Parliament of Victoria
|Founded||21 November 1856|
since 6 February 1952
since 1 July 2015
Legislative Assembly political groups
Legislative Council political groups
Liberal Democrats (2)
Animal Justice (1)
Transport Matters (1)
|Single transferable vote with group voting tickets|
Last general election
|24 November 2018|
Next general election
|26 November 2022|
East Melbourne, Victoria,
The Parliament of Victoria is the bicameral legislature of the Australian state of Victoria. It follows a Westminster-derived parliamentary system and consists of The Queen, represented by the Governor of Victoria; the Legislative Assembly; and the Legislative Council. It has a fused executive drawn from members of both chambers. The Parliament meets at Parliament House in the state capital Melbourne.
The two Houses of Parliament have 128 Members in total, 88 in the lower house and 40 in the upper house. Victoria has compulsory voting and uses preferential ballot in single-member seats for the Legislative Assembly, and single transferable vote in multi-member seats for the proportionally represented Legislative Council. Government is formed by the party or parties who command confidence and supply within the Assembly. The Council is a house of review. Majorities in the Legislative Council are rare, so the government of the day must negotiate with other parties to pass much of its legislative agenda. All members serve four-year terms. The parliament's functions and processes have evolved over time, undergoing significant changes as Victoria changed from an independent colony to a state within the federated Australia.
The Parliament may make laws for any matter within Victoria, subject to the Victorian Constitution. Its power is further limited by the ability for the federal government to override it in some circumstances, subject to the Australian Constitution. Similarly, the Supreme Court of Victoria provides judicial oversight of Parliament and is vested with equal power.
- 1 History
- 2 Composition and electoral systems
- 3 Procedure
- 4 Functions
- 5 Conflict between the Houses
- 6 Relationship with government
- 7 Salary and allowances
- 8 Current Parliament
- 9 See also
- 10 Notes
- 11 References
- 12 External links
Parliament has sat at Parliament House, Melbourne since 1856, with the exception of the period 1901–1927, when Parliament House was used by the Federal Parliament and the Parliament of Victoria sat at the Royal Exhibition Building.
Early parliamentary history
Prior to 1851 the area of Australia now known as Victoria was part of the colony of New South Wales and was administered by the Government of New South Wales in Sydney. On 5 August 1850, the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed the Australian Colonies Government Act which made provision for the separation of Victoria from New South Wales. Enabling legislation was passed by the Parliament of New South Wales, and Victoria was formally created a separate colony of the United Kingdom on 1 July 1851.
The Australian Colonies Government Act provided for the colony to be administered by a Lieutenant-Governor and a Legislative Council of 51 members, 21 of which were to be elected and the remainder appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor. The Lieutenant-Governor was subordinate in some matters to the Governor of New South Wales, who was given the title Governor-General. The Legislative Council met for the first time in November 1851 at St Patrick's Hall, Melbourne.
The first Legislative Council existed for five years and was responsible for at least three significant and enduring contributions to the parliamentary system of Victoria:
- It drafted the Victorian Constitution, which provides the framework for the system of government in Victoria;
- It introduced the secret ballot, an innovation at the time but now common around the world; and
- It ordered the construction of the Victorian Parliament House in Melbourne.
The Victorian Constitution was approved by the Legislative Council in March 1854, was sent to Britain where it was passed by the United Kingdom Parliament as the Victoria Constitution Act 1855, was granted Royal Assent on 16 July 1855 and was proclaimed in Victoria on 23 November 1855. The constitution established the Westminster-style system of responsible government that continues in Victoria today. It further stipulated several preconditions on voting that have since been rescinded such as restricting voting to only men of at least 21 years of age who met minimum wealth standards. Rural districts were also very over-represented in order to favour large landowners.
The election for the first Victorian Parliament was held during the spring of 1856, the first Victorian Members of Parliament met on 21 November 1856 in the recently completed Parliament House and were sworn in, and on 25 November 1856 the first Victorian Parliament was officially opened by Acting Governor Major-General Edward Macarthur. The Legislative Council consisted of thirty members representing six Provinces, each province returning five Members. The Legislative Assembly consisted of sixty members representing thirty-seven multi and single-member electorates.
