House of Assembly

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House of Assembly
57th Parliament of New Ingerland
Type
Lower house of Parliament of New Ingerland
Leadership
Speaker      Helen Carter-Jones, (IND)
since 8 April 2012
Leader      Sebastian Vincent, (DEM)
since 13 March 2012
Structure
Seats 128
Structure of the 57th Parliament
Political groups
Length of term 4 years
Authority Chapter IV of the Constitution
Salary £50/day + per diem
Elections
Plurality by electoral district
Last election 5 March 2016
Next election 7 March 2020
Meeting place
Debating chamber of the House of Assembly
Parliament House
Kingsbury, CENT

The House of Assembly is the lower legislative chamber, which along with the Sovereign and the Senate, constitutes the Parliament of New Ingerland. Established by an amendment to the Constitution in 1854, the Assembly is a democratically elected body consisting of 128 members, who are known as Members of the House of Assembly or MHAs.

Members are elected by the plurality voting system, holding office until the Assembly is dissolved (terms are presently set at a maximum of four years, although the Constitution allows for terms of up to five years[1]). These members are elected from constituencies known as electoral districts. The House of Assembly is where most members of the Cabinet are drawn[2], and the chamber also provides the Prime Minister, who is leader of the largest party in the Assembly.

Function and powers

The principal function of the House of Assembly is to pass primary legislation in the form of an Act of Parliament. Any Member of the Assembly may introduce a bill before the Assembly, but in practice the majority of bills are introduced by government ministers. Bills introduced by other Members are called private members' bills, and owing to the large number of opposition members, this means that parliament must set aside about a third of debating time to these bills. All bills must be passed by the House of Assembly and Senate before they can become law.

The Assembly also performs other functions besides legislation. It can discuss urgency motions or matters of public importance and provides a forum for debates on public policy matters. Members can move motions of censure against the government or against individual ministers. On some sitting days there is a session called Questions Without Notice at which members address questions to ministers. On the other two days, members may pose questions only to the Prime Minister. Members can also present petitions from their constituents. The Assembly has an extensive system of committees in which draft bills are debated, evidence is taken and public servants are questioned.

Membership and qualifications

The House of Assembly consists of 128 members elected from single-member constituencies known as electoral districts, each of which are of approximately equal population. Over time, the size House of Assembly has been changed to deal with population movements and adjustments to the structure and election of the Parliament. Additionally, the quota of electors per seat has also increased to moderate the number of seats in the House of Assembly. The Assembly is presided over by the Speaker of the House, currently Helen Carter-Jones.

Most members belong to political parties, and the party with the largest number of seats has the right to form a government. The current government, elected in the recent general election, controls a majority of seats in the House of Assembly. Matters of supply and confidence must always be guaranteed by a majority of MHA's before the King can appoint a government, which was met in this case by the election of a majority government under Matthew Jones.

Qualifications

According to §59 of the Constitution[3], a person shall be qualified to be elected as a Member of the House of Assembly if he meets the following criteria:

  • Be an enrolled voter;
  • Must have been resident in New Ingerland for at least three years;
  • Must be natural-born subject, or have been naturalised as a subject at least five years previously;
  • Is a person of integrity, good character, and reputation; and
  • Has not been disqualified from being a Member of the House of Assembly under the provisions of §60 of the Constitution.

Under the provisions of §60 of the Constitution[4], a person is disqualified from sitting as a Member of the Assembly if he:

  • Is a subject of a foreign power[5];
  • Has been found guilty of treason, or any other offence where the punishment exceeds one year in gaol;
  • Is an undischarged bankrupt or insolvent;
  • Holds an office of profit under the Crown; or
  • Has any direct or indirect pecuniary interest in any agreement with a government entity.

Current composition

The House of Assembly is currently composed of members from the following political parties:

Party Seats
  Democratic Party 68
  National Party 51
  Social Democratic Labour Party 4
  Independents 5

Oath

All Members are required to the oath of allegiance before they can assume their seats in the chamber. The present oath, as outlined in the First Schedule of the Constitution reads:

I, [AB], do swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to His Majesty King Geoffrey VII, his heirs and successors, according to law.

