Papua New Guinea (PNG) Parliament is a single chamber legislature (law-making body) consisting of 89 Members elected from Open electorates and 22 Governors elected from Provincial electorates. The total 111 Members are directly voted into office by citizens over 18 years of age and represent Papua New Guinea provinces and districts. After an election, the political party with the most seats is invited by the Governor General to form Government. Since Independence all Governments have been formed by a coalition of Parties because no Party has won enough Seats to form Government alone. The National Constitution gives the legislative (law-making) power of the people to Parliament. The PNG Constitution also declares that the maximum term of a Parliament is five years.
Our Parliament was first created in 1964 as the House of Assembly of Papua and New Guinea and became the National Parliament of Papua New Guinea in 1975 when Independence was granted. The House of Assembly building was located in downtown Port Moresby and had previously been used as a hospital. The new Parliament building was officially opened by His Royal Highness, Prince Charles, on 8th August 1984. The old House of Assembly building has been demolished and a Political History museum/library is being built as part of the redevelopment of the site.
Parliament House is an iconic building in Papua New Guinea and a building that we can all be very proud of. It is open to the public on week days (except for public holidays) and Parliamentary staff are available to do guided tours for groups of visitors. If you live in Port Moresby or are a visitor to Port Moresby make sure that you visit our Parliament – it is certainly worth the effort.
The Chambers of Parliament is the main meeting room where the formal decisions of Parliament are made. The Chambers has two main sections -
The focal point of the Chambers in the centre is the Speaker’s Chair. The Speaker’s Chair represents the highest authority of Parliament and must always be respected. If a Member walks in front of the Speaker’s Chair, he or she should bow to show respect for the authority of “the Chair”.
On the right of the Speaker are the Government benches and on the left are the Opposition benches. The Ministers of Government and Shadow Ministers of the Opposition are seated in the front benches. All other Members are seated in the rows behind and are called “Backbenchers”. Our Parliament has individual chairs for Members not benches like in many Parliaments but we still use the traditional language of Parliament.
In front of the Speaker’s Chair is the table for the Clerk of Parliament who advises the Speaker when necessary and other high level Parliamentary staff who administer the procedures on the Floor of Parliament.
In front of that table is the table where Ministers and Members sit if they are presenting Bills (draft laws) to Parliament for Parliament to debate.
The rules about how the proceedings of a Session of Parliament are conducted and about proper behavior by Members when in the Chambers of Parliament are in the Standing Orders of National Parliament.
Our Parliament has a large public Gallery (much larger than many Parliaments). Most days during sessions of Parliament, the Public Gallery is full – groups of school children, women’s groups, and ordinary citizens are interested to watch the procedures and debates in the Chambers.
Directly opposite the Speaker’s Chair is the Speaker’s Gallery for his invited guests, Members of the Diplomatic Corps and foreign dignitaries. Another small section of the public Gallery is reserved for the media but most space is for the general public. When the public enter the Gallery they should first face the Speaker’s Chair and bow to the Chair as a sign of respect for the authority of Parliament.
The Standing Orders of National Parliament do not specifically include the rules of behavior for the people in the Gallery. However, the public must not participate in any way with what is happening on the Floor in the Chambers. They should remain silent and cannot clap or interject. If people do not respect these unwritten rules, the Parliamentary staff will remove them from the public gallery.
The Parliamentary Crest (photo) shows a Bird of Paradise sitting on the Mace of Parliament. The Mace (photo) sits on the centre of the table in front of the Speaker. The Mace is carried into Parliament by the Sergeant at Arms in front of the Speaker when he enters the Chambers of Parliament at the beginning of the daily Sitting of parliament and is carried out again at the end of the daily Sitting. When the Mace is put in its place on the centre table in front of the Speaker, the Members cannot walk around unless they are leaving the Chambers and the the rules of the Standing Orders of National Parliament are enforced by the Speaker.
Our Parliament’s Mace was presented by the Australian Commonwealth Government at the opening of the First House of Assembly on 8th June 1964. It is made of silver heavily plated with pure gold. Encased within the head is a polished stone ball symbolic of a stone war club – a traditional weapon in many parts of Papua New Guinea. The ceremonial tradition of the Mace comes from the British Parliament.
Our Parliament is a magnificent building designed to reflect traditional architecture of Papua New Guinea and decorated with traditional carvings and artwork to remind us of the rich heritage of the hundreds of tribes that are now joined together as one people and one nation. It is truly a House to be proud of and a House of Parliament to be respected by all Members and all people. It is the home of the principles of democracy of our nation.
Copyright 2014 National Parliament of Papua New Guinea