Council of Tasmania
Message from the President of the Legislative Council,
James Scott Wilkinson, MLC.
Legislative Council, which is the Upper House in the
Tasmanian Parliament, is a unique parliamentary institution.
in 1825 as the original legislative body in Tasmania
(then Van Diemen's Land) it is the only
House of Parliament in the Commonwealth, and probably
in the world, that has never been controlled by any government
or any political party. It has always had a majority
independent members making it a truly genuine House of
Legislative Council has extensive constitutional powers,
but Members are conscious of their powers and
responsibilities and make their decisions accordingly.
independent nature of the House makes for meaningful
debate of the issues
without the rivalry and regimentation which is involved
in the process in Houses of Parliament dominated
by political parties.
of the Legislative Council examine the
detail and merit of legislation from many points
of view and provide checks and balances to the Government
the day to ensure accountability.
time is devoted to inquiries conducted into wide-ranging
issues by Parliamentary Standing Committees and
ornate chamber entrusted to our care
is an important part of our national heritage.
tour provides an outline of the history and functions
of this House and its continuing
important role in the parliamentary process.
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Council Chamber, Parliament House, Hobart
History of the Legislative Council
Council of Tasmania was established in 1825 as a unicameral
legislature following the constitutional
separation of Van Diemen's Land from New South Wales.
December of that year, Governor Darling of New South Wales
proclaimed Van Diemen's Land as a separate colony,
and simultaneously the first Legislative Council was created
consisting of the Lieutenant-Governor, Colonel (later Sir)
George Arthur and six nominee Members.
continuing prosperity and population growth of the colony
were reflected by the increase in membership of
in 1828. As a result of an Imperial Act, the Council's
numbers were increased to 15 nominee Members (six official
unofficial) with the Governor as Presiding Officer.
the Legislative Council membership was further increased
to a total of 24 Members. 16 Members were elected
franchise and eight Members were nominated by the Governor,
who ceased to be a Member.
the 1840s the British Colonial Office argued that the penal
transportation system should continue.
colonists argued against any further influx of convicts
that their interests would be better served by a
form of representative Government for the colony. Although
Governor temporarily resolved this crisis,
agitation for a more representative style of Government
story of the Legislative Council from 1856 to the present
day is one of slow change from restrictive
full adult suffrage. All moves for extension to
the franchise came from within the Council itself - the
restrictions were gradually eased; ex-servicemen
women became eligible to vote; and in 1968 the
extended to all adult Tasmanians.
1850 until 1856 the Presiding Officer in the Council was
known as the Speaker. The Members elected
Dry as the first incumbent of that position.
efforts of the colonists were rewarded with the proclamation
of an Act to permit the introduction
of a bicameral, representative
Parliament on 24 October 1856 at which time
of the Presiding Officer changed from that
of Speaker to President.
elections were held in 1856 and the first Session
of the new Parliament was opened on 2 December
a month after the Opening of the very first bi-cameral
Parliament, a clash occurred
leading to a Managers' Conference, consisting
of representatives from both Houses, to define
powers and duties of
the Houses on the problem of Supply. The
In 1899, the Government of the day prepared
a case for the Privy
Council on relative powers. It was refused.
In 1900, an
Assembly effort to
provide that a Bill twice rejected by the
Council would lead to a double dissolution
very short shrift.
when the Appropriation Bill remained unresolved
after a Managers' Conference, a most irregular
the Bill being
law by the Governor without being passed
by the Council. This led to a Joint Select
which laid down
Money Bill principles which pertain today.
1968, when full adult suffrage was introduced for Council
elections, the Members of both
Houses have been
truly democratic methods by the same electors.
No one House can claim priority over the
other as representing
voice of the people
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