Electoral systems of the Australian states and territories

From Academic Kids

The legislatures of the Australian states and territories all follow the Westminster model described in the Australian electoral system. When the Australian colonies were granted responsible government in the nineteenth century, their constitutions provided for lower houses (Legislative Assemblies) elected by the people from single-member constituencies, with all adult males able to vote. This was considerably more democratic than the system which existed in Britain at that time. To balance this democratic element, however, the Legislative Councils which had existed before responsible government were retained as upper houses, whose members were either nominated by the Governor or elected on a restricted franchise. This ensured that the upper houses were dominated by representatives of the wealthy.

For elections to the Australian Parliament, see the Australian electoral system.

Contents

New South Wales

The Legislative Assembly

The New South Wales Legislative Assembly has 93 members elected for four-year terms from single-member constituencies by preferential voting. The voting system is the same as for the House of Representatives except that New South Wales has optional preferential voting. This means that while voters may number every candidate if they wish, their vote is still formal if they choose not to. They may vote for one candidate only, or for as many candidates as they choose, provided that they number them in correct sequence.

The Legislative Council

The New South Wales Legislative Council has had three different methods of election (or appointment) in its history. From 1855 to 1933 its members were appointed by the Governor, and the Council had no fixed size. In the early part of this period the Governor exercised a personal discretion in appointing members, but once the convention became established that the Governor acted only on the advice of the Premier, this meant that the Council was in effect appointed by the Premier.

By the 1920s this was felt to be undemocratic and undesirable, so in 1933 the method of choosing members of the Council was changed by referendum. From 1933 to 1978, the Council consisted of 60 members, chosen for 12-year terms by a meeting of both Houses of the Parliament. One-third of the members came up for re-election every three years. This meant in practice that the party composition of the Council reflected that of the Assembly, with a lag of some years.

In 1978 Neville Wran's Labor government reformed the Council again by referendum. Since that time the Council has been elected by the people by proportional representation, with the whole state voting as one electorate. Voting was preferential as well as proportional. The size of the Council was reduced to 45 members, serving nine-year terms, with one third of the members coming up for election every three years.

When the term of the Legislative Assembly was extended from three years to four in 1984, the size of the Council was reduced again to 42, serving eight-year terms, with half the members coming up for election every four years. The Council also uses optional preferential voting.

Nomination

Nomination as a candidate requires:

  • nomination by 15 electors; or
  • nomination by the Registered Officer of a political party (registration of a party requires 750 electors)
  • deposit of $500 (the deposit is returned if the candidate or group gains 4% of first preference vote)

Victoria

The Legislative Assembly

The Victorian Legislative Assembly has 88 members elected for four-year terms from single-member constituencies by preferential voting. The voting system is the same as for the House of Representatives.

(See also List of members of the Victorian Legislative Assembly)

The Legislative Council

The Victorian Legislative Council has 44 members elected for eight-year terms from 22 single-member constituencies known as provinces. Each province has two members, one elected at each quadrennial election. Each province consists of four Legislative Assembly electorates.

The Legislative Council has always been elected, but until 1950 it was elected on a restricted franchise based on property. Until the 1970s the distribution of provinces heavily favoured country areas. These two features kept the Council firmly under conservative control.

At the 2002 Victorian state election, Labor, led by Steve Bracks, gained control of the Council for the first time. The Labor government then passed legislation reforming the council. From the next election, due in 2006, the Council will have 40 members. This will be the first time the Council has been dissolved since first elected in 1856. The state will be divided into eight provinces, each of which will elect five members by proportional representation.

Nomination

Nomination as a candidate requires:

  • nomination by six electors; or
  • nomination by the Registered Officer of a political party.(registration of an party requires 500 members)
  • deposit of $350 (Assembly) or $700 (Council). The deposit is returned if the candidate or group gains 4% of first preference vote.

(See also Victorian Electoral Commission)

Queensland

The Legislative Assembly

The Queensland Legislative Assembly has 89 members, elected for three-year terms from single-member constituencies. Like New South Wales, Queensland has optional preferential voting.

The Queensland Legislative Council, which consisted of members nominated by the Governor, was abolished by a Labor government in 1922.

Nomination

Nomination as a candidate requires:

  • nomination by six electors; or
  • nomination by the Registered Officer of a political party (registration of an party requires 500 members).
  • deposit of $250. The deposit is returned if the candidate gains 4% of first preference vote.

Western Australia

The Legislative Assembly

The Western Australian Legislative Assembly has 57 members, elected for four-year terms from single-member constituencies. The voting system is the same as for the House of Representatives. Western Australia is the only state in which Legislative Assembly seats are deliberately malapportioned in favour of country areas.

The Legislative Council

The Western Australian Legislative Council has 34 members elected for four-year terms from six multi-member constituencies known as regions, by proportional representation. Five regions elect five members while two regions elect seven members. As in the Assembly, the regions are deliberately malapportioned in favour of country areas.

Nomination

Nomination as a candidate requires:

  • nomination by self or Registered Officer of a political party (registration of an party requires 500 members).
  • deposit of $250. The deposit is returned if the candidate gains 5% of first preference votes, or if a group gains 10% of the first preference votes.

South Australia

The House of Assembly

The South Australian House of Assembly has 47 members, elected for four-year terms from single-member constituencies. The voting system is the same as for the House of Representatives.

The Legislative Council

The South Australian Legislative Council has 22 members, elected for eight-year terms on a statewide basis by proportional representation. Half the members come up for election at each quadrennial election.

Nomination

Nomination as a candidate requires:

  • nomination by 2 electors or Registered Officer of a political party (registration of an party requires 150 members).
  • deposit of "Prescribed amount".

Tasmania

The House of Assembly

The Tasmanian House of Assembly has 25 members, elected for four-year terms from five multi-member constituencies, each electing five members by proportional representation. Tasmania is the only state to use proportional representation to elect its lower house. In Tasmania this system is referred to as the Hare-Clark system, and it was introduced in Tasmania in 1909.

The Legislative Council

The Tasmanian Legislative Council has 15 members, elected for six-year terms from single-member constituencies. The voting system is the same as for the House of Representatives. The constituencies vote under a rotational election system, whereby two or three constituencies elect a member each year.

Nominations

Nomination for either house requires:

  • nomination by 2 electors;
  • deposit of $200. The deposit is returned if the candidate gains 20% of a quota at time of exclusion.

Australian Capital Territory

The Legislative Assembly

The Legislative Assembly of the Australian Capital Territory has 17 members, elected for four-year terms from three multi-member constituencies by proportional representation. Two of the constituencies elect five members while the third elects seven. The Territory has never had an upper house.

The ACT uses the Hare-Clark system (http://www.elections.act.gov.au/hare.html), a variation on proportional representation in which quotas are calculated. The system has been used between elections to fill casual vacancies by recounting the previous vote.

Nomination

Nomination as a candidate requires:

  • nomination by 20 electors; or
  • nomination by the Registered Officer of a political party (registration of an party requires 100 members).
  • deposit of $250. The deposit is returned if the candidate or group gains 20% of first preference vote.

Northern Territory

The Legislative Assembly

The Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory has 25 members, elected for four-year terms from single-member constituencies. The voting system is the same as for the House of Representatives. The Territory has never had an upper house.

Nomination

Nomination as a candidate requires:

  • nomination by six electors; or
  • nomination by the Registered Officer of a political party (registration of an party requires 200 members).
  • deposit of $200. The deposit is returned if the candidate gains 20% of first preference vote.

External links

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