Opening of Parliament Ceremony

Uploaded by parliamentofvictoria on 22.07.2010

RAY WRIGHT: The Opening of Parliament ceremony is when the Governor comes to the Legislative
Council to give a speech which outlines the government’s policies for the forthcoming
parliament. It’s a statement of how the government intends to enact the policies upon
which it was elected.
The procedure is very interesting. The procedure is that the Governor requests that members
of the Legislative Assembly come from the Lower House to the Upper House to hear the
speech, and the officer who is sent down to do that job to bring them up is the Usher
of the Black Rod. So an instruction is given to the Usher and the Usher marches down to
the Legislative Assembly Chamber and he finds the doors barred. Now the reason he finds
the doors barred is that way back in 1642, King Charles I, during the middle of the English
civil war went to the House of Commons to arrest five members for treason. He was accompanied
by some 400 soldiers by all accounts. So he marched into the House of Commons, saw that
the members weren’t there and asked the Speaker where they were. When he asked the
Speaker where the five missing members were, the Speaker replied, that he only took his
instruction from the Parliament, he was their servant, he was not the King’s servant and
from that time no member of the royal household, no representative of the Crown (the Governor)
has entered a Lower House in the Westminster system, they always go to the Upper House.
So the Usher of the Black Rod finds the doors barred to his entry when he’s delivering
the message on the Opening of Parliament Ceremony as an assertion of the Assembly’s right
to make up their own mind about things, so the Black Rod finally is permitted to enter
the chamber. He gives the message, he goes back and then it takes a little while for
the members of the Assembly to come to the Upper House because again the Assembly is
asserting its right to be independent and do things its own way. So it’s a very old
tradition. And yet here we are, the ceremony in Victoria for example starts with a ‘Welcome
to Country’ ceremony in which Aboriginal elders meet the Governor and welcome him to
the area which has been their traditional tribal areas. So we have this interesting
grafting, on the one hand we’ve got a reference back to the 1642 and on the other hand we’ve
got a reference back still earlier back to Aboriginal occupancy of this land. So it’s
an interesting mixture of, if you like the old and the very old.