Expansion of suffrage
Although the White Australia policy denied the vote to Indigenous Australians in some states, Victoria did not directly legislate voting based on race. Therefore, Indigenous Victorian men were entitled to vote from 1857, provided they met the other requirements. Furthermore, Indigenous Victorians who enrolled to vote in Victoria were allowed to vote in federal elections from 1901.
Voting was initially restricted based on gender, though. Victoria was the last state within Australia to intentionally recognise female voters. The Electoral Act 1863 granted the vote to all rate payers, which included some women at the time. Therefore women were legally allowed to, and indeed did, vote in the election of 1864. The act was clarified in 1865 to exclude women.  Agitation for allowing women to vote began in earnest in 1891, with presentation of an immense petition containing over 30,000 signatures was presented to the Parliament. This petition was proudly used as a promotional tool for the federation of Australia. The newly federated nation allowed women to vote in elections, as well as stand for office, since 1902. Yet Victoria did not expand its suffrage to include women until 1908, nor allow women to stand for office until 1924. The first woman was not elected into the Victorian Parliament until 1933.
Political parties began to increase in size and influence throughout the 1890s, leading to further agitation for changes to the vote. This also led to voting within each chamber becoming more predictable, as strong party discipline began to form among party members, mostly aligned to three broad ideals: the labour movement, liberal movement and rural interests. Victoria's two-party system took hold, usually as a contest between the Labor Party and a coalition formed by the Country Party (now known as the Nationals) and the more recent Liberal Party.
The principle of ensuring that rural regions, which typically represented the landed gentry when Victoria first formed, were over-represented in parliament was also rescinded. One-man-one vote was adopted in 1899 in the Legislative Assembly, and expanded to the Legislative Council in 1937. Wealth requirements for voting in the Legislative Assembly were removed in 1857, but this reform was not made to the Legislative Council until 1950. Furthermore, the method of voting was changed; first-past-the-post voting was replaced with preferential voting for the Legislative Assembly in 1911 and compulsory voting introduced in 1923. Meanwhile, the preferential voting was used for elections to the Legislative Council from 1921, and elections made compulsory in 1935.
Voting was further expanded in 1973, when the voting age was lowered from 21 to 18. Membership of either house was also lowered to 18.
Expansion of voting divisions
The number of divisions within each of the chambers was gradually increased over time. The Legislative Council was expanded from 30 members representing 6 provinces to its peak of 48 members spread throughout 14 provinces by 1888. The number of both provinces and members continued to change until it remained relatively fixed by 1974, when 44 members represented 22 provinces. Furthermore, the members were distributed evenly, rather than a mixture of single and multi-member districts as the chamber was at its creation.
The Legislative Assembly has similarly fluctuated in size over time. It contained 60 seats within its first iteration in 1856, eventually growing to as many as 95 by 1900. It was not until 1958 when all divisions were up for election at the same time, though, when all of the then 66 seats were contested. The Assembly reached 88 seats in 1985 and has remained at this number ever since.
Current voting methods and districts
Until November 2006, the Legislative Council had 44 members serving eight-year terms, elected from single-member constituencies, with half the seats falling vacant every four years. Since then it has had 40 members, each serving four-year terms, and elected from eight multi-member constituencies, each returning five members, elected by proportional representation. Since 2006, the Legislative Assembly has had 88 members elected for fixed four-year terms from single-member constituencies, using preferential voting.
Fixed four-year terms were introduced for both houses in 2002, replacing the previous provision that allowed the government to expire after no more than three years.
Composition and electoral systems
All members of both houses are elected for fixed four year terms. General elections are held on the last Saturday in November every four years with the Parliament expiring on the Tuesday twenty-five days before the election. The most recent general election was held on 24 November 2018.
Parliament can be dissolved earlier by the Governor, and a general election called, in two exceptional circumstances:
- the Legislative Assembly passes a motion of no confidence in the Government or its ministers, or
- the Legislative Council and Legislative Assembly are deadlocked and cannot agree to pass a Bill.
