About Parliament

Who does what?

Where does the Prime Minister sit?

How often do members meet?

Three Levels of Government in Australia includes the Federal Parliament where the Prime Minister is the head of Government. The State Parliament where the Premier is the head of Government and Local Government where a Mayor and Councillors represent the people in their ward

The Prime Minister is a member of the Federal Parliament which meets in Canberra and is the leader of the Australian Federal Government. The Leader of the State Government which meets at Parliament House is the Premier.

Parliament sits on a Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Generally from 2pm (Legislative Assembly) or 3pm (Legislative Council) until late on a Tuesday, from 12pm or 1pm until about 8pm on a Wednesday or 9am or 10AM until 5pm on a Thursday.

Who is the Parliament of Western Australia

What is the Mace used for?

Are there set times for members to speak in the Chamber?

The Parliament in Western Australia is made up of the Governor (who is not resident in Parliament House), the 95 elected politicians (36 Legislative Council members and 59 Legislative Assembly members) and the official staff of each House which includes the Clerks, Officers and attendants.

The Mace is the symbol of the authority of the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly. It is shaped like a weapon and comes from the time when the Speakers of the House of Commons in London were often the victims of attacks as they made their journey to the King to inform the King about the changes the House of Commons wanted. During the time of the earliest Westminster Parliaments from 1295 many Speakers were attacked by those objecting to change and it is believed seven Speakers were murdered or executed on the orders of the King. The role of Sergeant at Arms was developed to protect the Speaker and he would carry a weapon called a mace. Today it is a symbol of the power of the Speaker and the need to protect the Speaker’s authority.
Most speeches by members are subject to time limits. Digital clocks above the doors on each side of the chamber count down the amount of speaking time remaining.

The longest continuous speech was for 7 hours and given by Hon Ken Travers 27 June 2013 in a second reading speech on the Duties Legislation Amendment Bill 2013 in the Legislative Council.

What is the sand-glass used for?

Who sits at the Table in front of the Speakers and Presidents chair?

Who sits at the table in front of the Clerk's chair?

When a division is called, i.e. a physical count of members voting for or against a motion, bells are rung and members not present in the chamber are allowed two minutes to return for the count. The sand-glass measures the two minutes.

For the most part, the people who sit at this table are referred to collectively as The Clerks-at-the-Table. They include the Clerk of the House, the Deputy Clerk and Clerk Assistants. They are non-elected officials who advise on procedural matters and are responsible for administrative matters in the House. However, during the consideration in detail stage of a bill, the Speaker, Deputy Speaker, or an Acting Speaker presides over proceedings from the centre seat at this table.
The people who sit at this table are government officers and are invited by the minister responsible for the bill that is being debated. They are approved to attend Parliament by the Speaker or chair and the chamber. They are not elected members of parliament and are there to answer technical and legal questions that are put to the Minister responsible for the legislation before the house.

Why is the Queens Coat of Arms in the Chamber and not the Western Australian Coat of Arms?

Why are the Chambers Blue and Red?

Why are the Chambers called the Upper and Lower Houses?

When Parliament House was first designed in the late 1890's Western Australia was a British Colony and did not have a separate Coat of Arms.

Actually the Chambers should be Green and Red. Green for the House of Commons signifying the colour of the place where the people meet: a field, paddock or common ground. Red for the House of Lords because red is the colour of nobility. One theory of why the WA Legislative Assembly is blue is because when it was built in 1904 the budget over run was so big that there was no money for new green furnishings and so old blue furnishings from the original Legislative Council were brought out of storage. It was meant to be a temporary situation but has become permanent.
One theory is that the Lower House is so called because most Bills begin in the Lower House because only the Lower House can authorise the spending of money. A Bill that begins in the Lower House must then be submitted to the Upper House for consideration. It is said to go “up” to the Upper House.

Another theory is that the Lower House is said to be the House of the lower classes and the Upper House is said to be the House of the upper classes.

What is the Black Rod?
Black Rod

Where is the Chandelier in the Forrest Foyer from?

Where do the Lion and the Unicorn in the Lee-Steere Foyer come from?

The Black Rod is the symbol of the authority of the Sovereign in the Upper House, the Legislative Council. It dates from the reign of King Edward III in 1350 and symbolises the authority of the Sovereign in his or her absence. It is carried by the Usher of the Black Rod and is on display in the Legislative Council when the House is sitting and is also used in the ceremonial opening of the Parliament after an election.

Our present Black Rod dates from 1954 and was a gift to the WA Parliament from a member of the WA Legislative Council to celebrate the arrival of Queen Elizabeth II as the first reigning Sovereign to arrive on Australian soil. It replaced the former Black Rod that was a snooker cue that was painted black and had broken in half

The chandelier is made from Austrian lead crystal and was brought to Western Australia in the 1850’s from London by a former Auditor General William Knight and was placed in his home at the base of Mount Street in Perth. The house was demolished in the 1960’s to make way for the Mitchell Freeway and the chandelier was then brought to the Parliament and placed in the Forrest Foyer after the western wing of the Parliament was completed in 1964.

