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Tasmanian Legislative Council

The Legislative Council, or upper house, is one of the two chambers of the Parliament of Tasmania in Australia. The other is the House of Assembly. It sits in Parliament House in the state capital, Hobart.

Overview

The Council has 15 members, one from each of fifteen electorates. These are commonly known as seats. Each seat is intended to represent approximately the same population in each electorate. Members of the Legislative Council are often referred to as MLC's.

Members in the council come up for re-election separately every six years. Elections will be held in three divisions one year, then two divisions the next year; following this pattern. The council can block supply and force any government to election. The council cannot be dissolved as there is nothing in the Tasmanian constitution to allow this. The council cannot be reformed or abolished because the constitution does not recognise public referendums. The only way reform could occur is with the council's own approval.

Tasmania's Legislative Council has never been controlled by a single political party; voters in Tasmania have always supported independents over candidates endorsed by political parties. Labor endorses a few candidates in some Legislative Council elections. The Labor party is the most successful of any political party in the council, there have been 18 Labor members in the councils history. The Liberals maintain the view the legislative council 'is not a party house', however in past elections the party has endorsed candidates with little success. The Liberals have only ever had two members in the Legislative Council one of these Peter McKay was first elected as an independent in 1976 but became a Liberal in 1991. The party instead backs independent conservatives; many of which were Liberal candidates in previous state of federal elections. The Tasmanian Greens endorse candidates in elections but have never won a seat on the council.

Candidates for Legislative Council elections are required to limit their expenditure to a specified limit ($10,000 in 2005; increasing by $500 per year). In addition, no other person or political party may incur expenditure to promote a candidate. This is a unique requirement in Australia: no other Australian state or federal elections are subject to expenditure limits.

Only a few members of the council have become ministers. Currently the member for Derwent Michael Aird holds the Treasury portfolio, member for Rumney Lin Thorp holds the Human Services portfolio and member for Pembroke Allison Ritchie the Planning and Workplace Relations portfolio.

History

The Tasmanian Legislative Council was first created in 1852. The Australian Colonies Act passed by the British parliament gave Van Diemens Land a free government. The council had members chosen by both election and the Governor of Tasmania. In 1856 the Legislative Council passed legislation to create the Tasmanian House of Assembly (lower house).

Until recently the Tasmanian Legislative Council was considered the most undemocratic in Australia. Rather than being elected by proportional vote (like the Tasmanian lower house or the Australian Senate), members are determined in single member seats. Before 1999 the Council had a rural-bias; electoral boundaries were made to include rural communities and didn't have equal populations within each division.

In the 1990s; various Tasmanian governments attempted to cut the size of parliament. Various reports proposed reducing the Tasmanian Legislative Council from 19 seats to 15. Others including the Morling Report; proposed abolishing the Council and merging some of the electorates into the Tasmanian House of Assembly. However the council wouldn't agree to any of these proposals. During Tony Rundle's government the Legislative Council finally allowed the Parliamentary Reform Bill 1998 passage, reducing the number of seats in the chamber from 19 to 15.

In 1999 the new electorates were created by a Distribution Tribunal, in the following years there was much confusion by voters, as to which electorate they were a part of.

The first woman to sit on the Legislative Council was Margaret McIntyre, in 1948. The first woman to chair the upper house was Phyllis Benjamin in 1956.

Current Distribution of Seats

Party Seats held Current Legislative Council
Australian Labor Party 4        
Independents 11                      

References

See also

External links

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