South Australian Legislative Council

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Legislative Council
55th Parliament
Coat of arms or logo
Type
Type
History
Founded1836; 186 years ago (1836)
Leadership
Terry Stephens, Liberal
since 3 May 2022
Kyam Maher, Labor
since 24 March 2022
Leader of the Opposition
Nicola Centofanti, Liberal
since 21 April 2022
Government Whip
Vacant/Unknown
Opposition Whip
Vacant/Unknown
Structure
Seats22
2022.05.03 South Australian Legislative Council - Composition of Members.svg
Political groups
Government (9)
  Labor (9)

Opposition (8)

  Liberal (8)

Crossbench (5)

  Greens (2)
  SA-BEST (2)
Length of term
8 years
Elections
Single transferable vote
First election
21 February 1851 as unicameral
09 March 1857 as bicameral
Last election
19 March 2022
Next election
21 March 2026
Meeting place
South Australian Legislative Council Chamber.jpg
Legislative Council Chamber
Parliament House, Adelaide,
South Australia, Australia
Website
SA Legislative Council

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.

The upper house has 22 members elected for eight-year terms by proportional representation, with 11 members facing re-election every four years. It is elected in a similar manner to its federal counterpart, the Australian Senate. Casual vacancies—where a member resigns or dies—are filled by a joint sitting of both houses, who then elect a replacement.

History[edit]

Advisory council[edit]

At the founding of the Province of South Australia under the South Australia Act 1834, governance of the new colony was divided between the Governor of South Australia and a Resident Commissioner, who reported to a new body known as the South Australian Colonization Commission. Under this arrangement, there was also a governing Council comprising the Governor, the Judge or Chief Justice, the Colonial Secretary, the Advocate-General and the Resident Commissioner, with broad legislative and executive powers including the imposition of rates, duties, and taxes.[1] This council was sometimes referred to as the "Legislative Council".[2] Confusion and dispute about the division of power between the two roles led to the South Australia Government Act 1838, which combined the role of Resident Commissioner with that of the Governor.[3]

In 1842, the South Australia Act 1842 was passed in order to replace the South Australian Colonisation Commission appointed in 1834 with a more standard British model of government, with a Governor advised by a Legislative Council. The 1842 Act gave the British Government, which was responsible for appointing a Governor and at least seven other officers to the Legislative Council, full control of South Australia as a Crown Colony, after financial mismanagement by the first administration had nearly bankrupted the colony.[4] This new Legislative Council was the first true parliamentary body in South Australia. The Act also made provision for a commission to initiate the establishment of democratic government, electoral districts, requirements for voting rights, and terms of office.[5] Although the old governing Council advising the Governor met at Government House, this new Legislative Council met at a new purpose built chamber on North Terrace. This chamber eventually grew into what is now known as "Old Parliament House".[2]

The council was originally appointed by the Governor (then Sir George Grey), and only served in an advisory capacity, as the Governor retained almost all legislative powers. It was expanded slightly in 1843, when several prominent landowners were allowed to join. In the same year, proceedings were opened to the general public.[citation needed]

Public demand for some form of representative government had been growing throughout the 1840s, and this was reflected in a series of reforms in 1851, which created a partially representative Legislative Council. After the changes, it consisted of 24 members, four official (filling what would be today ministerial positions) and four non-official members, both nominated by the governor on behalf of the Crown, and 16 elected members. The right to vote for these positions was not universal, however, being limited to propertied men. In addition, the reforms meant that the Governor no longer oversaw proceedings, with the role being filled by a Speaker who had been elected by the members.[6][7]

The Legislative Council chamber in Old Parliament House circa 1939

Self-government[edit]

In 1856, the Legislative Council passed the Constitution Act 1856 (SA), which prepared what was to become the 1857 Constitution of South Australia. This laid out the means for true self-government, and created a bicameral system, which involved delegating most of its legislative powers to the new House of Assembly. While all adult males could vote in the new Assembly, the Council continued to limit voting rights to the wealthier classes; suffrage was male-only and dependent on certain property and wage requirements. The entire province was a single electorate for the Legislative Council, electing 18 members, with the scheme originally set up so that 6 members would be elected every 4 years to serve a 12 year term.[8]: 18 

