Opinion Number. 1403

Subject

SEAT OF GOVERNMENT PROCEDURE TO EFFECT TRANSFER OF SITTINGS OF PARLIAMENT FROM MELBOURNE TO CANBERRA

Key Legislation

CONSTITUTION ss 5, 125: SEAT OF GOVERNMENT ACT 1908 s 3: SEAT OF GOVERNMENT ACCEPTANCE ACT 1909 s 4

Date

Section 125 of the Constitution, after specifying the method by which the Seat of Government has to be determined, provides that the Parliament shall sit at Melbourne until it meets at the Seat of Government.

Section 3 of the Seat of Government Act 1908 provides that—

It is hereby determined that the Seat of Government of the Commonwealth shall be in the district of Yass–Canberra in the State of New South Wales.

Section 4 of the Seat of Government Acceptance Act 1909 provides that—

It is hereby declared and determined that the Seat of Government shall be in the Territory described in the Second Schedule to this Act.’ The territory is described in the Second Schedule.

The steps necessary to be taken in order that Parliament may meet on 9th May at the Seat of Government are the following:

On the last day of the Melbourne sitting, each House of the Parliament should carry Resolutions in substantially the following terms:

That the next sitting of this House take place at the building known as Parliament House, Canberra, in the Territory for the Seat of Government.

That the House at its rising adjourn until such hour on Monday, 9th May, 1927, as if fixed by the President/Speaker which shall be notified by the President/Speaker to each Senator/Member by telegram or letter.

Subsequently the hour agreed upon for the meeting should be notified by the President and the Speaker to the various Senators and Members.

I do not think any proclamation by the Governor-General is necessary, as the sitting at Canberra is to be merely a resumption of the session commenced in Melbourne. It is the practice when a proclamation is issued by the Governor-General calling Parliament together for not only the time but the place of meeting to be notified in the proclamation.

Section 5 of the Constitution provides, inter alia, that the Governor-General may appoint such times for holding the sessions of the Parliament as he thinks fit, but says nothing about the place of meeting. Although the Governor-General by his last proclamation summoned Parliament to meet in Melbourne on a date and at an hour specified in the proclamation, there would be nothing inconsistent with the proclamation for the two Houses of Parliament themselves to decide, after having met in accordance with the proclamation, to hold future meetings at some other place selected in accordance with the Constitution as the Seat of Government.

I am therefore of opinion that nothing further than the foregoing Resolutions, coupled with notifications by the President and the Speaker, is required in order to effect the transfer of the sittings of Parliament from Melbourne to Canberra.(1)

[Vol. 22, p. 834]

(1) See Commonwealth of Australia, Parliamentary Debates, Senate, 24 March 1927, p. 1035; House of Representatives, 24 March 1927, p. 1085

(2) This opinion is unsigned in the Opinion Book, but it is attributed to Sir Robert Garran.