Anyone enrolled to vote in Victoria can stand for election as a candidate for either House, except for:
- a judge of the Victorian Courts,
- a member of the Commonwealth Parliament,
- an undischarged bankrupt, or
- someone convicted of a serious criminal offence.
It is also not permitted to be a member of both houses or a candidate for election to both houses of Parliament.
Members of Parliament may be addressed by their name or by using their electorate, for example "The Member for Hawthorn" or "Member for Southern Metropolitan Region", and are entitled to the postnominal letters MLC if a Member of the Legislative Council, and MLA or MP if a Member of the Legislative Assembly. Ministers and former ministers are entitled to the style "The Honourable" (abbreviated to "The Hon") although some choose not to use it.
The Legislative Assembly is the house of responsible government, in that the government of the day must command a majority of support in this chamber. Furthermore, the Premier and Ministers are accountable to Parliament and must face questioning and scrutiny from Parliament. The Assembly schedules question time and has time and subject limits on the ways that Ministers must respond to matters raised to them by any other member of the Assembly.
The Assembly functions as a representation of Victoria and commanding a majority within the Assembly provides a mandate for government policies. The Assembly is the only chamber authorised to draw funds from the public treasury, or to raise taxes, on its own initiative. Changes to taxation or funding for projects can still be blocked by the Council, but the Assembly may always authorise funding for the ordinary operation of government without needing Council approval. This means that, unlike the Australian Senate, the other chamber of Victoria's parliament cannot block supply for government funding.
The Assembly has increased in power over time compared to the Legislative Council. It is assumed that the government of the day will act upon the initiatives it campaigned on and the Assembly serves as a direct link between local members and each individual constituency. Furthermore, while it is not a requirement that ministers come from the Assembly, it is convention that more members of the executive branch sit within the Assembly than the Council.
Most bills originate within the Assembly, partly as a matter of convention and mostly due to the fact that bills not sponsored by the government are unlikely to be passed. A bill typically goes through three readings, each followed by a vote, before being presented to the Legislative Council.
The Legislative Council is the house of review. It contains forty members, elected from eight multi-member electorates known as regions. Each region returns five members for a four year term. Each region contains eleven divisions from the Legislative Assembly. The Council is elected using a single transferable vote with the option of group ticket voting.
The Council's power has decreased over time, as its role has changed. It was initially a means of suppressing democratic reforms, particularly since the more representative Assembly was seen as too "liberal" and "radical". It now serves as a house of review, more closely modelled on the Australian Senate than on the United Kingdom's House of Lords. Majorities within the Council are rare by design, while minority interest groups are more likely to be elected than within the Assembly, encouraging debate and compromise.
Bills passed by the Assembly must also pass the Council within the same form. Either house can propose amendments to bills and all bills, with the exception of supply bills, must pass both houses.
The Speaker of the Legislative Assembly is the presiding officer of the Legislative Assembly. He or she is an elected member of the Parliament and is chosen by the members of the Legislative Assembly to chair their meetings and represent the assembly as a whole at official functions. The corresponding person in the Legislative Council is the President of the Legislative Council. Both the Speaker and the President have important powers in controlling debate in their respective chambers, including the ability to punish members who step out of line or disobey their orders. The presiding officers also have powers to summon witnesses to the chamber to assist in the legislative role of Parliament. 
The presiding officers also oversee votes within their respective chambers and provide proof of assent in the instance that a bill is passed. This proof is needed for a bill to be presented to the Governor for royal assent.
The Government and Opposition appoint members as Managers of Government and Opposition Business in each house. These members are not within the control of the house in the same way that the President and Speaker are, they are appointed by the Premier and the Leader of the Opposition respectively.
Each party represented in each house appoint a member in each house as their Party Whip. The whip's main duty is to ensure that all of the members of their party are present within a chamber when a formal vote takes place.
Parliamentary days follow a regular routine. Each sitting day begins with a prayer, and also an acknowledgement to country in respect to Victoria's Indigenous people. A quorum must be present for a day's proceedings to be legally binding, so the presiding officer will generally wait until enough members are within the chamber before entering. Members may only speak in the chamber when given leave to do so by the presiding officer.
