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A Day in the Life of the Queensland Parliament

The House assembles

Prior to the House assembling, all members receive a copy of the Notice Paper which lists the items of business for that day's sittings. However, during the day, alterations may be made to the sequence of business presented. Members are summoned to the Chamber by bells ringing throughout the parliamentary complex.

The Speaker is led into the Chamber by the Sergeant-at-Arms carrying the mace and before taking the Chair, opens the day's proceedings with a prayer. This tradition dates back to a period when the members at Westminster attended a church service prior to the parliamentary sitting. Because certain clerics harangued members during the sermon from the pulpit, the church service was replaced by the recital of prayers in the parliament.

Preliminary business

Each day, particular procedures occur during a preliminary business period. These include: messages from the Governor; matters of privilege (whereby members can call the House's attention to statements perceived to be breaches of privilege); statements by the Speaker; petitions to the parliament presented by members on behalf of their constituents; the tabling of Statutory Instruments by the Clerk; the tabling of papers by ministers such as annual reports; the presentation of Ministerial Statements dealing with matters pertinent to ministers' portfolios; personal explanations; Private Members' Motions to be debated between 6pm and 6.30pm each sitting day; Private Members' Bills; Private Members' Statements which allow Members to speak for two minutes on any subject; and at times, condolence motions whereby members may express their respects for a recently deceased parliamentarian or important dignitary.

Question Time

These preliminaries are followed by an hour set aside for question time which provides an opportunity for the opposition to scrutinise the government's policies and activities. At the same time, question time allows the government scope to promote its own programs as well as attack the opposition, via the asking of pre-arranged questions of ministers by the government's backbenchers. (These type of questions are known as 'Dorothy Dixers', named after a female American advice columnist, Dorothy Dix, because they elicit a prepared response.)

Questions can be presented in two formats - 'Without Notice' or 'On Notice'. The former now constitute the whole hour of question time and may contain an element of surprise, since the Government can only speculate on the types of questions without notice that an opposition member might ask. The latter are submitted on paper in the Chamber and are processed by the parliament's Table Office to appear on the next day's Notice Paper. Under the parliament's 'Sessional Orders', ministers are allowed up to 30 days in which to reply. The question and its answer are later published in the parliament's 'Record of Proceedings'.

Matters of Public Interest

On Tuesdays between 12 and 1pm, members are allowed to raise issues relating to 'Matters of Public Interest'. The Leader of the Opposition (or their nominee) may speak for a maximum of 10 minutes and all other speakers may speak for a maximum of five minutes.

Government Business

The major part of the parliamentary day involves 'Government Business'. In the majority of cases, this involves the debating of bills, or during financial proceedings, debates upon the government's appropriations and expenditures. Because the government controls the numbers in the House, legislation debates can be set aside or suspended for other Notices of Motion.

Private Members' Motion

On each sitting day between 6 and 6.30pm, members can debate the 'Private Members' Motion' that was previously moved in the 'Preliminary Business' period that morning. The mover of the motion and each speakers is allowed five minutes to contribute to this debate. A vote is usually taken at the end of the debate.

Adjournment Debate

When the House adjourns, the Standing Orders allow a 30 minute Adjournment Debate by members who, once again, are provided with an opportunity to scrutinise the Government's policies or discuss topics of public interest.