Elections and Electoral Divisions
Council elections the State is divided into fifteen single-Member
maps). Each Member holds office
for six years and periodical elections are held for either
every year. As it cannot be dissolved, there are never any
general elections for the Council.
The method of counting votes is identical with that used
in House of Representatives elections. It is a preferential
system which can be described as election by absolute majority
through the use of the alternative vote. If any candidate
preference votes exceeding half the total of first preferences,
that person is elected.
If no candidate satisfies this condition, the candidate
with the fewest votes is
excluded and the second preferences shown on his or her
ballot papers are
transferred to other candidates, the transfer value of
each such second preference being equal to one. If no
candidate then has the required majority, the process
is repeated until such time as one candidate secures
powers are equal in all matters with those of the House
of Assembly, with two exceptions. The
(i) The Council may not amend Bills which authorise expenditure
for the ordinary services of the Government, nor Bills
which impose a land or income tax. The Council may, however,
request the Assembly to amend such Bills. The Council may
amend other Money Bills, such as those dealing with loan
(ii) The Council may not initiate Bills for the expenditure
of revenue nor the
imposition of taxes.
the restriction on the Bills it may amend, the Council
is able to reject any Bill, including Money
Bills. Although the Council has on occasion rejected Bills
introduced by the Government, it has rarely rejected major
financial legislation. The last time this occurred was
in 1948 when it refused to pass a Supply Bill. The result
of the Council’s action was that the House of Assembly
was dissolved and there were new elections for that House.
As the Constitution provides that the Council cannot be
dissolved, there cannot be a double dissolution. Should
the Government be denied funds, only the House of Assembly
is dissolved by the Governor on the recommendation of the
Disagreements between the Houses
As the Legislative Council has traditionally had a majority
of Independent Members, the Leader of the Government in
the Council has not been able to rely on a majority vote
on party lines to ensure the passage of any Government
Bill. This means that the Legislative Council is in a position
to exercise considerable influence on the form in which
Bills pass through the Parliament. Although the Council
does not reject a great number of Bills, it is not uncommon
for Bills to be amended, some heavily.
are no constitutional provisions for resolving deadlocks
between the Legislative Council and the House
when a position was reached in which one House refused
to accept the amendments of the other, provision
did exist in the Standing Orders of both Houses for
joint consultation by means of a Free Conference.
Free Conference comprised a small number of Members,
usually four, from each House, who would meet in a
committee room and attempt to find a solution
acceptable to both Houses. It was very rare for a compromise
not to be reached.
the 1996 session, however, the House of Assembly amended
their Standing Orders and Rules of the House
to remove completely the provisions relating to a
Conference of Managers.
Parliamentary Privilege is the term which describes the
special rights granted to the Parliament and its Members
to ensure the independence of Parliament and to enable
it to carry out its work without hindrance or fear of litigation.
The most important element of Parliamentary Privilege is
freedom of speech.
Parliamentary Privilege derives from the Bill of Rights
of 1688 of Great Britain, which declared:
That freedom of speech, and debates on proceedings in Parliament,
ought not be impeached or questioned in any court or place
out of Parliament’.
No matter what a Member says in Parliament, he or she
cannot be sued for slander or libel as a result of their
Papers and documents published by the
authority of either House are likewise protected.
Each House, and its Committees, has the power to summon
any person before it and to call for any documents
and papers. Persons who refuse to obey such an order may
be imprisoned by either House. (This, however, has
in Tasmania.) Similarly, either House may punish persons
for other offences; for example, attempting to bribe
a Member or being in contempt of Parliament.
The Office of President of the Legislative Council
The President of the Legislative Council is recognised
as the senior Parliamentary
officer and in Tasmania takes precedence immediately after
the members of the Executive Council.
The President is elected by fellow Members through the
process of a ballot. The President is the representative
of the Council itself in its powers and proceedings.
The functions of the Office fall into two categories.
On the one hand the President is the representative of
Council in its relations with the Crown and other persons
outside Parliament. On the other, he or she presides
over debates of the House and ensures the observance of
in its proceedings.
The President communicates the Resolutions of the House
to those to whom they are directed, conveys its thanks
and expresses its censure. He or she issues warrants
to execute the orders of the House for the attendances
witnesses, the commitment of offenders and for giving
effect to other orders requiring the sanction of a legal
The President communicates to the House documents addressed
to him or her as President, letters acknowledging a vote
of thanks of the House, or relating to the rights and
privileges of the House or of its Members, and when the
messages from the Governor.
The characteristics attaching to the Office are authority
and impartiality. In debate all speeches are addressed
to the Chair and the President calls upon Members to
speak, a choice which is not open to dispute. When the
rises to preserve order or to give a ruling he or she
is heard in silence and no Member remains standing.
Authority in the Chair is fortified by special powers.
Confidence in the impartiality of the President is an
indispensable condition to the successful working of procedures,
conventions exist which ensure that impartiality. The
President votes only when the votes of other Members are
seldom takes part in debates. He or she rules on points
of order submitted by Members as they arise.
President is always ready to advise Members who may consult
him or her privately, upon an action they propose
to take or on any questions of order which are likely
to arise. In the maintenance of order and the enforcement
of Standing Orders he or she may decline to submit to
House motions and amendments, or questions which infringe
addition to duties in the House, the President is responsible
under the Parliamentary Privilege Act for
to the Governor the appointment of Parliamentary staff.
The President also serves on a number of Committees,
including the Joint House Committee, the Joint House
the Committee of Privileges, and the Standing Orders
President, accompanied by the Clerk of the Council, presents
Bills to the Governor for Royal Assent.
in the Chair, the President has the choice of wearing
traditional dress comprising black suit, gown, winged
collar and jabot or black suit with collar and tie.
of President is a high office which has been held by
some of Tasmania’s most
The President's Chair
The President's Chair
Chair was built by the cabinet making and upholstery
firm of Whitesides and Son of Liverpool Street, Hobart.
It is constructed of selected native blackwood and is
without doubt the finest and most handsome piece of its
kind in Australia.
design is essentially of large cabriole pattern with
the front legs terminating in lions’ paws.
The national emblem of rose, shamrock and thistle form
the Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom and Ireland and
have been painstakingly carved in the centre of the front
rail with the Royal Coat of Arms above it.
Such was the workmanship in this Chair that Whitesides
and Son was appointed as cabinetmaker to His Royal
Highness the Duke of Edinburgh in 1868 following his visit
Tasmania that year, at which time he opened the sitting
having given his address from the Chair.
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