A proposed petition, motion or bill can be introduced into either house, but in practice most are introduced into the Legislative Assembly. Any statute bill, with the exception of bills appropriating money for the ordinary annual services of government, must be passed by both Houses before being presented to the Governor, who will sign the Bill into law on behalf of the Queen. Ordinary appropriation bills need only be passed by the Legislative Assembly before being presented to the Governor for royal assent.
The parliamentary process extends beyond each chamber in turn. Proposed bills and motions will usually be passed separately within their party caucus before they are brought to Parliament. The governing party or parties will also generally only propose bills that have the approval of the relevant minister, and which have already been agreed upon during a cabinet meeting. Input is sought from various public groups, private interests and public servants.
As a general rule, official government policy is based on advice given by a committee. This ensures further public input as committees consist of members from many parties. Bills are then drafted by the Office of the Chief Parliamentary Council to ensure that all relevant clauses and technicalities in existed laws are covered. Any member, whether in government or otherwise, may draft their own bill. Bills are almost always tabled to Parliament by a minister; those tables by others are referred to as a private member's bill. Any private member's bill is usually drafted by the member in question without input from the OCPC.
Debate and vote
The presiding officer of a house determines when a bill, motion or petition is tabled by adding it to the Notice Paper for a given sitting day. Members must provide notice so that enough time is available to allow for proper debate and scrutiny. The presiding officer will also schedule subsequent readings based on how each house votes; if the bill is passed on its first reading, then it is common to provide for two weeks before the next.
A bill usually goes through three readings once it is tabled in a house. The bill's details remain confidential, other than the title, during the first reading to the house from which it originated. It goes to a second reading if the house moves to do so. Debates occur at this stage, as members of the house may scrutinise the bill's merits, propose amendments or move that the bill be dismissed altogether. The house will often vote on amendments at this stage as a result of debate and discussion. Finally, the house may then go to a third reading. The bill is read in full in its final form to ensure that all members can scrutinise the final bill and its amendments (if any). The house's formal vote after the third reading passes the bill in that house and the presiding officer certifies it. Bills sometimes skip their second reading if no member wants to debate it. This process must occur in both houses for a bill to become law.
Voting in the house can be either be passed by the presiding officer simply asking members to call out their assent by stating, "Aye," or dissent by stating, "No." They then decide which side wins based on the volume. This process of voting "on the voices" is common for matters with little opposition. However, any member may challenge the presiding officer's ruling and ask for a division. This leads to bells being rung and members either stand to the presiding officer's right if they assent or to the left if they dissent. A count is conducted and a record of how each member voted is taken.
If a house amends the draft bill, then the other house must separately agree to the same amendments. This means that it is returned to the other chamber for another vote. The bill is usually not out in full again, rather only the amendment in question.
Once both houses agree to the bill, and both presiding officers have certified the votes, it is presented to the Govenor. The Governor then provides royal assent, after which the bill with either take effect immediately, or at a time specified in the bill. The Governor may, to the letter of the law, withhold their approval of a bill. However, their capacity to do so is not unlimited and is heavily curtailed by precedent and convention. In the rare instances where the Governor is reluctant to provide Royal Assent, the bill may be sent back to the house of origin with suggested amendments rather than be rejected outright. 
The Parliament has the power to make laws for Victoria on any matter, subject only to limitations placed on it by the Constitution of Australia, which specifies which matters fall under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth. The main limitation is that in areas where both the state and federal parliaments may pass laws, the federal law prevails to the extent of any inconsistency.  However, the federal parliament may only make laws for matters to which it has been specifically granted the ability to do so by Australia's Constitution. Therefore the remaining powers remain the legal domain of each state parliament in turn. Victoria has often deferred its powers to the federal parliament over time as Australia has concentrated power into its federal government. This is most often done with the practice of "tied grants", whereby the federal government funds projects that are administered at a state level, such as road and rail, but these grants are only given on the condition that the Victorian Parliament also assents to preconditions laid out by its federal counterpart.
