Other Briefs

Three Seats Simultaneously

Scrolled Petition

Gregson and Governor’s Salary

Confronting the Strong

Teapot Tumult

Obscure Insult

Secession Suggested

Shortest Term MHA

Numberplate Change

Darkest Hour

Premier Lewis Loses Seat

Number of Parliamentarians

By-Elections By Recount

 

Number of Parliamentarians: Constitutional Changes since 1825

In the years since its creation in 1825 the number of Members in the Tasmanian Parliament has not remained static. However, while this outline considers the constitutional changes since then, electoral matters and numerous electoral boundary changes are set aside Table One presents the variation in numbers since 1825, and lists the statutes that authorised them. The title pages of three statutes are illustrated here; as are two images of the House of Assembly Chamber. Table Two outlines the number of single-Member and multi-Member seats used for electing these parliamentarians, together with statistics of the number of electors required to elect them.

Background:


The original Legislative Council, established in 1825, did not have a set number of Members: between 5 and 7 and 10 - 15. When convened in April 1826 it was presided over by the Lieutenant Governor and consisted of the Colonial Secretary, Chief Justice and four non-official Members nominated by the Lieutenant Governor. An increase occurred in 1828 when, with the Lieutenant Governor still presiding, the Council consisted of 7 official members and 8 non-official Members.

While the Lieutenant-Governor used his near absolute authority to nominate these Members, such increases acknowledged population growth and greater representation of the people. This was achieved through the nomination of Members representing landed gentry and merchants. However, the people's first real chance to vote did not occur until 1851 at Tasmania's inaugural parliamentary elections. After these elections the Lieutenant Governor no longer presided over the 24 Members, 16 of whom were elected, while 8 were still nominated, including, the Colonial Secretary, Attorney-General and Chief Justice. In 1854 an additional six elected Members and three more nominated Members were briefly added, taking the total to 33 parliamentarians.

Meantime, in 1850 the British Parliament passed the Act for the Better Government of Her Majesty's Australian Colonies. Amongst other things, this statute provided that each colony could determine its own constitution, thus heralding the introduction of self-government. As a precursor to this the Legislative Council established two Select Committees (PP 80/1853 and PP 63/1854) which recommended a 'New Constitution' with a bicameral Parliament: namely, a 15 Member elective Legislative Council and 30 Member elective House of Assembly. This was embodied in legislation (18 Vic. 17) and after elections self-government was established on 2 December 1856.


Title Page of 1850 'Australian Colonies Act'

Table One indicates that since 1856 nine constitutional changes to parliamentary representation have been made. In part, this has been possible because the structure of Parliament is determined by the Parliament alone. No provision for constitutional referenda exists in the Tasmanian Constitution; only the clause setting 4-year terms for the House of Assembly requires a special 2/3rds majority for change.

Table One: Total Number of Parliamentarians

Date

Total Number
of Members

Legislative Council

House of Assembly

Statute

1825

7

5-7

NA

4 Geo. IV  96

1828

15

10-15

NA

9 Geo. IV  83

Inauguration of parliamentary elections

1851

24

16-24

NA

13 & 14 Vic.  59

1854

33

33

NA

18 Vic. 15

Self Government: introduction of Bicameralism

1856

45

15

30

18 Vic.  17

1871

48

16

32

32 Vic. 42

1885

54

18

36

49 Vic.  8

1893

55

18

37

57 Vic.  8

1898

57

19

38

62 Vic. 67

1901

53

18

35

1 Ed. VII  58

1906

48

18

30

6 Ed. VII  47

1946

49

19

30

9 &10 Geo. VI  48

1958

54

19

35

71/1958

1998

40

15

25

31/1998

 

In 1953 the Tasmanian Parliament provided (Act 89/1953) that if an election resulted in a 'hung' or tied parliament [15:15] an additional seat would be established until the next election [term reduced to three rather than five years]. However, this provision was never applied, and in 1954 it was substituted for the election of a Speaker from the party with fewer votes (Act 88/1954). One instance of this process was gazetted on 6 April 1955, which was followed by the election of a Liberal Party Speaker (Strutt) during the Cosgrove Labor Government.

Title page 1854 Parliament Act

House of Assembly Chamber - 1970, with seats removed to suit 25 Members

Page Parliamentary Reform Act 1998

 

Table Two: Elections and Multi-Member Electorates

Date

House

Method

Ratio Assembly
Members to Electors

1856

Legislative Council

One third elected together:
10 - 1 Member seats
  1 - 2 Member seat
  1 - 3 Member seat

---

 

House of Assembly

30 - 1 Member seats
All faced general election

1: 360 (males only)

1859

Legislative Council

Fixed 6-year terms, with 3 or 4 facing election annually

---

1870

House of Assembly

Hobart:    5 - 1 Member seats
Launceston 1- 3 Member seat

1: 372 (males only)

1885

Legislative Council

 

House of Assembly

13 - 1 Member seats
  2 - 2 Member seats
  1 - 3 Member seats
20 - 1 Member seats
  8 - 2 Member seats

---

 

1: 720 (males only)

1896
[Hare-Clark trial period]

House of Assembly

27 - 1 Member seats
   1 - 6 Member seat
   1 - 4 Member seat

1: 1,026 (males only)

1900

House of Assembly

35 - 1 Member seats

1: 1,128 (males only)

1906
[Hare-Clark]

House of Assembly

5 - 6 Member seats
(Quota 14.3%)