The council had its purpose in replicating the British House of Lords as a restricted "house of review" in a colonial context. When the Province of South Australia received its original constitution in 1857, it was the most democratic in the British Empire, combining a universal-suffrage lower house (the House of Assembly), with a restricted-suffrage upper house (the Legislative Council). The purpose of the Legislative Council was, as with the 19th century House of Lords, to safeguard the "longer term interests of the nation rather than just reacting to short term ephemeral issues of the day".[citation needed]

In 1882, the Legislative Council was increased to 24 members by the a special election brought on by the Constitution Act Further Amendment Act 1881, and the Province was then divided into four districts which each elected six members: Central, North-Eastern, Northern and Southern districts.[8]: 11  At the same time, the electoral schedule was shifted so that half of the Council was elected at each House of Assembly election.

Women earned the right to vote in the Council at the same time as the Assembly, in 1895, the first Parliament in Australia to do so, under the radical Premier Charles Kingston.[9]

Federation[edit]

In 1902, following the Federation of Australia, the Constitution Act Amendment Act 1901 reduced the size of the legislative council from 24 back to 18 members - 6 from Central District and four each from Northern, North-Eastern and Southern districts.[8]: 94  North-Eastern District was replaced by Midland District from the 1910 election, and the restricted franchise was extended to include ministers of religion, school head teachers, postmasters, railway stationmasters, and the officer in charge of a police station.[8]: 112 

In 1913 the franchise extended to the inhabitant occupier of a house (but not their spouse) and the council expanded to 20 people, four from each of five districts, with the Central district being replaced by Central District No. 1 and Central District No. 2.[8]: 127  "Contingency voting", a form of preferential voting, was introduced from 1930.[8]: 140 

Composition of Council over time[edit]

The council's numbers varied over time. From inception to 1882, it had 18 members elected by a single colony-wide district. From then until 1902 it had 24 members; until 1915, 18 members; and until 1975, 20 members. .The electoral districts were drawn with a heavy bias in favour of rural areas in place, with half of the council being elected each time. From 1915 to 1975, Labor did not gain more than two members at each election, with the conservative parties always holding a sizeable majority. From 1975, the council was increased to 22 members, with half (11) to be elected at each election.[citation needed]

The conservative members in the council were very independent, and differed markedly from their counterparts in the House of Assembly. During the long reign of Liberal and Country League (LCL) Premier Sir Thomas Playford, they would prove to be an irritant, and Labor support was sometimes required for bills to pass. When a Labor government was eventually elected in 1965 and began introducing social legislation that was anathema to LCL councillors, they would delay, obstruct and modify such bills. The councillors, however, saw their actions (in the words of MLC Sir Arthur Rymill) necessary to "oppose... radical moves that I feel would not be in the permanent will of the people."[10] The House of Assembly contained some progressive Liberals, and its membership would usually abide by the party line. The council contained none, and its members rebelled regularly against the decisions of the party leadership and the popular will of the people.[citation needed]

Parliament House on North Terrace, Adelaide.

Universal suffrage[edit]

Even after electoral legislation had been implemented in 1967 by Steele Hall that produced a fairer electoral system for the House of Assembly, the council remained a house of property.

Under the original 1856 Constitution, the franchise was restricted to men, "having a freehold estate in possession, either legal or equitable, situate within the said Province, of the clear value of Fifty Pounds sterling money above all charges and encumbrances affecting the same, or having a leasehold estate in possession, situate within the said Province, the lease thereof having been registered in the General Registry Office, for the registration of deeds, and having three years to run at the time of voting, or containing a clause authorising the lessee to become the purchaser of the land thereby demised, or occupy a dwelling house of the clear annual value of Twenty-five Pounds sterling money."[11]

