Members usually vote with their Party, agreeing with the Party position on all issues. However, a conscience vote is allowed in Parliament on some social issues, like gambling, prostitution and abortion. In these cases the Members are not bound by their party decisions and may vote according to their own personal beliefs or conscience.
In Parliament, a decision on any question is obtained in the first instance by the majority of voices 'Aye' or 'No'. It is the task of the Presiding Officer (Speaker, President, or Chairman of Committees) to judge from the voices which side has the majority. If their opinion is challenged by the minority, the House must divide so that the exact numbers voting on each side of the question may be ascertained. Voting by proxy is not allowed in Parliament but a similar effect is achieved through the practice known as 'pairs'.
A division is called for by those considered to be in the minority calling out 'Divide'. The Presiding Officer directs 'Ring the bells'. The division bells are set ringing throughout the building, and the three minute sand glass is turned by the Clerk. The two Houses have distinct bells so there is no confusion as to whether a division is being called in the Legislative Council or House of Assembly.
When the sands have run out, the Presiding Officer orders the Chamber doors to be locked and the Bar is drawn. No Member can be admitted to or leave the Chamber now until the division is completed. The Presiding Officer repeats the question to inform those who were not in the Chamber when the question was first put, of the matter upon which the division is taking place.
The Presiding officer directs the 'Ayes' to proceed to the right of the Chair and the 'Noes' to the left and appoints one teller for each side. The tellers advance to the Table and call out the names of the Members voting on their respective sides to officers of the House who mark the names on division lists. The number of Members on each side is compared with the number of names marked on the division lists to ensure that the numbers correspond. The Clerk then hands the division lists to the Presiding Officer, who announces the voting figures and the majority and declares the decision of the House accordingly. In the event of the voting being equal, the Presiding Officer exercises a casting vote.
This procedure enables a Member to be absent (e.g. through illness or on official business) and to arrange with a Member of an opposing party to be absent from divisions at the same time. By this mutual agreement a vote is neutralised on each side of a question and the relative numbers in the division are the same as if both Members were present. The arrangement of pairs is left in the hands of the 'Party Whips'.
The Whip plays an administrative role within a political party. The organisation of Pairs is done by the party Whips and they also function during a Division when they tally the numbers voting in each side of the House.