Alternative History
Advertisement

The State Opening of Congress is an event which formally marks the beginning of a session of the Cygnian Congress. It includes the President of Cygnia's State of the Union Address. The State Opening is an elaborate ceremony showcasing Cygnian culture and contemporary politics to large crowds and television viewers.

The State Opening of Congress takes place in the Senate chamber on the first day of every session in front of both Houses of Congress. The President delivers a speech intended to relay to congressmen the priorities and expectations of Cygnians in relation to certain non-partisan issues, as well as the legislative agenda of the government. Since 1977 it has become increasingly common for Congress to sit continually without prorogation from its election to its dissolution. As a result, the State Opening has—erroneously—become a tradition associated with the beginning of a new congressional term.

Sequence of events

Welcome to Country

On the day of the State Opening, some time before the scheduled summons of the Congress, Members and Senators gather in the Great Hall at Federation Hall for the Welcome to Country, a ceremony performed by the local Aboriginal elders—in this case, those of the Whadjuk Noongar people—to welcome the Members and Senators to the land. This traditionally involves a musical and dance performance, a speech from a Whadjuk elder and responses from both the Chancellor and Leader of the Opposition, and finally a smoking ceremony held outside under the Great Verandah.

Assembly of Senators and Representatives

Senator Anne Ruston (N-AU) signs the member's roll upon being sworn in for her second term at the opening of the 59th Congress in 2021

Members and Senators assemble in their respective chambers at the appointed time in the summons proclamation issued by the President, usually sometime between 10:30 and 11:00 am. The Speakers of the House and the Senate administer oaths or affirmations of office to incoming or re-elected members. If the Speakership in either House is vacant, as may be the case following a general election or the resignation of a presiding officer, the President will appoint Deputies beforehand (usually the Chief Justice or a Justice of the Supreme Court) to swear in new members and thereafter to facilitate the election of a new presiding officer.

Arrival of the President

The president arrives from Mandurah Palace at Federation Hall in their official state car, sometimes accompanied by their family or other companions, entering through the main entrance. Upon arrival at Federation Hall, the President is greeted by the Federation Guard. After the President inspects the Guard, they, if new presiding officers have been elected, immediately proceed to the Members' Hall, while other members of the presidential party are escorted to the official gallery in the Senate chamber. Throughout the President's presence at Federation Hall, the presidential standard is hoisted upon the flagpole above the Great Verandah. At the Members' Hall, the new Speakers present themselves to the President, who then awards them their commission. After receiving the Speakers, or, if there is no such reception to be held, immediately after inspection of the Guard, the President proceeds to the main entrance of the Senate, escorted by the Usher of the Black Rod and a member of the Federation Guard.

Before the president enters the Senate chamber, the Usher of the Black Rod announces the arrival of the president:

Mr/Madam Speaker, His/Her Excellency the President of the United Cygnian States approaches the Senate.

The president then enters, accompanied by the Justices of the Supreme Court, as well as senior members of the Diplomatic Corps. The presidential party are seated in the Senate gallery. Upon the President reaching the Presidential Chair at the head of the chamber, the Speaker vacates their own chair directly in front of it and the President takes their seat. The Speaker sits on a chair placed at the President's right. The President then instructs the Senate by saying, "Honourable Senators, please be seated."

Presidential summons of the House to the Senate chamber

Once the President and Senators are seated, the President addresses the Usher of the Black Rod, who is charged with summoning the House of Representatives:

Black Rod, please let the Members of the House of Representatives know that I desire their attendance in the Senate.

Black Rod then proceeds to the Members' Lobby of the House of Representatives, and enters the House chamber. Before Black Rod arrives, the doors to the House chamber are closed, and Black Rod taps the bottom of their mace against the door three times. The Sergeant-at-Arms answers the door, whereupon they relay Black Rod's request for entry to the Speaker, who then gives the order to admit Black Rod. After entering, Black Rod bows to the Speaker before announcing the request of the President for the attendance of the House, in the following words:

Mr/Madam Speaker, His/Her Excellency the President of the United Cygnian States desires the attendance of Honourable Members in the Senate.

The House then rises to make their way to the Senate chamber.

Procession of the Representatives

The Speaker of the House proceeds to attend the summons at once. The Sergeant-at-Arms picks up the ceremonial mace and, with the Speaker and Black Rod, leads the Members of the House of Representatives as they walk, in pairs, towards the Senate. By custom, the members saunter, with much discussion and joking, rather than formally process. The Chancellor and the Leader of the Opposition, followed by the Vice Chancellor and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition usually walk side by side, leading the two lines of MCs. The Representatives then arrive in the Senate and sit down with the Senators.

Delivery of the speech

President Quentin Bryce delivers the State of the Union Address at the Opening of the 57th Congress in 2013. Then-Speaker of the Senate, John Hogg, sits to the President's right.

The President delivers a speech, known as the "State of the Union Address", relaying to congressmen the priorities and expectations of Cygnians in relation to the non-partisan issues. A section of the speech also contains the legislative agenda of the government, which is written by the Cabinet.

Departure of the President

Following the speech, the President rises and bows to both sides of the Senate before leaving the chamber. The Members of the House of Representatives then return to their Chamber. Thereafter, both Speakers suspend the proceedings of their respective chambers and members rise to join the President in the Members' Hall for a traditional afternoon tea, which concludes the State Opening.

Significance

The State Opening of Congress is a ceremony loaded with symbolic significance for the governance of Cygnia. In one place are assembled the members of all three branches of government: the Congress constitutes the legislature; the president and the Cabinet (who are members of one or other House) constitute the executive; the Supreme Court are summoned to represent the judiciary. Therefore, the State Opening demonstrates not only the governance of Cygnia but also the separation of powers. The importance of international relations is also represented through the presence in the Chamber of the Diplomatic Corps.

Advertisement