New South Wales Legislative Council

Last updated

New South Wales Legislative Council
55th Parliament
Coat of Arms of New South Wales.svg
Type
Type
History
Founded1823
Leadership
John Ajaka, Liberal Party
since 21 February 2017
Structure
NSW Legislative Council (current composition).svg
Political groups
Government (17)

Opposition (14)

Crossbench (11)

Elections
Last election
23 March 2019
Next election
25 March 2023
Meeting place
The legislative council chamber of NSW.jpg
Legislative Council Chamber
Parliament House, Sydney,
New South Wales, Australia
Website
NSW Legislative Council

The New South Wales Legislative Council, often referred to as the upper house, is one of the two chambers of the parliament of the Australian state of New South Wales. The other is the Legislative Assembly. Both sit at Parliament House in the state capital, Sydney. It is normal for legislation to be first deliberated on and passed by the Legislative Assembly before being considered by the Legislative Council, which acts in the main as a house of review.

Parliament of New South Wales legislative body in the Australian state of New South Wales

The Parliament of New South Wales is a bicameral legislature in the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW), consisting of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, and the New South Wales Legislative Council. Each house is directly elected by the people of New South Wales at elections held approximately every four years. The Parliament derives its authority from the Queen of Australia, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, represented by the Governor of New South Wales, who chairs the Executive Council of New South Wales. The parliament shares law making powers with the Australian Federal Parliament. The New South Wales Parliament follows the Westminster parliamentary traditions of dress, Green–Red chamber colours and protocol.

New South Wales State of Australia

New South Wales is a state on the east coast of Australia. It borders Queensland to the north, Victoria to the south, and South Australia to the west. Its coast borders the Tasman Sea to the east. The Australian Capital Territory is an enclave within the state. New South Wales' state capital is Sydney, which is also Australia's most populous city. In September 2018, the population of New South Wales was over 8 million, making it Australia's most populous state. Just under two-thirds of the state's population, 5.1 million, live in the Greater Sydney area. Inhabitants of New South Wales are referred to as New South Welshmen.

New South Wales Legislative Assembly one of the two chambers of the Parliament of New South Wales

The New South Wales Legislative Assembly is the lower of the two houses of the Parliament of New South Wales, an Australian state. The upper house is the New South Wales Legislative Council. Both the Assembly and Council sit at Parliament House in the state capital, Sydney. The Assembly is presided over by the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly.

Contents

The Legislative Council has 42 members, elected by proportional representation in which the whole state is a single electorate. Members serve eight-year terms, which are staggered, with half the Council being elected every four years, roughly coinciding with elections to the Legislative Assembly.

Proportional representation (PR) characterizes electoral systems in which divisions in an electorate are reflected proportionately in the elected body --- each citizen voter being represented proportionately as by Evaluative Proportional Representation located in Section 5.5.5, or by each party being represented proportionately. If n% of the electorate support a particular political party as their favorite, then roughly n% of seats will be won by that party. The essence of such systems is that all votes contribute to the result - not just a plurality, or a bare majority. The most prevalent forms of proportional representation all require the use of multiple-member voting districts, as it is not possible to fill a single seat in a proportional manner. In fact, the implementations of PR that achieve the highest levels of proportionality tend to include districts with large numbers of seats.

Staggered elections are elections where only some of the places in an elected body are up for election at the same time. For example, United States Senators have a six-year term, but they are not all elected at the same time. Rather, elections are held every two years for one-third of Senate seats.

History

The parliament of New South Wales is Australia's oldest legislature. It had its beginnings when New South Wales was a British colony under the control of the Governor and was first established in 1823 [1] by the New South Wales Act. [2] A small, 5-member appointed Legislative Council began meeting on 24 August 1824 to advise the Governor on legislative matters. It grew to seven members in 1825, and between ten and fifteen in 1829. Under the Constitution Act 1843, the Legislative Council was expanded to 36 members, of which 12 were appointed by the Governor in the name of the Crown, and the remainder elected from among eligible landholders. [3] In 1851 the Council was enlarged to 54 members with 36 of its members elected by adult males who met certain property requirements and 18 appointed members. [4] In 1856, under a new Constitution, the Parliament became bicameral with a fully elected Legislative Assembly and a fully appointed Legislative Council with a Government taking over most of the legislative powers of the Governor. The right to vote was extended to all adult males in 1858. [5]