The Parliament of Victoria is a bicameral legislature. It usually fulfils its legislative role by first proposing bills in the Legislative Assembly, and then reviewing them in the Legislative Council. Common practice is that the houses sit in staggered dates; the Assembly usually meeting first in order to pass bills that the Council later debates.  These houses sit in separate chambers, with the exception of joint-sittings, which occur in the Legislative Assembly.
The Parliament also has the ability to amend Victoria's constitution, although this power is subject to strict requirements. Some sections may not be modified without a three-fifths majority of both houses, while others may not be amended without a public referendum.
Parliament also undertakes investigative and research roles. Each house has a number of committees that investigate proposed laws in detail before they are considered by the whole house. They may also be formed for research purposes or to seek community input. This function is assisted by the fact that committees include members of more than one political party. Some of the committee work is carried out by the Joint Committees which consist of members from all sides of politics and from both chambers. Like the Parliament, the committees cease to exist when the Parliament is dissolved by the governor, and need to be recreated after each general election. This means that often the names and jurisdiction of the committees are changed.
The houses also provide oversight of the government of the day. Committees may also investigate the effectiveness of existing laws and regulations. Similarly, parliamentary committees may also investigate potential breaches of law or conventions by the government. General practice is that committees are given two weeks to investigate potential impacts on the wider community any bill may have as part of a bill's second reading within a house.
Conflict between the Houses
The Victorian Parliament’s means of resolving disputes between the two houses entails a process modelled on the Australian Parliament’s. However, the process also includes additional steps and modifications.
A bill that is passed by the Assembly but rejected by the Council, termed a "Disputed Bill" may be amended by the Council and returned to the Assembly within 2 months. If the Assembly does not endorse the amendments then a dispute resolution committee may be formed. This process does not apply to ordinary appropriation bills, which need only pass the Legislative Assembly.
The committee must consist of 7 members from the Assembly and 5 from the Council, each appointed by their respective house. This committee is often formed following an election in anticipation of its usage later. The committee is given 30 days to resolve the dispute in secret and then present their compromise bill to Parliament.
However, if the committee either cannot reach an agreement, or the Parliament does not pass the committee’s suggestion, then the bill is termed a "Deadlocked Bill." At this point, the Premier may advise for a fresh election of the Assembly (and only the Assembly), after which the bill may then go before a joint sitting of both houses. A Deadlocked Bill would likely pass a joint sitting, due to the fact that the Assembly is more than twice the size of the Council. Such as bill is treated as though it has passed both houses in the normal fashion.
Relationship with government
The parliament functions as the legislative branch of the Victorian government. It passes laws or amends existing laws to assist in the governance of the state. Victoria uses a blend of statutory law and common law. The parliament makes statutory law while common law is decided by the judicial branch of government. The government follows the Westminster tradition of having an executive government whose members come from the legislature.
The Governor of Victoria is the representative of the Monarch (Queen Elizabeth II). Among the Governor's vice-regal duties are the opening of Parliament and the signing of acts that are passed by the Victorian Parliament. The governor retains executive powers over the Parliament, such as swearing in ministers, issuing writs for election and dissolving the Parliament. The Governor generally acts on the advice of the Premier and the ministers of government when performing these functions. This following of advice reflects how the Governor's role has changed over time from a powerful executive with veto authority to that of an advisory role limited by convention and precedent. However, the Parliament is obliged to observe the governor's three rights in overseeing it: the right to be consulted, the right to warn, and the right to encourage. The Governor may insist on being consulted on matters before the Parliament at any time. The Governor's role includes formally opening sessions of parliament with a speech outlining the government's legislative agenda. Victoria also has a Lieutenant-Governor to fulfil the functions of the office when the Governor is otherwise unavailable.
Premier and Ministry
The leader of the political party or coalition with a majority of seats in the Legislative Assembly is invited by the Governor of Victoria to form a government. The leader of that party is appointed Premier of Victoria and other senior members are appointed ministers with various portfolio responsibilities. The Premier and the Ministers are generally responsible for tabling legislation to the Parliament. The Premier is, for the most part, the most powerful executive role within the Victorian Government. Similarly, the Ministers each oversee a specific task related to a chief responsibility of the government. The Premier and the Ministry separately form the Victorian Government's executive branch.