In 1907, the right to vote was extended to any person occupying a dwelling house, or "dwelling house and premises appurtenant thereto", with an annual rent of at least 17 pounds per annum (excluding any payment of rent by a wife to her husband); to a registered proprietor of a leasehold on which there were improvements to the value of at least 50 pounds and which were the property of the proprietor. At the same time, the franchise was also extended to ministers of religion, school head teachers, postmasters, railway stationmasters, and the officer in charge of a police station.[11]

A further extension of the franchise came in 1913, when the qualification of an occupier of a dwelling house was altered to include any inhabitant occupier, whether owner or tenant.[11]

In 1918, the right to vote for members of the upper house was extended to all those who had served in armed forced in the First World War. This was subsequently extended to Second World War veterans in 1940 and in 1969, it was simplified to apply to all Australian war veterans regardless of the war they served in.[11]

In 1969, the franchise was granted to any person who owned or rented property, regardless of the value of the property. Further, the franchise was extended to the wedded spouse of the owner or renter.[11]

It was only in 1973 under Don Dunstan that changes were finally made. Dunstan, a social reformist, tired of the council's obstructionist attitude, and put forward bills for its reform. Initially rejected by the council, the reform created a single statewide electorate of 22 members, with 11 being elected each time. It eventually passed with bipartisan support.[12]

The new council was designed to be deadlocked, and for a party majority to be hard to gain. Its proportional electoral system proved favourable to minor parties and they have usually held the balance of power. The Liberal Movement, in 1975, was the first minor party to have members elected to the council, and its successor, the Australian Democrats, held the balance until 1997 when independent Nick Xenophon was elected. The Family First Party and the Greens gained representation in 2002 and 2006 respectively.[13]

South Australian Legislative Council ballot paper

The proportional system used in 1973 was party-list proportional representation, but this was modified in 1985. The federal government of Bob Hawke had introduced a new single transferable vote system for the Australian Senate, enabling voters to choose between voting 'above the line' (for a single party preference ticket) or 'under the line' and number all candidates in order of preference, on the ballot paper. The Bannon state government copied this arrangement for the council.[14]

Following the similar Senate changes which took effect from the 2016 federal election, as of the 2018 state election, South Australia's single transferable vote in the proportionally represented upper house was changed from group voting tickets to optional preferential voting − instructions for above the line votes are to mark '1' and then further preferences are optional as opposed to preference flows from simply '1' above the line being determined by group voting tickets, while instructions for voters who instead opt to vote below the line are to provide at least 12 preferences as opposed to having to number all candidates, and with a savings provision to admit ballot papers which indicate at least 6 below the line preferences.[15]

Distribution of Seats[edit]

Below is the history of the composition of the Legislative Council since the introduction of Proportional Representation at the 1975 election.

Current[edit]

Party Seats held Current Council
Australian Labor Party                  
Liberal Party of Australia                
SA-BEST    
Greens    
One Nation  

At the 2022 election, the eleven seats up for election (the other eleven members had continuing terms) had been held by four Liberal, four Labor, and one each of Greens, Advance SA and an independent. The result elected five Labor, four Liberal, and one each of Greens and One Nation. Consequently the new Labor government would require an additional three non-government votes to pass legislation.[16] However, the Liberal upper house President was unexpectedly re-elected to the Presidency, which would give the Labor government nine of 21 seats during votes on the floor, meaning that only an additional two non-government votes are required to pass legislation.[17][18][19]

Members of the South Australian Legislative Council, 2022–2026
Labor (9) Liberal (8) SA-BEST (2) Green (2) One Nation (1)
elected 2022: elected 2022: elected 2022: elected 2022:

elected 2018:
Emily Bourke
Justin Hanson
Irene Pnevmatikos
Clare Scriven

elected 2018:
David Ridgway
Stephen Wade
Terry Stephens
Jing Lee

elected 2018:
Connie Bonaros
Frank Pangallo

elected 2018:
Tammy Franks

2018–2022[edit]

Party Seats held Current Council
Liberal Party of Australia                
Australian Labor Party                
SA-BEST    
Greens    
Advance SA  
Independents (*)  
(*) John Dawkins was expelled from the Liberal Party in 2020 after successfully running against the party's nominee for Legislative Council President. This was against the party's rules.[20]

