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 (13)

Crossbench (12)

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.

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.

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]

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]

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.

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:

This is my second opportunity to address this Parliament – a Parliament which I described on the previous occasion, in 1954, as the Mother Parliament of Australia. It is interesting to reflect that that was the first time on which the Sovereign had opened a Session of an Australian Parliament. I was also on my first visit to Australia as your Queen. I have returned to New South Wales eight times since then and am always delighted by the warm and generous hospitality accorded to Prince Philip and me by the people of this State. On this occasion I have come to join in commemorating Sydney's first one hundred and fifty years as a city. [7]

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 13             
Liberal 11           
National 6      
Greens 3   
One Nation 2  
Shooters, Fishers and Farmers 2  
Animal Justice 2  
Independent 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 MLCs are Justin Field and Shaoquett Moselmane.

Related Research Articles

A bicameral legislature has legislators in two separate assemblies, chambers, or houses. Bicameralism is distinguished from unicameralism, in which all members deliberate and vote as a single group, and from some legislatures that have three or more separate assemblies, chambers, or houses. As of 2015, fewer than half the world's national legislatures are bicameral.

Electoral systems of the Australian states and territories

Electoral systems for the legislatures of the individual Australian states and territories are broadly similar to the electoral system used in federal elections in Australia.

New Zealand Parliament Legislative body of New Zealand

The New Zealand Parliament is the legislature of New Zealand, consisting of the Queen of New Zealand (Queen-in-Parliament) and the New Zealand House of Representatives. The Queen is usually represented by her governor-general. Before 1951, there was an upper chamber, the New Zealand Legislative Council. The New Zealand Parliament was established in 1854 and is one of the oldest continuously functioning legislatures in the world. It has met in Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, since 1865.

Victorian Legislative Assembly lower house of the Parliament of Victoria, Australia

The Victorian Legislative Assembly is the lower house of the bicameral Parliament of Victoria in Australia; the upper house being the Victorian Legislative Council. Both houses sit at Parliament House in Spring Street, Melbourne.

Parliaments of the Australian states and territories Subnational legislature in Australia

The Parliaments of the Australian states and territories are legislative bodies within the federal framework of the Commonwealth of Australia.

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.

Victorian Legislative Council upper house of the bicameral Parliament of Victoria, Australia

The Victorian Legislative Council (VLC) is the upper house of the bicameral Parliament of Victoria, Australia; the lower house being the Legislative Assembly. Both houses sit at Parliament House in Spring Street, Melbourne. The Legislative Council serves as a house of review, in a similar fashion to its federal counterpart, the Australian Senate. Although it is possible for legislation to be first introduced in the Council, most bills receive their first hearing in the Legislative Assembly.

South Australian Legislative Council upper house of the parliament in South Australia, Australia

The Legislative Council, or upper house, is one of the two chambers of the Parliament of South Australia. Its central purpose is to act as a house of review for legislation passed through the lower house, the House of Assembly. It sits in Parliament House in the state capital, Adelaide.

Tasmanian Legislative Council upper house of the Parliament of Tasmania

The Tasmanian Legislative Council is the upper house of the Parliament of Tasmania in Australia. It is one of the two chambers of the Parliament, the other being the House of Assembly. Both houses sit in Parliament House in the state capital, Hobart. Members of the Legislative Council are often referred to as MLCs.

Parliament of Tasmania Bicameral parliament in Tasmania

The Parliament of Tasmania is the bicameral legislature of the Australian state of Tasmania. It follows a Westminster-derived parliamentary system and consists of the Governor of Tasmania, the Tasmanian House of Assembly, and Tasmanian Legislative Council. Since 1841, both Houses have met in Parliament House, Hobart. The Parliament of Tasmania first met in 1856.

Parliament of Victoria bicameral legislature of the Australian state of Victoria

The Parliament of Victoria is the bicameral legislature of the Australian state of Victoria that follows a Westminster-derived parliamentary system. It consists of the Queen, represented by the Governor of Victoria, the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council. It has a fused executive drawn from members of both chambers. The parliament meets at Parliament House in the state capital Melbourne. The current Parliament was elected on 24 November 2018, sworn in on 19 December 2018 and is the 59th parliament in Victoria.

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.

Parliament of Queensland legislature of Queensland, Australia

The Parliament of Queensland is the legislature of Queensland, Australia. As provided under the Constitution of Queensland, the Parliament consists of the Monarch of Australia and the Legislative Assembly. It is the only unicameral state parliament in the country. The upper chamber, the Legislative Council, was abolished in 1922. The Legislative Assembly sits in Parliament House in the state capital, Brisbane.

Western Australian Legislative Council upper house of the Legislature of the state of Western Australia

The Western Australian Legislative Council is the upper house of the Parliament of Western Australia, a state of Australia. It is regarded as a house of review for legislation passed by the Legislative Assembly, the lower house. The two Houses of Parliament sit in Parliament House in the state capital, Perth.

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.

Parliament House, Hobart house of parliament for State of Tasmania, Australia

Parliament House, Hobart, located on Salamanca Place in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, is the meeting place of the Parliament of Tasmania. The building was originally designed as a customs house but changed use in 1841 when Tasmania achieved self-government. The building served both purposes from 1841 to 1904, when the customs offices were relocated.

A referendum concerning the abolition of the New South Wales Legislative Council was put to New South Wales voters on 29 April 1961. The abolition was specifically rejected by voters. The text of the question was:

Do you approve of the Bill entitled "A Bill for an Act to Abolish the Legislative Council to provide that another Legislative Council shall not be created, constituted or established nor shall any Chamber, Assembly or House, other than the Legislative Assembly, designed to form part of the Legislative Parliament of New South Wales, be created, constituted or established until a bill for the purpose has been approved by the electors in a referendum to amend the Constitution Act, 1902 and certain other Acts; and for purposes connected therewith."

Electoral regions of Victoria electoral divisions of the Victorian Legislative Council

Members of the Victorian Legislative Council, the upper house of the Parliament of the Australian State of Victoria, are elected from eight multi-member electorates called regions. The Legislative Council has 40 members, five from each of the eight regions.

Suffrage in Australia refers to the right to vote for people living in Australia, including all its six component states and territories, as well as local councils. The colonies of Australia began to grant universal male suffrage to white men during the 1850s, with white women's suffrage following between the 1890s and 1900s. Aboriginal Australians, both men and women, were given the right to vote in 1967. Today, the right to vote at federal, state and local levels of government is enjoyed by most citizens of Australia over the age of 18 years.

A by-election was held for the New South Wales Legislative Assembly electorate of East Sydney on 29 February 1884 as a result of the Legislative Assembly declaring the seats of Francis Suttor, and George Reid, were vacant as a result of a report of the Committee of Elections and Qualifications that they were incapable of being elected, or of sitting, or voting, as a member of the Assembly.

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. Retrieved 26 June 2020.
  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.

Further reading