The Premier and the Ministers must be sitting members of Parliament. There is no legal requirement that any of the executive government come from any particular house. However, since the Legislative Assembly must provide confidence and supply to the government of the day, the Premier is, by convention, a member of the Legislative Assembly.
Political parties form a central part of the parliamentary system. The government is opposed by an official opposition. The leader of the largest party in opposition becomes the Leader of the Opposition. The opposition plays a central role in debating government ideas as well as scrutinising the government's business and its agenda. However, the opposition's power is limited while the government commands a majority in the Legislative Assembly due to the traditionally strong party discipline throughout Australia. Parties must have at least 500 members on the Victorian electoral roll, have a party constitution and register with the Victorian Electoral Commission to receive official status.
The government of the day sits on benches to the right of the presiding officer within each chamber, while the opposition sits to the left. Members of a house who are not part of either the official government or opposition sit on the benches in between them, called the cross bench. This arrangement is used in the Legislative Council even though the governing parties rarely command a majority within it.
The Leader of the Opposition Coalition is Michael O'Brien, who was elected as the leader of the Liberal Party on 6 December 2018 after their election defeat, replacing former leader Matthew Guy. The Greens are led by Samantha Ratnam.
Salary and allowances
Members of both the Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council are paid a base salary of $158,555 per annum (as of 1 July 2018) plus an additional 8 percent "expense" allowance, meaning the minimum gross pay for a backbench MP is $171,239.
Office holders such as the President, Speaker, ministers and party leaders receive additional salary on top of the base salary. The Premier is paid an additional 100 percent of the base salary; the Leader of the Opposition and Government Ministers an additional 75 percent; the President and Speaker an additional 65 percent.
Members are also entitled to receive various allowances for travel and work costs. Members representing non-Melbourne electorates are also entitled to a second home allowance.
Prior to 1870 only Ministers and Office holders were provided with a salary. This in effect meant that members had to be wealthy enough to support themselves before seeking election to Parliament. In 1870 the Victorian Parliament provided for the reimbursing of members in relation to their expenses in attending Parliament, in effect the first salary for Members of the Victorian Parliament. At first passed as temporary measure, it later became permanent. The Act provided for a payment of £300 p.a. to those who did not already receive a salary. This value is difficult to place in a modern context, due to Australia's conversion to a decimal currency and the smaller economy of the time. This salary would equate to approximately $35,000 in 2018 dollars based on inflation, but could be as much as approximately $340,000 when measuring it as a relative income of the time.
|Summary of votes by party|
|Shooters, Fishers and Farmers||24,257||0.69||+0.61||0||±0|
|Summary of votes by party|
|Shooters, Fishers and Farmers||108,312||3.02||+1.37||1||−1|
|Hudson for Northern Victoria||6,438||0.18||+0.18||0||±0|
|Vote 1 Local Jobs||5,351||0.15||−0.06||0||−1|
The current parliament is the 59th Victorian Parliament, having been elected at the 2018 Victorian State Election. It was formally opened by Governor Linda Dessau on its first sitting day on the 19 December 2019. The incumbent Labor government, led by Premier Daniel Andrews, was re-elected with an increased majority in the Legislative Assembly. The government holds 55 seats, the opposition 27, and the cross-bench consists of three members of the Greens and three independents.
The government has 18 seats within the Legislative Council, and the opposition Liberal/National Coalition has 11. The remaining 11 are held by a variety of cross-bench parties. The election of a broad cross-bench drew some controversy due to the manipulation of group-ticket-voting by some parties. This led to such occurrences as the Greens receiving 13.5% of the primary vote in the Southern Metropolitan Region but losing to the Sustainable Australia party, who garnered only 1.3%. Similarly, Derryn Hinch's Justice Party gained 3 seats with a statewide 3.7% of the primary vote, while the Greens' statewide 9.3% primary vote earned them just one seat.
Changes to 59th Parliament
- Victorian state election, 2018
- Government of Victoria
- Parliaments of the Australian states and territories
- Official Openings by the Monarch in Australia
- Parliament railway station
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