Governor of New South Wales vice-regal representative of the Australian monarch in New South Wales

The Governor of New South Wales is the viceregal representative of the Australian monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, in the state of New South Wales. In an analogous way to the Governor-General of Australia at the national level, the Governors of the Australian states perform constitutional and ceremonial functions at the state level. The governor is appointed by the queen on the advice of the premier of New South Wales, for an unfixed period of time—known as serving At Her Majesty's pleasure—though five years is the norm. The current governor is retired judge Margaret Beazley, who succeeded David Hurley on 2 May 2019.

First meeting of the NSW Legislative Council in Parliament House, 1843 (chamber now the Legislative Assembly). NSWLC 1843.jpg
First meeting of the NSW Legislative Council in Parliament House, 1843 (chamber now the Legislative Assembly).

On 22 May 1856, the newly constituted New South Wales Parliament opened and sat for the first time. With the new 54-member Legislative Assembly taking over the council chamber, a second meeting chamber for the 21-member upper house had to be added to the Parliament building in Macquarie Street. [1] In 1901, New South Wales became a sovereign state of the Commonwealth of Australia and many government functions were transferred to the new Commonwealth government. In 1902, women gained the right to vote and the current Constitution of New South Wales was adopted, [5] and in 1918, reforms permitted women to be members of parliament. [5]

In 1925, 1926 and 1929, Premier Jack Lang made attempts to abolish the Legislative Council, following the example of the Queensland Legislative Council in 1922, but all were unsuccessful. The debate did, however, result in another round of reforms, and in 1933, the law was changed so that a quarter of the Legislative Council was elected every three years by members of the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council, rather than being appointed by the Governor. In 1962 Indigenous Australians gained the right to vote in all state elections. In 1978, the Council became a directly elected body in a program of electoral reform introduced by the Wran Labor government. The number of members was reduced to 45, although transitional arrangements meant that there were 43 members from 1978 to 1981, and 44 from 1981 to 1984. Further reform in 1991 by the Greiner Liberal-National government saw the size of the Legislative Council cut to 42 members, with half being elected every 4 years. In 1991, the Legislative Assembly reduced from 109 to 99 Members and then to 93 members in 1999. [6]

Jack Lang (Australian politician) Australian politician and Premier of New South Wales

John Thomas Lang, usually referred to as J. T. Lang during his career and familiarly known as "Jack" and nicknamed "The Big Fella", was an Australian politician who twice served as the 23rd Premier of New South Wales from 1925 to 1927 and again from 1930 to 1932. He was dismissed by the Governor of New South Wales, Sir Philip Game, at the climax of the 1932 constitutional crisis and resoundingly lost the resulting election and subsequent elections as Leader of the Opposition. He later formed Lang Labor and was briefly a member of the Australian House of Representatives.

Queensland Legislative Council abolished chamber of the Parliament of Queensland

The Queensland Legislative Council was the upper house of the parliament in the Australian state of Queensland. It was a fully nominated body which first took office on 1 May 1860. It was abolished by the Constitution Amendment Act 1921, which took effect on 23 March 1922.

Neville Wran Australian politician and Premier of New South Wales

Neville Kenneth Wran, was an Australian politician who was the Premier of New South Wales from 1976 to 1986. He was the national president of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) from 1980 to 1986 and chairman of both the Lionel Murphy Foundation and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) from 1986 to 1991.

As with the federal parliament and other Australian states and territories, voting in the election to select members for the Council is compulsory for all New South Wales citizens over the age of 18. As the result of a 1995 referendum, every four years half the seats in the Council come up for election on the fourth Saturday in March, barring exceptional circumstances.

Referendums concerning the independence of judges and four-year parliamentary terms were put to New South Wales voters on 25 March 1995. The referendums coincided with that year's New South Wales general election. Both changes had the support of the major political parties and were approved by large majorities.

