Parliament over until the State Election

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John BarkerIn the early hours of the morning on Friday, 22 November 2013, State Parliament adjourned until 4 March 2014. However, this adjournment is not necessarily set in stone.

Since State Parliament’s adjournment for the year, Greens leader Nick McKim and others have criticised the Legislative Council for shelving the many items of legislation that went undebated.

It’s also interesting to ponder why Premier Lara Giddings has not been more outspoken on the issue of undebated legislation in the Upper House.

To assist you in making up your own mind on where you stand on the issue of the undebated legislation, I have outlined some of the key facts and processes below.

The facts are:

  • The Government of the day sets the legislative agendas of the Houses of Parliament
  • It is the Government’s responsibility, no one else’s, to ensure legislation passes
  • Significantly, it is the Government who adjourns the sittings each day
  • Adjournment is typically the responsibility of the Leader of Government Business in the House of Assembly and the Leader of the Government in the Legislative Council. This procedure was followed on this occasion
  • On the afternoon of 21 November 2013, the Government initiated farewell speeches for the retiring Speaker, Michael Polley. It is difficult to understand why this was done if Government did not intend to adjourn Parliament that day
  • If the Government – of which Mr McKim is a Cabinet Minister – wished, it could have (with Parliamentary convention on its side) ensured the remaining prioritised legislation was debated in the Legislative Council
  • If that course of action was taken, it would mean the House of Assembly would also need to sit to consider any amendments or resolve any issues raised by the Upper House
  • The President of the Legislative Council, Jim Wilkinson, has indicated the Legislative Council would return and sit to consider the prioritised legislation if requested to do so.

The process required for Parliament to be recalled:

  • The Premier would need to seek the Governor’s support to recall Parliament earlier than 4 March 2014
  • Similarly, the Premier would need to follow the same process when she determines the date of the State Election
  • Parliament would then be dissolved until a date after the State Election.

Therefore, it is obvious that if the Government wants the undebated legislation to be considered, it can do so and it should not try to shift blame elsewhere. My bet is that there will be no change to the current situation.

The State Election date

Again, this topic has been the subject of continuous public comment. However, it is important to understand that the date of the next State Election is the Premier’s call and hers alone.

The last practical election date is 24 May 2014, however, the Governor can extend it to 31 May in certain circumstances.

Whether the Premier’s frequently referred to date of 15 March 2014 is accurate, we have to wait and see.

In the meantime, be prepared for a vigorous election campaign, which will no doubt have many more surprises in store.

– John Barker

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