Number of members

In 1854, the first Assembly consisted of 50 members, with either one or two MHAs drawn from each electoral district. In 1880, the Assembly was increased to 59 Members, with Parliament empowered to increase or decrease the size of the Assembly at will and seemingly without limit. Over the years changes in representation and redistributions led to a gradual increase in the size of the Assembly, until 1906 when it stood at 79 Members. There were then two additional increases in size; the first increase, to 100 members, occurred in 1907. In 1952 the number of Members was increased again to 116.

With the adoption of the current constitution in 1982 the membership of the Assembly was increased to 128 Members. The cause of this final increase can be attributed to the provisions of §46(3) of the Constitution of New Ingerland, which states that the maximum allowable quota for each electoral district is one MHA for every twenty thousand electors, whilst the minimum stands at one for every five thousand[6]. In the current Parliament there is one MHA for every 7,140 electors, a number that is lower than many other national parliament ratios.

Layout

The House of Assembly chamber has confrontational benches that seat about two-thirds of the chamber, however the end of the chamber is curved to create a partial hemicycle, a seating layout that is typical for most legislative chambers in Australia and New Zealand. As per the Westminster tradition, government MHAs sit on the Speaker's right, with the main opposition party on his left.

Political leadership

Leader of the House of Assembly

The MHA responsible for arranging government's business and legislative agenda in the Assembly, the Leader of The House of Assembly is senior to all Members of the Assembly except the Speaker and the Prime Minister. The primary duties of the Leader are to manage the schedule of the Assembly, and where required, negotiate the passage of legislation with the one or more of the opposition parties. The office of Leader is typically combined with the posts of Deputy Prime Minister and Vice-President of the Executive Council, thereby enabling the Leader to sit in the Cabinet of New Ingerland. The current Leader of the House of Assembly is The Rt Hon. Sebastian Vincent MHA.

Leader of the Opposition

The leader of the largest non-governing party, the Opposition Leader is essentially the shadow Prime Minister and proposes alternative policies to the government of the day in the hope that they will be taken up by the government, or perceived as attractive by electors. The position is officially recognised as an important office, and the holder is entitled to many privileges not normally enjoyed by a person outside the Cabinet. The current opposition leader is The Rt Hon. Kristine Dawkins MHA from the National Party.

Officers

Speaker of the House of Assembly

The chairman of the Assembly, the Speaker is elected at the commencement of a new parliamentary term, or when a vacancy arises. The Assembly must elect a Speaker before it proceeds with any other business. The Speaker is assisted by a Deputy Speaker, who is also the Chairman of the Assembly in Committee. The current Speaker of the House of Assembly is the Rt Hon. Helen Carter-Jones.

Clerk of the House of Assembly

On the floor of the Assembly, the Speaker is aided by the Clerk of the House of Assembly, who along with his deputy, advises the Speaker on the privileges and standing orders of the Assembly. The Clerk keeps time during a debate in the Assembly and informs the Speaker when a Members time has expired. The Clerk maintains much of the day-to-day operations of the Assembly, including recruitment of staff, financial matters, information technology and facilities management.

Serjeant-at-Arms

The Speaker is also aided by the Serjeant-at-Arms, who is charged with the maintenance of order on the floor of the Assembly and is also responsible for care of the Mace of the House of Assembly. While the physical security of the House of Assembly is the responsibility of the Speaker, the enforcement of this power is largely delegated to the Serjeant-at-Arms. Neither the local Centralia Police, or the Royal New Ingerland Constabulary are permitted to enter the parliamentary complex unless invited to do so by either the Serjeant-at-Arms or the Usher of the Black Rod.

Committees

The Assembly committee structure serves a variety of purposes. Committees consider bills in detail, and may make amendments. Other committees scrutinise various government agencies and ministries and hold their actions to account.

See also

References and notes

  1. Constitution of New Ingerland (1982). §47(2)
  2. According to the unwritten convention in existence since at least 1900, one-quarter of the Cabinet of New Ingerland should be drawn from amongst the members of the Senate.
  3. Constitution §59
  4. Constitution §60
  5. there is no recognition of dual citizenship in New Ingerland, and any New Ingerland who takes citizenship of another country automatically loses his New Ingerland citizenship
  6. Constitution §46(3)