At the 2018 election, the 11 of 22 seats up for election were 4 Liberal, 4 Labor, 1 Green, 1 Conservative and 1 Dignity. The final outcome was 4 Liberal, 4 Labor, 2 SA Best and 1 Green.[21][22][23] Conservative MLC Dennis Hood, who had been elected as a Family First MLC in 2014, defected to the Liberals nine days after the 2018 state election.[24][25] John Dawkins was expelled from the Liberal Party in 2020 after successfully running against the party's nominee for Legislative Council President. This was against the party's rules.[20] The 22 seat upper house composition is therefore 8 Liberal on the government benches, 8 Labor on the opposition benches, and 5 to minor parties and 1 independent on the crossbench, consisting of 2 SA Best, 2 Green, 1 Advance SA and John Dawkins.[21] The government would therefore require at least four additional non-government members to form a majority and carry votes on the floor.[26]

Members of the South Australian Legislative Council, 2018–2022
Liberal (8) Labor (8) SA-BEST (2) Green (2) Advance SA (1) Independent (1)

elected 2018:
David Ridgway
Stephen Wade
Terry Stephens
Jing Lee

elected 2018:
Emily Bourke
Justin Hanson
Irene Pnevmatikos
Clare Scriven

elected 2018:
Connie Bonaros
Frank Pangallo

elected 2018:
Tammy Franks

elected 2014:
Rob Lucas
Michelle Lensink
  Nicola Centofanti ^
^ Appointed to replace resigning Andrew McLachlan in 2020  
  Dennis Hood ^
^ defected from AC/FFP after 2018 election  

elected 2014:
Russell Wortley
Ian Hunter
Tung Ngo
Kyam Maher

elected 2014:
Robert Simms ^
^ Appointed to replace resigning Mark Parnell in 2021  

elected 2014:
John Darley

elected 2014:
  John Dawkins ^
^ expelled from the Liberal Party in 2020  

2014–2018[edit]

Party Seats held Current Council
Australian Labor Party                
Liberal Party of Australia                
Greens    
Conservatives1    
Dignity  
Advance SA2  

1 The two Conservative MPs were elected as members of the Family First Party, which merged into the Australian Conservatives in April 2017.
2 One ex-Independent/Nick Xenophon Team MP was created a new state political party named Advance SA in September 2017.

2010–2014[edit]

Party Seats held 2010 Council
Australian Labor Party                
Liberal Party of Australia              
Greens    
Family First Party    
No Pokies    
Dignity  

2006–2010[edit]

Party 2006 2006 Council 2009 Council @ 2009
Australian Labor Party                                  
Liberal Party of Australia                                  
Family First Party                      
No Pokies                      
Greens                    
Australian Democrats (*)                  
Independents (*)                    
(*) Sandra Kanck was re-elected for a second eight-year term as a Democrat in 2002. In 2009, David Winderlich replaced Kanck due to her resignation. Later in 2009 Winderlich resigned from the Democrats to sit in parliament as an independent.

2002–2006[edit]

Party Seats held 2002–2006 Council
Liberal Party of Australia                  
Australian Labor Party              
Australian Democrats      
Family First Party  
No Pokies  
Independents (*)  
(*) Terry Cameron had been elected as an Labor member, but had resigned from the party, initially sitting as an independent, and then founding the SA First party in 1999. He did not face re-election in 2002, but the party disbanded soon after the election, and Cameron subsequently returned to being an independent MLC.

1997–2002[edit]

Party Seats held 1997–2002 Council
Liberal Party of Australia 10                     
Australian Labor Party                
Australian Democrats      
No Pokies  

1993–1997[edit]

Party Seats held 1993–1997 Council
Liberal Party of Australia 11                       
Australian Labor Party                  
Australian Democrats    

1989–1993[edit]

Party Seats held 1989–1993 Council
Australian Labor Party 10                     
Liberal Party of Australia 10                     
Australian Democrats    

1985–1989[edit]

Party Seats held 1985–1989 Council
Australian Labor Party 10                     
Liberal Party of Australia 10                     
Australian Democrats    

1982–1985[edit]

Party Seats held 1982–1985 Council
Liberal Party of Australia 11                       
Australian Labor Party                  
Australian Democrats    

1979–1982[edit]

Party Seats held 1979–1982 Council
Liberal Party of Australia 11                       
Australian Labor Party 10                     
Australian Democrats  

1975–1979[edit]

As part of the transitional arrangements associated with the expansion of the Council from 20 members to 22 members, the Council in this period had 21 members.

