NSW Parliament Heads Back to Work
On Tuesday of this week the new session of the 57th Parliament officially began. It is quite a series of tradition, pomp and ceremony from a past time and another country. It is all known as the Westminster system. It begins when the Usher of the Black Rod is sent down from the Legislative Council to tap three times on the door of the Legislative Assembly (often referred to as “commoners” and includes all of us local MP’s). The Usher of The Black Rod demands the attendance of the Legislative Assembly commoners in the Legislative Council (often referred to as “lords”) so that Parliament can be opened by the Queen’s representative, the Governor of NSW.
I kid you not. This is all real and factual. The red carpet is laid out on the front stairs of Parliament to ensure that the Queens representative, the Governor, does not soil his/her shoes. In the Legislative Council there is an enormous chair at the front/middle of the room that can only be occupied by the Queen or King of the day so of course it sits empty day after day after day – except for this 30 minutes every fourth year. The Governor then reads the message from the Queen about the expectations for NSW for the next 4 years (which is in fact a speech written by the Government).
We local MP’s, the “commoners”, are then sent back to the Legislative Assembly to get on with our business of the common people (you and I) so that it can later be considered by the worthy “lords” in the Legislative Council. The issues raised by us “common” people can only be finalised and approved if the “lords” give their approval.
Back in the Legislative Assembly we elect a Speaker of our House. The Speaker is generally reluctant to take the position because tradition requires that should there be trouble or strife that comes from the house where the commoners meet, the Legislative Assembly, then the Speaker will be beheaded by sword. We can then begin debate at the table which is designed to be two and a half swords across so that during debate one would not be able to reach the other with a sword.
Parliament will only sit for 36 days this year – apparently the lowest number of sitting days in the past 40 years. But rest assured, my job is full time and when not in Sydney I am generally working a 6 day week, 50hours+, back here in the Cessnock Electorate that stretches from Putty, Milbrodale and Broke in the west across to Edgeworth, West Wallsend and Barnsley in the east as well as Cessnock, Kurri Kurri, Branxton, Greta, Wollombi and Laguna in the middle and all other villages in between.