The Victorian Parliament has passed historic legislation providing for reform of the Legislative Council, fixed four-year terms and the abolition of the Council’s power to block Supply.
The legislation – the Constitution (Parliamentary Reform) Bill – was introduced by the Premier, Steve Bracks to the Legislative Assembly on February 26. It was passed with amendments on March 20 and introduced into the Legislative Council on the same day by John Lenders. The Bill was passed without amendments on March 27.
The bill is the first major reform to be passed by the Legislative Council since the Labor Government secured a comfortable majority in the general election of November 30, 2002.
The bill provides for:
- a fixed four year parliamentary term, unless dissolution of the Assembly occurs sooner;
- re-constitution of the Council to consist of 40 members, elected from 8 regions each region returning 5 members;
- proportional representation with optional preferential voting for members of the Council;
- the filling of casual vacancies in the Council;
- the President of the Council to have a deliberative, but not casting, vote;
- recognition of the principle of Government mandate;
- removal of the ability of the Council to block supply (Annual Appropriation) Bills;
- a dispute resolution process for deadlocked Bills;
- the entrenchment of certain legislative provisions.
The legislation fixes the last Saturday in November every four years as the election date. The Legislative Council, a bastion of conservative domination for over 150 years, is to be reduced in numbers from 44 to 40. Proportional representation will mean that the ALP will likely lose its majority at the next election, with the balance of power going to minor parties and/or independents.