Party Seats held 1975–1979 Council
Australian Labor Party 10                     
Liberal Party of Australia                  
Liberal Movement    

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Order-in-Council Establishing Government 23 February 1836 (UK)". Museum of Australian Democracy. Documenting a democracy. Retrieved 16 November 2019.
  2. ^ a b Stretton, Pat (1988). The Life and Times of Old Parliament House. Old Parliament House, North Terrace, Adelaide. ISBN 0-7243-7982-7.
  3. ^ Great Britain (1838), An act to amend an act of the fourth and fifth years of His Majesty, empowering His Majesty to erect South Australia into a British province or provinces : 31st July 1838, Printed by George Eyre and Andrew Spottiswoode, retrieved 5 November 2019
  4. ^ "South Australian Colonization Commission". Bound for South Australia. Creative Commons 3.0. History Trust of South Australia. 11 February 2011. Retrieved 5 November 2019.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  5. ^ "An Act to provide for the better Government of South Australia [30th July 1842]: Anno 5o et 6o Victoriae" (PDF). Founding Documents. Retrieved 13 November 2019.
  6. ^ Australian Colonies Government Act 1850
  7. ^ Legislative Council Act 1851 (SA)
  8. ^ a b c d e f Jaensch, Dean (1 March 2007). "History of South Australian elections 1857-2006, volume 2". State Electoral Office of South Australia. Archived from the original on 8 March 2016. Retrieved 24 June 2020.
  9. ^ Women’s Suffrage Petition 1894: parliament.sa.gov.au
  10. ^ Blewett, Neal (1971). Playford to Dunstan: The Politics of Transition. Griffin Press Limited. p. 41. ISBN 0-7015-1299-7.
  11. ^ a b c d e Jaensch, Dean (2002). "Community access to the electoral processes in South Australia since 1850". South Australian State Electoral Office. Archived from the original on 8 March 2016. CC-BY icon.svg Text was copied from this source, which is available under a Attribution 3.0 Australia (CC BY 3.0 AU) license.
  12. ^ Dunstan, Don (1981). Felicia: The political memoirs of Don Dunstan. Griffin Press Limited. pp. 214–215. ISBN 0-333-33815-4.
  13. ^ ABC Elections. Past election results. Accessed 19-01-2007.
  14. ^ ABC Elections. Legislative Council Background. Accessed 19-01-2007.
  15. ^ New Electoral System Adopted for the South Australian Legislative Council: Antony Green ABC 9 August 2017
  16. ^ "South Australia gets first One Nation MP with Sarah Game elected to Legislative Council". ABC News. 27 April 2022.
  17. ^ "Drama in SA parliament as Liberal investigated by ICAC returned to top position". ABC News. 3 May 2022.
  18. ^ "'Beggars belief': Labor coup sidelines Libs, crossbench". 3 May 2022.
  19. ^ "SA 2022 – Legislative Council Result Finalised – Antony Green's Election Blog".
  20. ^ a b 'White-hot anger' sees John Dawkins expelled from SA Liberal Party after taking presidency
  21. ^ a b Final Results of the 2018 South Australian Election: Antony Green 4 April 2018
  22. ^ 2018 Legislative Council election results: ECSA 23 April 2018
  23. ^ Third time lucky: The Poll Bludger 18 March 2018
  24. ^ Dennis Hood dumps Cory Bernardi's Australian Conservatives to join SA Liberals: ABC 26 March 2017
  25. ^ "We didn’t realise the power of Family First": Fallen Conservative rues botched re-branding: InDaily 20 March 2018
  26. ^ "They're dickheads": Darley kills off power-sharing deal with X-colleagues: InDaily 23 April 2018

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]