The Legislative Council (continued)

Chair of Committees

The Chair of Committees in the Legislative Council is also elected by fellow Members through the process of a ballot. He or she takes the Chair at the Table of the Council whenever the Council goes into Committee to consider a Bill in detail. In the absence of the Presiding Officer, the Chair of Committees performs the duties and exercises the authority of the President.

The Chair of Committees needs to have a sound knowledge of the rules which govern procedure, particularly during Committee stage consideration of a Bill. The particular rules which are applied to sittings of the Council are known as Standing Orders. Specific Standing Orders are applied during Committee stage consideration of a Bill and it is the responsibility of the Chair of Committees to ensure that the appropriate Standing Orders are adhered to.

During the Committee stage, amendments can be made to a Bill. In some cases several amendments can be proposed to one clause of a Bill and the Chair of Committees at this time must ensure, in the first instance, that the amendments are acceptable to the Chair and, further, that proper procedure is followed to allow the amendments to be debated and voted upon.

The Chair of Committees continues in office until death, resignation, periodical retirement or removal by the vote of an absolute majority of the Council.

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Leader of the Government

Leader of the Government in the Legislative Council

The Hon. Leonie Hiscutt, MLC

The Leader of the Government in the Legislative Council is an elected Member who is appointed by the Premier of the day.
The Leader is the Government’s appointed representative in the Legislative Council who is responsible for the passage of Government legislation through the Council. The Leader and his or her Deputy represent all Ministers who sit in the Assembly and their respective portfolios, e.g. Justice, Health, Education and Primary Industries. Officers from these various Departments are usually present in the Chamber during consideration of Legislation applicable to their own Department. Advisers, as they are more commonly known within the Parliament, are present to assist the Leader and Deputy with queries raised by Members during the various stages of consideration of a Bill.

The Leader decides the order in which legislation will be considered and also suggests the sitting schedule of the Council.

The Leader and Deputy have their own office staff consisting of a Senior Private Secretary, Parliamentary Adviser, Electorate Officer and Secretarial Assistant. They are permitted on the floor of the Council during sitting times to assist the Leader with procedural motions and the preparation of information to allow the Leader to adequately and accurately present Government legislation to the Legislative Council for its consideration.

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Clerk of the Legislative Council

The Clerk of the Council is appointed by Letters Patent issued by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and is the Permanent Head and Chief Executive of the staff of the Legislative Council.

The Clerk is responsible for ensuring that the correct procedure is observed during the passage of legislation and may be called upon to advise the President on the interpretation of Standing Orders and Parliamentary practice. The Clerk is also responsible for the preparation of the Notice Paper and the compilation of the Votes and Proceedings, the official record of proceedings in the Council.

The Clerk Tables Papers in the Council and reads aloud the titles of Bills as each stage is agreed to by the Council.

It is the Clerk who must prepare and certify to the accuracy of Bills agreed to by both Houses, before they are submitted for Royal Assent by the Governor.

The Clerk is assisted in the administration of the House by the Deputy Clerk.

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Clerk of the Legislative Council

Mr David Thomas Pearce.

Usher of the Black Rod

The Black Rod is a symbol of authority of the Legislative Council as a formal arm of the Parliament. It is made of ebony and carved gold with a lion holding the motto of the Order of the Garter – ‘Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense’ (meaning ‘evil to him who evil thinks’). The history of Tasmania’s Black Rod itself is obscure. It is in all respects a replica of the House of Lords Rod and it is assumed that it was originally a gift from Westminster.

The Black Rod

The Usher of the Black Rod at the Governor’s command, summons the House of Assembly Members to the Legislative Council Chamber to hear the Governor’s speech opening the Parliament following a State election. This position can be traced back through the Westminster Parliament, London, to the year 1348 and the foundation of the Order of the Garter.

During the Middle Ages, the Usher of the Black Rod acted as the King’s ceremonial bodyguard at the Palace of Westminster; King and Parliament working together in the same buildings. When King Henry VIII took over Cardinal Wolsey’s former residence as his new London Palace, the Usher of the Black Rod remained at Westminster and it was from this time that the more modern role of this position was developed.

The Usher of the Black Rod in the House of Lords, London, still takes an active part in ceremonies surrounding the ancient Order of the Garter.

The Tasmanian Black Rod has no similar connection with this order of chivalry. This position, however, is closely related to its London counterpart, in that he or she is the personal attendant upon the Sovereign or her representative at the Opening
of Parliament. The Usher of the Black Rod at the direction of the President has responsibility for the maintenance of order and security in the Chamber and the Legislative Council Parliamentary precinct.

At the commencement and termination of each sitting of the Council, the Usher of the Black Rod precedes the President to and from the Chamber.

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Sittings of the Council

The Legislative Council sittings are often held concurrently with those of the House of Assembly.

The Council’s sitting days are usually Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The Council, however, may sit on other days depending upon the pressure of business.

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Order of Business

A sitting day commences with prayers read by the President. The President then refers to a printed paper containing Notices of Motion and Orders of the Day.

Questions by Members given on Notice appear on the Notice Paper. Standing Orders are used to make provision for Questions to be asked without Notice.

