Parliament of Victoria
|Parliament of Victoria|
|Founded||21 November 1856|
|Queen of Australia||Elizabeth II
Since 6 February 1952
|Governor of Victoria||Alex Chernov
Since 8 April 2011
|Speaker of the Legislative Assembly||Christine Fyffe, Liberal
4 February 2014
|President of the Legislative Council||Bruce Atkinson, Liberal
21 December 2010
|Legislative Assembly political groups||Government
|Legislative Council political groups||Government
|Last general election||27 November 2010|
|Next general election||29 November 2014|
The Parliament of Victoria is the bicameral legislature of the Australian state of Victoria. It follows a Westminster-derived parliamentary system and consists of The Queen, represented by the Governor of Victoria; the Legislative Council (upper house); and the Legislative Assembly (lower house). The Parliament meets at Parliament House in the state capital Melbourne.
The two Houses of Parliament have 128 Members in total, 88 in the lower house and 40 in the upper house. Victoria has compulsory voting and uses preferential ballot in single-member seats for the lower house, and single transferable vote in multi-member seats for the proportionally represented upper house. Government is formed in the lower house while the upper is a house of review. All members serve four-year terms.
The incumbent Liberal/National Coalition government, elected at the 2010 election, held a one-seat parliamentary majority in both houses until 6 March 2013, when due to the resignation of Geoff Shaw a lower house member from the Liberal Party, now is technically a minority government. 
Prior to 1851 the area of Australia now known as Victoria was part of the colony of New South Wales and was administered by the Government of New South Wales in Sydney. On 5 August 1850 the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed the Australian Constitutions Act 1850 which made provision for the separation of Victoria from New South Wales. Enabling legislation was passed by the Parliament of New South Wales, and Victoria was formally created a separate colony of the United Kingdom on 1 July 1851.
The Australian Constitutions Act provided for the colony to be administered by a Lieutenant-Governor and a Legislative Council, two-thirds of which was to be elected and the remainder appointed by the Sovereign, represented by the Lieutenant-Governor. The Lieutenant-Governor was subordinate in some matters to the Governor of New South Wales, who was given the title Governor-General. The Legislative Council met for the first time in November 1851 at St Patrick's Hall, Melbourne.
The first Legislative Council served Victoria for five years and was responsible for at least three significant and enduring contributions to the parliamentary system of Victoria:
- It drafted the Constitution of Victoria, which provides the framework for the system of government in Victoria;
- It introduced the secret ballot, an innovation at the time but now common around the world; and
- It ordered the construction of the Victorian Parliament House in Melbourne.
The Constitution of Victoria was approved by the Legislative Council in March 1854, it was sent to Britain for approval by the UK Parliament and it was granted Royal Assent on 16 July 1855 and was proclaimed in Victoria on 23 November 1855. The Constitution established the Westminster-style system of responsible government that continues in Victoria today.
The election for the first Victorian Parliament was held during the spring of 1856, the first Victorian Members of Parliament met on 21 November 1856 in the recently completed Parliament House and were sworn in, and on 25 November 1856 the first Victorian Parliament was officially opened by Acting Governor Major-General Edward Macarthur. The Legislative Council consisted of thirty members representing six Provinces, each province returning five Members. The Legislative Assembly consisted of sixty members representing thirty-seven multi and single-member electorates.
Parliament has sat at Parliament House, Melbourne since that time, with the exception of the period 1901–1927. During that time Parliament House was used by the Federal Parliament and the Parliament of Victoria sat at the Royal Exhibition Building.
Structure and operation
The Parliament has the power to make laws for Victoria on any matter, subject only to limitations placed on it by the Constitution of Australia which specifies which matters fall under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth.
The Parliament of Victoria is a bicameral legislature, meaning that it consists of two legislative chambers or houses, the Upper House or Legislative Council and the Lower House or Legislative Assembly. Each house has a number of committees that investigate proposed laws in detail before they are considered by the whole house. Some of the committee work is carried out by the Joint Committees which consist of members from all sides of politics and from both chambers. Like the Parliament, the committees cease to exist when the Parliament is dissolved by the governor, and need to be recreated after each general election. This means that often the names and jurisdiction of the committees are changed.
A proposed law or bill can be introduced into either house, but in practice most are introduced into the Legislative Assembly; they must then be passed by both Houses before being presented to the Governor, who will sign the Bill into law on behalf of the Queen.
Membership and elections
Today the Houses of Parliament consist of forty Members of the Legislative Council representing eight large multi-member electorates known as regions each of which returns five members; and eighty-eight Members of the Legislative Assembly representing small single-member electorates known as districts. Each electoral region contains eleven electoral districts.
All members of both houses are elected for fixed four year terms. General elections are held on the last Saturday in November every four years with the Parliament expiring on the Tuesday twenty-five days before the election.
Parliament can be dissolved earlier by the Governor, and a general election called, in two exceptional circumstances:
- the Legislative Assembly passes a motion of no confidence in the Government or its ministers, or
- the Legislative Council and Legislative Assembly are deadlocked and cannot agree to pass a Bill.
Anyone enrolled to vote in Victoria can stand for election as a candidate or either House, except for:
- a judge of the Victorian Courts,
- a member of the Commonwealth Parliament,
- an undischarged bankrupt, or
- someone convicted of a serious criminal offence.
