Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Western Australian Legislative Council
The Legislative Council, or upper house, is one of the two chambers of parliament in the Australian state of Western Australia. Its central purpose is to act as a house of review for legislation passed through the lower house, the Legislative Assembly. It sits in Parliament House in the state capital, Perth.
The Legislative Assembly today has 34 members, elected for fixed four-year terms. Each member is elected using the preferential voting system, and represents one of six multi-member regions. Several of the regions elect seven members, while others elect five. Unlike in some other states, the government may not always have a majority in the Legislative Council, and may have to rely on minor parties, such as the Australian Greens, to pass legislation. As with all other Australian states and territories, voting is compulsory for all those over the legal voting age of 18.
Western Australia uses a zonal electoral system for both its houses of parliament, and is the only Australian state or territory to do so. In short, this means that the vote of a person in Perth is worth less than a rural voter. The difference is particularly apparent in the Legislative Council, with rural electorates artificially set to contain many more voters than city electorates. This also allows major disparities that would not be allowed to occur in other states - some rural regions may have several times more voters some city regions.
While the Liberal Party of Australia and Australian Labor Party are both advantaged and disadvantaged by this system, it strongly benefits the National Party of Australia. During the 1990s, Liberal Premier Richard Court considered changing the system along the lines of that in place in South Australia, but backed down in the face of National Party opposition.
The Legislative Council was Western Australia's first representative parliament. It was first created in 1832 as an appointive body. In 1870, it become the then-colony's first representative parliament, when it was changed to consist of 12 elected members and 6 members nominated by the governor. Suffrage was not universal, with only landowners and those with a certain level of income being granted suffrage. However, it was relegated to the role of a house of review after the creation of the Legislative Assembly in 1890. The Council then consisted of 15 members, all elected by the government. In 1893, it became one of the first democratic upper houses in the country, becoming entirely representative, with 21 members elected from seven provinces - a system which was retained until 1962.
Over the next two years, the Council was reformed, creating a series of two-member electorates, with one member facing re-election every three years, in a similar manner to the Victorian Legislative Council. Universal suffrage was also granted, in order to bring the Council into line with the Assembly. This remained until the late 1980s, when Labor Premier Brian Burke introduced the current system, with the support of the National Party.
- Parliaments of the Australian states and territories
- Members of the Western Australian Legislative Council, 2005-2009
Current Distribution of Seats
Vote counting not complete as of March 1, 2005.
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