The Lion and the Unicorn in the Lee-Steere Foyer were a gift from the Westminster Parliament in 1935. They adorned the outer eastern wall of the Parliament for over 80 years and in 2015 were put on permanent display in the Lee-Steere Foyer to save them from further erosion caused by extreme weather. Replicas have now taken their place on the eastern wall. The Foyer is named after the first Speaker of the WA Parliament Sir James Lee-Steere.

What does the Western Australian Crest of the Legislative Council signify?
Why are there four swans on the floor of the Legislative Assembly?

What is the story of the Swan on the floor in the Forrest Foyer?

The crest featuring the Coat of Arms of the Sovereign and the black swan of Western Australia is the Crest of the WA Legislative Council and dates from the establishment of the Council in 1832. It is the Coat of Arms of King William 1V (1830-1837) who was King at the time of the establishment of the Council in 1832.

There are four swans on the floor of the WA Legislative Assembly so that the symbol of Western Australia can be seen from any angle.

The swan on the floor of the Forrest Foyer is made from the local timbers Jarrah, Marri, Wandoo and Blackbutt symbolising the timber industry as the first industry in WA after the arrival of European settlers in 1829. The pearling industry is represented by the Mother of Pearl in the tail feathers and on the beak. The beak is made from banded ironstone and the eye is made from the semi -precious stone Agate. The centre of the eye is iron ore representing the mining industry.

The black swan is the symbol of Western Australia. Although black swans are found all over southern Australia, it is believed it was on the Swan River in Perth around 1690 that Dutch explorers became the first Europeans to see a black swan.

Who are the people in the Owen Garde painting?

Who was the sculptor of Sir John Forrest and Sir James Lee-Steere busts?

How much do Members of Parliament get paid?

Commissioned in 1981 by the Parliament of WA to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the Legislative Council in 1982, the painting, by the artist Owen Garde, is a reimagining of the meeting on 7 February 1832 of the first Legislative Council in Western Australia. It features the Governor Sir James Stirling and the four men he appointed to help him administer the Swan River Colony. From the left they are:

Colonial Secretary, Peter Broun, Advocate General, William Mackie, Commander of His Majesty’s Land Forces, Captain Frederick Irwin, Surveyor General, Mr John Septimus Roe, His Excellency Governor James Stirling and the Clerk of the Council, Commander Mark Currie.

The bust of Western Australia’s first Premier Sir John Forrest and the bust of Western Australia’s first Speaker, Sir James Lee-Steere, were created by the Italian born sculptor Pietro Giacomo Porcelli (1872-1943). Porcelli arrived in Sydney with his family as an eight year old and went on to study at the New South Wales Academy of Art and then later at the Royal Academy of Naples. Porcelli returned to Sydney in the 1890’s in the midst of an economic depression and decided to try his luck in Western Australia which was benefiting from the discovery of gold in Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie. He went on to work on sculptures of Alexander Forrest, C.Y. O’Connor and also many war memorials. His work led him to Victoria where he again worked on many memorials but in 1936 he returned to Western Australia with his marriage now ended and in declining health after suffering injuries caused by two motor vehicle accidents. Porcelli died in Fremantle in 1943 a poor and lonely man.
Members pays are determined by an independent tribunal - the State Administrative Tribunal. This tribunal set the rate of pay for Judges, Head of Government Departments, Inspectors, Commissioners etc. This information is available from SAT's website.

Serving in the Parliament
Who has been the longest serving Member of Parliament?

Who was the first female member of the Western Australian Parliament?

Who was the first Aboriginal person elected to the Western Australian Parliament?

The Honourable John tonkin served in the Legislative Assembly for 43 years 10 months and 11 days from 1933 to 1977. By 1955 he was the Deputy Premier and from 1971 to 1974 he was Premier of Western Australia.

Edith Cowan was the first female member of an Australian parliament and only the second woman elected to a British Imperial Parliament. The distinction of being the nation's first woman parliamentarian has given Cowan much prominence, including representation on Australia’s $50 note.
The first Indigenous Australian elected to a lower house of any Australian parliament and cabinet minister was Ernie Bridge (ALP) in 1980.

Who was Western Australia's longest serving Premier?

Who was the youngest person elected to the Western Australian Parliament?

Family Dynasties

The longest serving Western Australian Premier was Sir David Brand who served for 11 years, 11 months and one day.

Edwin Wilkie Corboy: ‘baby of the House’ The youngest person elected to the Parliament of Western Australia was Edwin Wilkie Corboy. He was also the youngest Labor member elected to the WA Parliament when he won the seat of Yilgarn on 12 March 1921, aged 24 years.
Sir Charles Court and Richard Court were the first father and son premiers in Western Australia. Sir Charles was premier for nearly eight years whilst Richard Court for eight years.

Parliament of Western Australia
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