Papers are laid upon the Table of the Council by the Clerk and these Papers, which include such documents as Regulations, Municipal By-laws and reports from the Government instrumentalities are available for perusal by Members, and having been Tabled, become public documents.

Ministerial statements are occasionally made following Questions and Answers to Questions.

Messages from the House of Assembly or from the Governor may be read at any time by the President. Those from the Governor take precedence over all other business.

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Orders of the Day

Following the Tabling of Papers, the work of the Council proceeds according to the Orders of the Day as printed on the Notice Paper. Tuesday is reserved for Private Members’ business, when the consideration of Private Members’ Motions or Bills, takes precedence over Government business. On Wednesday and Thursday, however, the Leader of the Government determines the order of Government business in the Council.

Government Bills usually emanate from the Lower House. Bills, however, may originate and be introduced in the Upper House. Each Bill progresses through six stages in each House. These stages are:

(i) Initiation;
(ii) First Reading: Stages (i) and (ii) formal introduction;
(iii) Second Reading: debate on the general principles of the Bill;
(iv) Committee Stage: consideration by a Committee of the Whole Council of each
clause in detail;
(v) Adoption of report by the Committee;
(vi) Third Reading: usually a formal reading, but further debate may arise, or the
Bill may be recommitted to the Committee stage for reconsideration.

Before becoming an Act a Bill must receive Royal Assent from the Governor on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen.

During debate upon Bills, the President, or Chair of Committees (when the House is resolved into a Committee) is in control of proceedings and all speakers must address themselves to the “Chair”. The Standing Orders of the Council provide strict
guidelines regarding the conduct of business of the Council.

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Decisions taken by the Council are arrived at by a vote of the Members, for or against a Motion. The President or Chair of Committees will put the Question and will declare whether ‘ayes’ or ‘noes’ are in the majority. A Member who voted in the minority as declared, may request a Division to have votes recorded.

The Bells of the Council are rung for three minutes to summon Members into the Chamber whereupon the doors are locked. Those Members who are voting ‘aye’ seat themselves to the right of the ‘Chair’ and the ‘noes’ to the left of the ‘Chair’. Tellers are appointed to record the names of Members voting on each side. After reporting to the President or Chair of Committees, as the case may be, the result of the Division is announced.

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The Committee System

The Committee System plays an important part in the Legislative Council’s role as a House of Review, in that it enables detailed examination of selected matters or issues, the results of which are subsequently reported to the Council, forming an important extra element in our democratic system.

Standing Committees are appointed to regulate some of the functions of the Council. These include the Committee of Privileges and the Standing Orders Committee. The House of Assembly appoints similar Committees. Three Parliamentary Standing Committees are established by their own Statute. These are the Public Works, Public Accounts and Subordinate Legislation Committees. The Members of these Committees are drawn from both Houses of the Parliament.

Joint House Sessional Committees are appointed to administer services relating to Parliament House and grounds and the Parliamentary Library.

The Library provides a research and information service to Members and Officers of the Parliament.

A Select Committee on Printing is appointed by the House when required.

In keeping with the traditional role of the Legislative Council as a House of Review, Select Committees are periodically established to inquire into matters of public importance. Select Committees are ideal vehicles for objective inquiries into these matters and, in some cases, for gaining further information relating to Legislation before the House.

A Committee is always required to make its report to the Council and until it does so, the report is strictly confidential. Its Terms of Reference are contained in the resolution appointing it. Under Standing Orders it has powers to send for persons, papers and records.

In addition to the individual Legislative Council Select and Standing Committees, there is one committee known as the ‘Committee of the Whole’, in which all Members can take part. This committee looks at every piece of legislation which comes before the Council and examines each part of it. It is presided over by the Chair of Committees.

During this time Members may speak three times on each clause of a Bill if they feel it necessary in a debate, which is a little less formal than some other procedures.

All Legislative Council debates including Committees of the Whole are open to the media and the public.

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Attendants in the Legislative Council

The Legislative Council Attendants prepare the Chamber for each sitting day. The daily Order of Business (Notice Paper) and all Bills and Papers which are necessary during a day’s sitting are distributed to Members in the Chamber.

If a Division is called in the Chamber, the Attendants open all the doors leading into the Chamber while the Division Bells ring. After the Division Bells have stopped ringing, and at a command from the President, they lock all the doors to prevent anyone leaving or entering the Chamber. The Attendants re-open the doors once the Division and the counting of votes is finalised.

Outside the Chamber, Attendants perform general messenger and other duties as well as assisting the Usher of the Black Rod with the maintenance of order within the Council precinct which also involves a security function.

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The Parliamentary Reporting Service is responsible for the recording and the timely production of transcripts of Parliamentary speeches, debates and questions. These reports are printed in a publication known as Hansard, which is available to the public by visiting the Parliament’s website at Http://

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Further Information

Further information can be obtained by contacting the Legislative Council on
telephone (03) 6212 2300.

Information about the progress of Bills through the Tasmanian Parliament can be obtained through the Bills and Papers Office on telephone (03) 6212 2310.

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Physical Tours

Tours of Parliament House, including the Legislative Council are held on non- sitting days at 10.00 a.m. and 2.00 p.m.

Additional information can be obtained by visiting the Parliament’s Website at

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