The Governor's Chair in the Legislative Council chamber Governor's Chair in the legislative council chamber of NSW.jpg
The Governor's Chair in the Legislative Council chamber

The Queen of Australia has a throne in the Legislative Council, and Queen Elizabeth II has opened the New South Wales Parliament on two occasions, on 4 February 1954, as part of her first visit to Australia, which was also the first occasion in which the monarch of Australia had opened a session of any Australian parliament. The other occasion was on 20 February 1992, during her visit to Sydney to celebrate the sesquicentenary of the incorporation of the City of Sydney, on which occasion she stated:

Presidency of the Legislative Council

From 1846 to 1856 the title of the presiding officer was Speaker of the Legislative Council, and after that date it has been President of the Legislative Council.

Chamber

The Legislative Council chamber is a prefabricated cast-iron building, intended as an "iron store and dwelling with ornamental front", which had been manufactured in Scotland and shipped to Victoria. In 1856, when plans for a new chamber for the Legislative Council were not ready in time, this building was purchased and shipped to Sydney, where it was erected as an extension to Parliament House. The Legislative Council chamber is furnished in red, which follows the British tradition for the upper house. [8]

Composition and powers

Proportional representation, with the whole state as a single electorate, means that the quota for election is small. This almost guarantees the representation of minor parties in the Legislative Council, including micro-parties that might attract less than 2% of the primary vote but are elected through preferences.

In the 1999 elections, a record number of parties contested seats in the Council, resulting in an unwieldy ballot paper (referred to as the "table cloth" ballot paper), and a complex exchange of preferences between the numerous parties running candidates. As a result, party registration requirements have since been made more restrictive (e.g., requiring more voters as members, and a larger number of candidates to become eligible for a simple "above-the-line" voting box), and the replacement of party preference arrangements with optional preferential voting. This reduced the number of parties contesting elections and increased the difficulty for small, upstart parties to be elected, so that only five are now represented in the Council (Shooters, Fishers and Farmers; Christian Democrats; the Greens; One Nation and the Animal Justice Party), along with Labor, Liberal, and National Party members.

Current distribution of seats (2019–2023)

PartyCurrent Council
Labor 14              
Liberal 11           
National 6      
Greens 4    
One Nation 2  
Shooters, Fishers and Farmers 2  
Animal Justice 2  
Christian Democrats 1 

The President of the Legislative Council has a casting vote should the result be equal from among those present eligible and choosing to vote. With 42 members, with one removed as President, a majority is 21 of the 41 possible of the whole 42.

Section 22I of the NSW Constitution states that "All questions arising in the Legislative Council shall be decided by a majority of the votes of the Members present other than the President or other Member presiding and when the votes are equal the President or other Member presiding shall have a casting vote."

See also

Notes

  1. The current independent MLC is Justin Field.

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References

  1. 1 2 "Role and history of the Council". Parliament of New South Wales. Archived from the original on 21 August 2016. Retrieved 30 July 2016.
  2. "Democratic Growth in New South Wales" (PDF). Parliament of New South Wales. Archived (PDF) from the original on 23 June 2014. Retrieved 16 September 2014.
  3. "An Act to provide for the division of the Colony of New South Wales into Electoral Districts and for the Election of Members to serve in the Legislative Council.". Act No. 16 of 23 February 1843 (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 5 September 2014. Retrieved 16 September 2014.
  4. "An Act to provide for the division of the Colony of New South Wales after the separation of the District of Port Phillip therefrom into Electoral Districts and for the Election of Members to serve in the Legislative Council.". Act No. 48 of 2 May 1851 (PDF). Australasian Legal Information Institute. Archived (PDF) from the original on 19 November 2015. Retrieved 16 September 2014.
  5. 1 2 3 "1856 to 1889 – Responsible Government and Colonial Development". Parliament of New South Wales. Archived from the original on 11 September 2014. Retrieved 9 September 2014.
  6. "Role and History of the Legislative Assembly". Parliament of New South Wales. Archived from the original on 23 April 2011. Retrieved 9 September 2014.
  7. "The Queen's Speech". NSW Parliament – Hansard. Archived from the original on 6 November 2011. Retrieved 17 July 2010.
  8. Parliament of New South Wales: History Bulletin 1 "The Heritage Buildings of Parliament House". Sydney: Parliament of New South Wales. 2011.