House of Assembly
A Message from the Speaker of the House of Assembly, the Honourable Michael Polley, MP.

On behalf of the Members of the House of Assembly, welcome to Parliament House. The House of Assembly has been an important part of the Parliament of Tasmania for more than 130 years. Much of the time of your MPs is spent in the House considering legislation and government policies. Members are also very active outside the Chamber attending Parliamentary Committees and of course looking after the needs of you the voter through electoral work. The tour has been designed to give a general overview of the Tasmanian House of Assembly. Parliament House is recognised as one of the best examples of Georgian style architecture in Australia, and I hope that you enjoy and find valuable this virtual tour.

Michael Polley, Speaker.


The House of Assembly Chamber

Parliament

Parliament consists of three parts: the Crown, the Legislative Council and the House of Assembly. These three acting together make State laws for Tasmania.

It is the task of Parliament to provide a forum for the people's elected representatives to debate the important issues of the day and make laws accordingly.

The Governor has an important formal role as part of the Parliament. He summons, prorogues and dissolves Parliament, on the advice of the Ministry. When summoning Parliament, the Governor makes a speech to all Members outlining the Government's legislative program for the forthcoming session. The Governor also acts on behalf of the monarch to give the Royal Assent to Bills passed by the House of Assembly and Legislative Council.

It is through Parliament and the free speech of its Members that matters of public concern can be raised.

His Excellency the Governor inspecting
the Guard at the opening of Parliament.

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History

Tasmania is the second oldest Australian settlement, having been established at Risdon Cove on the River Derwent by Lieutenant John Bowen in September 1803. Shortly after Hobart's settlement, Colonel William Patterson established a settlement on the Tamar River in the north of the island at the site which subsequently became Launceston. Until 1812 the colony was divided into two counties and administered separately from Sydney. In that year Colonel Thomas Davey was appointed the first Lieutenant Governor of the whole colony.

Van Diemen's Land, as it was then known, became a colony under its own administration on 3 December 1825. The colony was administered by the Lieut-Governor, Colonel (later Sir) George Arthur, and a Legislative Council of six members. In 1856, the name of the colony was changed to Tasmania. In the same year responsible government was established and the bicameral Parliament met for the first time. The basic constitutional structure has remained the same since that time.

The first elections for the House of Assembly were held in September and October 1856. The first Ministry with Mr W. T. N. Champ as Premier was sworn in on 1 November, and the first Parliament opened on 2 December 1856. The House met in what is now the Members Lounge and continued to do so until 1940 when it moved into its present Chamber.

The colony was divided into twenty-four electoral districts for the House of Assembly. Hobart returned five Members, Launceston three and the others one each, giving a total of thirty Members. The term for the House of Assembly was a maximum of five years. All voters had to be adult males, natural born or naturalised citizens and to have been resident in the colony for a minimum of twelve months.

Since 1856 there have been a number of constitutional and electoral changes, including voting qualifications, number of Members and the electoral system.

The size of the Parliament has varied as follows:

Date  
Legislative Council
House of Assembly
Total
1856 15 30 45
1870 16 32 48
1885 18 36 54
1893 18 37 55
1898 19 38 57
1900 18 35 53
1906 18 30 48
1946 19 30 49
1959 19 35 54
1998 19* 25 44
1999 15 25 40

Women became eligible to vote in 1903 at the same time as universal adult suffrage was brought in for House of Assembly elections. Women first became eligible for election to Parliament in 1921, but it was not until 1948 that the first woman was elected. Payment of Members began in 1891 at a rate of £100 per annum.

In 1906 the State was divided into five electoral districts, each returning six Members, making a total of thirty. They were elected by the Hare-Clark system of proportional representation. From 1959 each electorate returned seven members, making the membership total thirty-five. In 1998 the Parliamentary Reform Act reduced this number to five per electorate, a total of twenty-five.

Vacancies are filled by continuing the cut-up of the votes of the previous election in the electorate concerned, starting with the distribution of the preferences of the former Member. This method is used instead of a by-election to retain as far as possible the political make-up of the House established at the previous general election. The term of a Parliament was changed from five to three years in 1969. It was again changed in 1972 to five years for that Parliament and four years for subsequent Parliaments.

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