New South Wales Legislative Council

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New South Wales Legislative Council
55th Parliament
Coat of arms or logo
Type
Type
History
Founded 1825
Leadership
The Hon. Don Harwin MLC, Liberal Party of Australia
since 3 May 2011
Structure
Political groups
Government
     Liberal (12)
     Nationals (7)
Opposition
     Labor (14)
Crossbench
     Greens (5)
     Shooters (2)
     CDP (2)
Elections
Last election
26 March 2011
Meeting place
Council Chamber.
Legislative Council Chamber
Parliament House, Sydney,
New South Wales, Australia
Website
NSW Legislative Council

The New South Wales Legislative Council, or upper house, is one of the two chambers of the parliament of New South Wales in Australia. The other is the Legislative Assembly. Both sit at Parliament House in the state capital, Sydney. The Assembly is referred to as the lower house and the Council as the upper house. It is normal for legislation to be first deliberated on and enacted in the lower house, and then considered again in the upper house, which acts in the main as a house of review. The Council has 42 members, elected by proportional representation in which the whole state is treated as a single electorate. Each member serves an eight-year term; half of the members are elected every four years in a staggered arrangement.

History[edit]

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. 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. In 1842, under the Constitution Act 1842, 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 amongst eligible landholders. By 1843, this had been enlarged with two-thirds of its members elected by adult males who met certain property requirements. 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.[1]

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.[2] 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,[1] and in 1918, reforms permitted women to be Members of Parliament.[1]

In 1925, 1926 and 1929, Premier Jack Lang made attempts at abolishing 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.[3]

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 house come up for election on the fourth Saturday in March, barring exceptional circumstances.

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.[4]

Presidency of the Legislative Council[edit]

From 1846 to 1856 the title was Speaker of the Legislative Council.

Chamber[edit]

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.[5]

Composition and powers[edit]

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 preference sharing arrangements with other micro parties. In the 1999 elections, a record number of parties contested seats in the Legislative Council, resulting in an unwieldy ballot paper (referred to as the "table cloth" ballot paper). As a result, party registration requirements have since been made more restrictive (e.g., requiring more voters as members), reducing the number of parties contesting elections so that only two micro parties are now represented in the house (Shooters and Fishers, and Christian Democrats), along with Labor, Liberal, National Party and Greens members.

Current distribution of seats (2011–2015)[edit]

Party Seats held Current Council
Australian Labor Party 14                                        
Liberal Party of Australia 12                                        
National Party of Australia 7                                        
Greens New South Wales 5                                        
Shooters and Fishers Party 2                                        
Christian Democratic Party 2                                        

Elected to the Legislative Council in 2004 representing Labor, Eric Roozendaal was suspended from the party in November 2012 and sat in the Council as an independent, before resigning from the Council on 9 May 2013.[6]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "About us". NSW Parliament. Retrieved 17 July 2010. 
  2. ^ "Role and History of the Legislative Council". NSW Legislative Council. Retrieved 17 July 2010. 
  3. ^ "Role and History of the Legislative Assembly". NSW Legislative Assembly. Retrieved 20 July 2010. 
  4. ^ "The Queen's Speech". NSW Parliament – Hansard. Retrieved 17 July 2010. 
  5. ^ Parliament of New South Wales: History Bulletin 1 "The Heritage Buildings of Parliament House". Sydney: Parliament of New South Wales. 2011. 
  6. ^ Coultan, Mark (9 May 2013). "Former minister Eric Roozendaal quits NSW parliament with a parting swipe at Labor". The Australian. AAP. Retrieved 9 May 2013. 

External links[edit]