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.

  • Statements by the Speaker
  • Petitions presented by members on behalf of their constituents
  • Citizen’s Right of Reply
  • Notification and tabling of papers by the Clerk
  • Ministerial Papers
  • Ministerial Notices of Motion
  • Ministerial Statements dealing with matters pertinent to ministers' portfolios
  • Any other Government Business
  • Personal explanations
  • Tabling of Reports
  • Notice of motion for disallowance of statutory instrument, and
  • Private Members’ Notice of Motion.

Condolence motions can also be conducted whereby members express their respects for a recently deceased parliamentarian or important dignitary.

These preliminaries are usually then followed by Question Time. This lasts for an hour and is an opportunity for the opposition and backbench members to scrutinise the government’s policies and activities.

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

The Sessional Orders can set aside time on a particular day when members are allowed to raise issues relating to 'Matters of Public Interest'. This usually lasts an hour and the Leader of the Opposition (or their nominee) may speak for a maximum of 10 minutes and all other members 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

Sessional Orders can set aside time for the debate of a private member’s motion. A member will give the House notice of the motion during preliminary business on the day the matter is to be debated. The House will then vote on the particular matter.

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.