be spent on the Adjournment debate on a Friday. Each Member's time to raise an issue is restricted to three minutes, and Members are allowed to raise only one matter during the Adjournment debate each sitting week, although they may give up their right to speak so that another Member may speak in their place. No time limits apply to a Minister's response, although Standing Orders do require that they be ‘as brief as possible'. In practice, responses are usually relatively short anyway, either promptly addressing the issue or advising that the matter will be referred to the relevant Minister. Once all matters have been dealt with, the House is adjourned, which is signalled by three short rings of the Division bells.
For further information regarding the Adjournment debate see Information Sheet No. 13: ‘Adjournment Debate'.
Recording and Transmitting the Council's Proceedings
All that happens in the House is documented. The official record of the Legislative Council's proceedings is the Minutes of Proceedings. The Clerks record the Minutes, noting all formal actions and decisions made in the Chamber as the House proceeds through its business. At the conclusion of the day, a ‘proof version' is published in print and electronic format for circulation.
For further information regarding the Minutes see Information Sheet No. 5: ‘Minutes of the Proceedings'.
On each sitting day, there are audio transmissions of the Council's proceedings to certain offices at Parliament House. Proceedings may also be recorded (sound and/or visual) by people or organisations outside of the Parliament subject to the Legislative Council's Standing Orders relating to the transmission and broadcasting of the proceedings. In 2008 the proceedings of both Houses began being broadcast over the internet in audio form, and since the beginning of the 57th Parliament in December 2010 video of both Houses is broadcast over the internet when Parliament is sitting. Video broadcasts are accessible via the Parliament of Victoria website.
Prepared by: Table Office
Department of the Legislative Council
Parliament of Victoria
Reissued March 2011
- Last Updated: Tuesday, 04 December 2018 09:34