It is also not permitted to be a member of both houses or a candidate for election to both houses of Parliament.
Members of Parliament may be addressed by their name or by using their electorate, for example "The Member for Hawthorn" or "Member for Southern Metropolitan Region", and are entitled to the postnominal letters MLC if a Member of the Legislative Council, and MLA or MP if a Member of the Legislative Assembly. Ministers and former ministers are entitled to the style "The Honourable" (abbreviated to "The Hon") although some choose not to use it.
The President of the Legislative Council is the presiding officer of the Legislative Council. He or she is an elected member of the Parliament and is chosen by the members of the Legislative Council to chair their meetings and represent the council as a whole at official functions. The corresponding person in the Legislative Assembly in the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly. Both the President and the Speaker have important powers in controlling debate in their respective chambers, including the ability to punish members who step out of line or disobey their orders. The presiding officers also have powers to summon witnesses to the chamber to assist in the legislative role of Parliament.
The Government and Opposition appoint members as Managers of Government and Opposition Business in each house. These members are not within the control of the house in the same way that the President and Speaker are, they are appointed by the Premier and the Leader of the Opposition respectively.
Each party represented in each house appoint a member in each house as their Party Whip.
Relationship with government
The Governor of Victoria is the representative of the Monarch (Queen Elizabeth II). Among the Governor's vice-regal duties are the opening of Parliament and the signing of acts that are passed by the Victorian Parliament.
The leader of the political party or coalition with the most seats in the Legislative Assembly is invited by the Governor of Victoria to form a government. The leader of that party is appointed Premier of Victoria and other senior members are appointed ministers with various portfolio responsibilities. The leader of the largest party in opposition becomes the Leader of the Opposition
Since 2 December 2010 the Coalition has been in Government, led by the Premier and leader of the Liberal Party in Victoria Ted Baillieu until 6 March 2013. He was succeeded by Denis Napthine that day. The other party in the Coalition, the National Party of Australia, is led by the Deputy Premier Peter Ryan. The Coalition defeated the previous Labor-led Government at a general election on 27 November 2010.
The current Leader of the Opposition is Daniel Andrews, who was elected as the leader of the Labor Party on 3 December 2010 after their election defeat, replacing former Premier John Brumby. The Greens, who hold seats only in the Legislative Council, are led by Greg Barber.
Salary and allowances
Prior to 1870 only Ministers and Office holders were provided with a salary. This in effect meant that members had to be wealthy enough to support themselves before seeking election to Parliament. In 1870 the Victorian Parliament provided for the reimbursing of members in relation to their expenses in attending Parliament, in effect the first salary for Members of the Victorian Parliament. At first passed as temporary measure, it later became permanent. The Act provided for a payment of £300 p.a. to those who did not already receive a salary, this equates to approximately $39,000 in 2011 dollars.
Members of both the Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council are now paid a base salary of $130,907 per annum (as of 1 August 2010); office holders such as the President, Speaker, Ministers and Party leaders receive additional salary on top. The President and Speaker are paid a salary of $215,997 (165% of the base salary). All members receive a residential allowance, a travelling allowance, an electorate allowance and an electorate office allowance, in addition to their base salary; some senior office holders are also entitled to an expense allowance.
- Government of Victoria
- Parliaments of the Australian states and territories
- Official Openings by the Monarch in Australia
- Parliament railway station
- British Columbia Parliament Buildings
- "The Constitution Act 1975". An Act to re-enact the Law relating to the Constitution of the State of Victoria and for other purposes. Victoria Australia: Victorian Parliament. 1975. Retrieved 26 February 2011.
- ABC News - 6-3-13
- "Australian Constitutions Act 1850". An Act for the better Government of Her Majesty's Australian Colonies. UK: House of Lords Record Office. 5 August 1850. Retrieved 23 August 2010.
- "Altering Victoria's Constitution". Fact Sheet D3: Altering Victoria's Constitution. Parliament of Victoria. October 2010. Retrieved 5 March 2011.
- "Victoria Constitution Act 1855". An Act to enable Her Majesty to assent to a Bill, as amended, of the Legislature of Victoria, to establish a Constitution in and for the Colony of Victoria. Parliament of the United Kingdom. 1855. Retrieved 5 March 2011.
- "Victoria's Parliamentary History". Fact Sheet I1: Victoria's Parliamentary History. Parliament of Victoria. December 2010. Retrieved 5 March 2011.
- "The Legislative Council's History". Information Sheet 7. Parliament of Victoria. Retrieved 26 February 2011.
- "Elections". Fact Sheet G3: Elections. Parliament of Victoria. Retrieved 26 February 2011.
- "Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900". An Act to Constitute the Commonwealth of Australia 1900 (63 & 64 Vic. C.12). UK: Parliament House Canberra. 1975. Retrieved 26 February 2011.
- "Interactive Timeline". Interactive Timeline. Parliament of Victoria. Retrieved 19 March 2011.
- "Money Conversion". Retrieved 2 April 2011.
- "Salary of Office—states and territories Table". Parliamentary allowances, salaries of office and entitlements. Parliament of Australia. Retrieved 6 March 2011.
- "Parliamentary Salaries and Superannuation Act 1968 (Amend. 2007)". An Act relating to Parliamentary Salaries and Allowances and Parliamentary Superannuation and for other purposes. Parliament of Victoria. 1968. Retrieved 6 March 2011.
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