What is the Upper House?
There are 42 Members of the Legislative Council elected by the people of New South Wales with the whole State as one electorate. The current House has a very diverse membership. There are 19 Government members, 15 Opposition members and 8 Cross-bench members, giving neither the Government nor the Opposition an outright majority of members in the Upper House.
|NSW Parliament House
The Legislative Council is the Upper House of the Parliament of New South Wales.
South Wales has its own Constitution and its own system of Government
and is part of the Commonwealth of Australia. The New South Wales
Parliament creates legislation relating to issues such as health,
education, transport, the built and natural environments, leisure
activities, state development, police and emergency services, energy,
and so on. National issues such as immigration and foreign affairs are
the responsibility of the Federal Parliament in Canberra.
consists of the Governor, the upper house – Legislative Council – and
the lower house – Legislative Assembly. The Legislative Council is
often also called the House of Review.
The Council is equivalent to the Senate in the Federal Parliament.
the meetings of the first Legislative Council in 1824 – a group of five
appointed legislative advisers to the Governor – to the diverse and
democratically elected House of today, the Council has always been an
integral part of the legislative and democratic processes in New South
Since the introduction of a bicameral (two house)
Parliamentary system in 1856, the Legislative Council has had the role
of a House of Review. The original intention of the framers of the 1855
Constitution was to create a House of Review which was more
deliberative and could consider matters with more objectivity.
Legislative Council Members consequently developed a tradition of
independence, resisting the introduction of the party system in the
House well into the twentieth century.
Even the reforms of the
Legislative Council in 1933 – which introduced an indirect electoral
process and limited membership numbers and terms – were still
conservative and intended to maintain the notion of a cautious and
careful ongoing House of Review.
Different forces were at work
when the House became popularly elected from 1978, but even then, the
system adopted ensured that the Legislative Council is reasonably
cushioned from the larger swings of public opinion that can affect the
Lower House so dramatically.
The outcome is still that the
Upper House is more deliberative in style than the Lower House. There
are generally no time limits on Members' speeches, and there is a
slower, more careful and less adversarial style evident in the debates.
How the last election changed the role of the Council
the first New South Wales Legislative Council met in 1824, only five
legislative advisors to the Governor were appointed. Today the 42
Member House is democratically elected by the people.
in the Lower House each Member represents an electorate, in the
Legislative Council Members represent the entire State.
each state election in New South Wales, one half (21) of the Upper
House Members (MLCs) must either retire or stand for re-election, so
each MLC has an eight year term in office (that is two terms of the
Lower House).Parties or individuals are elected according to the
proportion of the total vote that they receive.
proportional representation system has created a diverse Membership
which tends to represent a rather different cross-section of the New
South Wales community from that of the Lower House. The current
Legislative Council has a very diverse membership.
The Current Membership:
The Greens 4
Christian Democratic Party (Fred Nile Group) 2
Australian Labor Party 19
Liberal Party of Australia (NSW) 10
The Nationals (NSW) 5
Shooters Party 2
have not had a majority in the Council since 1988. It has been argued
that this contributes to the tradition and constitutional intention of
an independent House of Review. It is certainly true that the second
opinion offered in the Legislative Council sometimes reflects a
different range of community opinion from that of the Lower House.