Parliaments of the Australian states and territories
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The parliaments of the Australian states and territories are legislative bodies within the federal framework of the Commonwealth of Australia.
All the parliaments are based on the Westminster system, and each is regulated by its own constitution. Queensland and the two territories have unicameral parliaments, with the single house being called Legislative Assembly. The other states have a bicameral parliament, with a lower house called the Legislative Assembly (New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia) or House of Assembly (South Australia and Tasmania). In all these cases the upper house is called the Legislative Council.
Before the formation of the Commonwealth in 1901, the six Australian colonies were self-governing colonies, with parliaments which had come into existence at various times between 1825, when the New South Wales Legislative Council was created, to 1891, when Western Australia became the last of the colonies to gain full self-government.
The colonies ratified the Constitution of Australia, becoming States of the Commonwealth in the new federation, and ceding certain of their legislative powers to the Commonwealth Parliament, but otherwise retaining their self-governing status with their own constitutions and parliaments. The state parliaments were all created by legislation of the British Imperial Parliament, and their original constitutions were contained in Acts of that Parliament; however now the power to amend state constitutions resides with the respective state parliaments, in accordance with its constitution. The Commonwealth Parliament cannot amend a state's constitution.
The Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, by contrast, are territories of the Commonwealth, and their parliaments were created by way of legislation of the Commonwealth Parliament. Although the Commonwealth treats the territories as though they were states for many purposes, they are not states, and the legislative powers of their parliaments can be altered or even abolished by the Commonwealth Parliament. The Commonwealth can also overturn legislation passed by the territory parliaments.
States and territories
New South Wales
The New South Wales Legislative Council is the oldest legislative body in Australia, having been created in 1825 as an appointed body to advise the Governor. The Legislative Assembly was created in 1856 when New South Wales attained self-government.
Currently, the Legislative Council has 42 members serving eight-year terms with half the members facing re-election every four years. They are elected by proportional representation with the whole state being one electorate. The Legislative Assembly has 93 members elected for four-year terms from single-member constituencies, using optional preferential voting.
Until November 2006, the Legislative Council had 44 members serving eight-year terms and elected from single-member constituencies, and after that date it has had 40 members, each serving four-year terms. They are elected from eight multi-member constituencies, each with 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.
Queensland's Legislative Assembly was created in 1859 when the then colony attained self-government. The Legislative Council was created in 1860 as a fully nominated body. The Legislative Council was abolished by the Constitution Amendment Act 1921, which took effect on 23 March 1922.
The Legislative Assembly had 89 members elected for three-year terms in single-member constituencies from optional preferential voting. Successful amendments to the electoral act in early 2016 include: adding an additional four parliamentary seats from 89 to 93, changing from optional preferential voting to full-preferential voting, and moving from unfixed three-year terms to fixed four-year terms.
Currently, the Legislative Council has 22 members, elected for eight-year terms by proportional representation with half the members facing re-election every four years, and the House of Assembly which has had 47 members since 1970, elected for four-year terms from single-member constituencies, using preferential voting.
Currently, the Legislative Council has 36 members elected for four-year terms from multi-member constituencies by proportional representation, and the Legislative Assembly has 59 members, elected for four-year terms from single-member constituencies, using preferential voting.
Tasmania's Legislative Council was created in 1825 as an appointed body. (Tasmania was then called Van Diemen's Land.) The House of Assembly was created in 1856 when Tasmania attained self-government.
Currently, the Legislative Council has 15 members, elected for six-year terms from single-member constituencies, and the House of Assembly has 25 members, elected for four-year terms from multi-member constituencies, using the Hare-Clark system of proportional representation.
Australian Capital Territory
The Australian Capital Territory's Legislative Assembly was created by an act of the Commonwealth Parliament in 1989, replacing an earlier advisory body, the House of Assembly (also known for a period as the Legislative Assembly), which existed from 1976 to 1986.
Currently, the Legislative Assembly has 25 members (changed from 17 recently), elected for four-year terms from multi-member constituencies, using the Hare-Clark system of proportional representation.
The Northern Territory's Legislative Assembly was created by an act of the Commonwealth Parliament in 1974. An earlier advisory body, the Northern Territory Legislative Council, existed from 1947 to 1974.
Currently, the Legislative Assembly has 25 members, elected for four-year terms from single-member constituencies, using preferential voting.
In the external territory of Norfolk Island in the South Pacific Ocean, the local legislative body will be a Norfolk Island Regional Council to be established in 2016. The island was previously governed by a Norfolk Legislative Assembly. Formed after the Norfolk Island Act 1979 was passed in the Australian parliament, its first members were elected on the tenth of August 1979. The assembly consisted of 9 members elected every three years by popular vote. It was abolished in June 2015 as part of a reorganisation of the territory's government by the Parliament of Australia.
In the external territory of Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean, the Shire Council provides local governance. The nine-member Shire Council was established in 1993. Councilors serve four-year terms, with four or five being chosen every second year.
Cocos (Keeling) Islands
In the external territory of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands in the Indian Ocean, the Shire of Cocos is the local legislative body. Established in 1993, the Shire Council consists of 7 members serving terms of four years. Elections for half the seats are held every two years.
| Lower house
| Name of
| Number of reps
in lower house
| Upper house
| Name of
| Number of reps
in upper house
| Total number|
|NSW||1856||Legislative Assembly||93||1825||Legislative Council||42||135|
|Qld||1859||Legislative Assembly||93||1860||unicameral legislature
(Legislative Council abolished 1922)
|SA||1857||House of Assembly||47||1840||Legislative Council||22||69|
|Tas||1856||House of Assembly||25||1825||Legislative Council||15||40|
|Vic||1855||Legislative Assembly||88||1851||Legislative Council||40||128|
|WA||1890||Legislative Assembly||59||1832||Legislative Council||36||95|
|ACT||1989||Legislative Assembly||25||unicameral legislature||25|
|NT||1974||Legislative Assembly||25||unicameral legislature||25|
|CX||1993||Shire Council||9||unicameral legislature||9|
|CC||1993||Shire Council||7||unicameral legislature||7|
|NI||2016||Regional Council||5||unicameral legislature||5|
- Electoral systems of the Australian states and territories
- Timeline of heads of government in Australia
- Electoral Law Ructions in the Queensland Parliament: Antony Green 21 April 2016
- "Assembly". Norfolk.gov.nf. Retrieved 27 June 2010.
- "Welcome to the Shire of Christmas Island." Shire of Christmas Island. Retrieved on 23 February 2009.
- The New South Wales Parliament
- The Queensland Parliament
- The South Australian Parliament
- The Tasmanian Parliament
- The Victorian Parliament
- The Western Australian Parliament
- The Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly
- The Northern Territory Legislative Assembly