The meetings and sittings of the Parliament of South Australia are carried out according to traditional procedures handed down from the British Westminster System. From the Opening of a Session of Parliament to the Opening of Daily Sittings, tradition and ceremony dictate what occurs.
It is a Constitutional requirement that at least one session of Parliament is held every year. This is also a practical necessity as the large sums of money necessary to carry on Government services are subject to annual Parliamentary approval.
The usual sitting days of each House are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in a period of approximately twenty-five weeks spread throughout the year. The House of Assembly usually sits from 2 pm to 6 pm and from 7.30 pm until the adjournment at about 10.30 pm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays or later if the business needs to continue. This sometimes will include an all-night sitting. On Thursdays the House of Assembly usually sits from 10.30 am to the adjournment at about 6 pm.
The Legislative Council usually sits from 2.15 pm until adjournment which could be as late as midnight on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
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The Opening of a session of Parliament is an occasion of traditional ceremony and the galleries are thronged with guests to witness the meeting of the 'Trinity of Parliament' - the Crown's Representative (the governor), the Legislative Council and the House of Assembly.
The Governor opens a session of Parliament by reading, in the Legislative Council Chamber, a Speech that sets out policies the Government intends to pursue and the legislation proposed to be introduced during the session. In this duty, the Governor acts as the spokesperson of the Ministers, and they are largely responsible for the contents of the Speech.
A short "Address in Reply" to this Speech is drawn up in each House, and becomes the subject of a general debate which usually lasts several days. This provides an excellent opportunity to support or criticise the policy of the Government without the usual restrictive rules applying to other debates. After each Address is agreed to by each House it is presented to the Governor by the President.
On 23 March 1954, Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, opened a special session of the Parliament of South Australia. This was the first occasion on which the reigning Monarch had performed this function, and therefore a day of singular significance in the State's constitutional history.
In each House, proceedings start by the Presiding Officer reading prayers. A message from the Governor may be received advising of Royal Assent to a Bill. The Clerk of each House then presents petitions that have been lodged by Members on behalf of their constituents. The Presiding Officer informs the House if written answers to questions have been received and then calls for any notices of motion which Members may wish to place on the Notice Paper for further debate.
Ministers may also give notices of motion or make Ministerial statements, and Parliamentary Papers are laid on the Table of the House by Ministers, Presiding Officers, or Members representing Parliamentary Committees. These Papers include reports of Government departments and boards, Royal Commissions and Parliamentary Committees, financial papers and all legislation made under the authority of an Act of the Parliament.
All papers laid upon the Table become public documents, and may be examined by Members, the press and the public. The more important papers tabled are ordered to be printed and are incorporated in the annual volume of Parliamentary Papers, commonly called the "Blue Book".