1: 2,543

1946

Legislative Council

19 - 1 Member seats

---

1958

House of Assembly

 5 - 7 Member seats
(Quota 12.5%)

 
1: 5,152

1998

Legislative Council
House of Assembly

15 - 1 Member seats
  5 - 5 Member seats
(Quota 16.7%)

1: 12,910

 

Table Two outlines the various changes made to the method of achieving the total number of MP's. When established in 1856 it was proposed that one third of the Legislative Council faced the polls together. This method was used so that the 'tenure in the Legislative Council should be more permanent and less precarious than the tenure of seats in the House of Assembly' (see 23 Vic 43). This staggered system was designed to create a perpetual Upper House while from the outset all House of Assembly seats faced a general election together - thus representing the current will of the people. In 1859 the Legislative Council system was revised to create fixed six-year terms, with only 3 or 4 annual elections. Since 1998 periodic Legislative Council elections occur on the first Saturday in each May for either two or three of the fifteen seats.

In March 1994 Premier Groom introduced a pair of linked measures: a reduction in the House of Assembly from 35 to 30 Members and a 40% increase in salary for the remaining parliamentarians. However, these measures were 'untied' and only the salary increases passed: after which Premier Groom established the Morling Inquiry (see below). In October 1995 Leader of the Opposition Michael Field proposed a 40-Member unicameral Parliament; 15 single-Member seats and five 5-Member seats, but this Bill lapsed. In April 1997 Premier Rundle released a Directions statement, in which the Morling 'imperative' model was recommended; albeit to be implemented only after a successful referendum but this proposal also failed.

House of Assembly Chamber - renovated 2009, with sufficient seats for 35 members

 

Tasmania's population has, of course, increased since self-government, and [from Table Two] enrolled electors have likewise increased; not least since females became eligible to vote in 1903. For example; enrolled voters in 1856 numbered just 10,828 and by 1998 this figure was 322,754. At the March 2010 election the number of enrolled voters was 357,315, which - matching data shown in Table Two - gives a current ratio of 1 MP to 14,926 voters. That said, the number of parliamentarians elected by these voters has been repeatedly discussed, often by officially established committees of inquiry. Summaries of the landmark reports follow.

Select Committee (1957): With 15:15 outcomes at the 1955 and 1956 elections Parliament established a Select Committee on Electoral Reform. The report (PP 59/1957) endorsed Hare-Clark and multi-Members seats, but not an even number of Members; proposing 5 7-Member seats.

Howatt Reports (1958 & 1960): George Howatt, a Hare-Clark expert, was commissioned by the Cosgrove Government to review the even-numbered 30-Member House of Assembly. His report expounded on the 'need for seven-Member electorates' (PP 22/1958) so that the Parliament could 'function properly.' Howatt's 1960 report dealt with several - complicated - methods for 'fixing responsibility for governing' should a Parliament be 'deadlocked' (PP 17/1960).

Ogilvie Report (1984): Commissioned by Premier Gray, the Ogilvie Report stated that any reduction in the size of Parliament was 'seriously flawed' and would be made at the 'risk of impairing (Parliament's) ability to discharge its functions.' Amongst other remarks Ogilvie concluded that the 'present size of the House of Assembly is appropriate' (p.61) and that a 'reduction in the number of members in either House of Parliament would adversely effect the nature and quality of public contact with and influence on, Members of Parliament.' (p.47 & p.62). In a paragraph entitled 'Advice' Ogilvie wrote that ' it would not in the best interests of the State of Tasmania for a reduction of members of parliament to be included among measures to be taken to economise in the cost of the Government of the State' ( p.63).

Morling Report (1994): Commissioned by Premier Groom and released in December 1994 the Morling Report, following receipt of 250 submissions, recommended against change to the number of parliamentarians. Even so, a change to state-wide elections for the Legislative Council was recommended. However, if such a reduction was an 'imperative' Morling proposed a unicameral Parliament of 44 Members: 16 single-Member seats and seven 4-Member seats. Contradicting this 'imperative' Morling reported that 'Unicameral Parliaments appear to be well accepted in those places (we have visited), but they do not persuade us that a change from the present Tasmanian Parliament of 54 members to a single chamber Parliament would be warranted.' (p.63.)

Nixon Report (1997): The Nixon report, entitled Tasmania into the 21st Century, was commissioned by Premier Rundle. In the area of 'Governance' it formulated proposals for a unicameral Parliament of 27 Members from three 9-Member electorates. However, to placate the Greens an alternative was proposed by Rundle - a 28 Member House of Assembly from four 7-Member electorates and a Legislative Council of 15-single Member electorates. This did not proceed because the Legislative Council refused any reduction lower than 15 Members. This position was embodied in a Select Committee Report (PP 67/1997) and a Resolution or Statement of Principles agreed to by the whole Council on 3 September 1997.

Parliamentary Reform (1998): the number of parliamentarians in the Tasmanian Parliament was last changed in July 1998. Premier Rundle called a special sitting of Parliament at which the Reform of Parliament Act (31/1998) was passed as the outcome of a bi-partisan agreement between Premier Rundle and Leader of the Opposition Jim Bacon. The ensuing election, held on 29 August 1998, saw the House of Assembly reduced from 35 to 25 Members and the Legislative Council from 19 to 15 Members. The number of Cabinet Ministers was reduced from 10 to 8, although this was altered again in 2002 to allow 9 Cabinet Ministers.