Renewed suggestions that the NSW Legislative Council should be abolished?

I’ve recently heard of suggestions that the NSW Labor Party should reinstitute its previous policy to abolish the NSW Legislative Council. I don’t know if it ever dropped this policy, but it certainly hasn’t tried to implement it since it was elected in 1995.

These suggestions should be resisted. Upper Houses should continue existing and retain their ability to enquire into government activities. While Upper Houses may frustrate the ability of Lower House majorities to implement their policies, they also represent an institutional hedge against Governments being able to do whatever they want.

The Qld experience may be informative – it has been often suggested that the problems that arose in Qld under the Bjelkie-Petersen Government may have been amplified by the lack of an Upper House. While it cannot be known whether an Upper House would have prevented or greatly diminished these problems, it’s likely that an Upper House with an active committee system may have allowed another avenue for airing problems and inquiring into issues.

6 Responses to Renewed suggestions that the NSW Legislative Council should be abolished?

  1. Sam Clifford says:

    If it wasn’t for the abolition of Qld’s Legislative Council, Joh might not have had the numbers to become Premier in the first place and we’d have had the far more sensible Gordon Chalk instead.

    With the LC, the Liberals might have been able to grow some bloody backbone and vote against the Coalition. With the LC, it wouldn’t have taken until Joh was out of the country to launch an investigation.

  2. […] Legislative Councils 2009 July 17 tags: politics, reform, accountability, upper house, governance by Sam Clifford Dear other states, […]

  3. Sacha says:

    It’s hard to know what would have happened if the Qld Legislative Council hadn’t been abolished. Like NSW, it was a completely appointed chamber, and it’s hard to know what its make-up would have been. The NSW upper house only became fully directly elected a few decades ago.

    However, it could be surmised that an upper house may have blunted the authoritarian nature of successive Labor and Coalition governments from the fifties onwards.

    I suspect that having an Upper House wouldn’t have impacted whether Joh became Premier. The zonal electoral system may have it if led to the Liberals winning fewer votes than they otherwise would have – but my feeling is that they might not have won enough additional seats to become the senior party in the coalition.

  4. muz says:

    The benefit or otherwise of a legislative council is dependent on either the constitution of the state, or apolitical regulation against corruption or excess having enough teeth. If the NSW government can hand essentially opaque decisive power to its planning minister, that alone denies the regulatory benefit that proponents of bicameral parliament profess. Combine corruption commission, ombudsman, and governor’s reserve powers transparently, and make whistleblowers well-rewarded heroes. Oh, and make election manifestos carry the same requirements as corporate prospectuses, which are required by legislation to be accurate, on pain of penalty to corporate governance. Why do we permit those who legislated these requirements to be themselves accountable to lower standards?

  5. Anne Sikimeti Latu says:

    Renewed suggestions that the NSW Legislative Council should be abolished???? It mightn’t seem like a big deal, but in Queensland in the early 1990s, the former government ministers who went to jail as a result of the Fitzgerald Inquiry into corruption were locked up, not because of bribes or links to corrupt police, but because they misused parliamentary entitlements.

    Upper Houses should continue existing and retain their ability to enquire into government activities. While Upper Houses may frustrate the ability of Lower House majorities to implement their policies, they also represent an institutional hedge against Governments being able to do whatever they want.

    The joke’s been on Queensland ever since a bribery racket run by the police called “The Joke” was exposed in the late 1980s in the Courier Mail and the ABC’s Four Corners program “The Moonlight State”.

    The Fitzgerald corruption inquiry that followed eventually sent four government ministers, a police commissioner, and others, to jail.

    Queensland’s had a hard time living all of that down and recent scandals, including the jailing this year of former health minister Gordon Nuttall on corruption charges, haven’t helped.

    It’s almost a laughing matter, then, that Queensland’s better known around the world these days as the very model of integrity. The integrity system that evolved in Queensland after the Fitzgerald Inquiry is fighting corruption in places like Kurdistan.

    “Around the world people will talk about integrity systems and ethics infrastructures and so forth. Some of them call it the Queensland model but the best thing about it is that most people don’t recognise its origins; it’s just the way to do it.”
    It’s called a National Integrity System, but not only do few people recognise its origins; in the streets of Brisbane you’d be lucky to find anyone who knows it exists, let alone how it works.

    Aren’t you and I felt sick and tired of those in their status, capacity whom we trusted and voted them to go to parliament and we expected them to conduct at federal, state/territory and local levels to protect its cause, and we allow those who legislated these requirements to be themselves accountable to lower level???

    Delegated legislation!!!! Many laws – regulations, ordinances and by-laws – are drafted and issued by public servants representing a minister. Their main advantages are that they free up Parliament from the fine detail of laws and they are often drafted by policy experts. There are disadvantages are that our laws are given less scrutiny and are subject to BUREAUCRATIC, RATHER THAN DEMOCRATIC, CONTROL.

  6. Sacha says:

    The effectiveness of an upper house is dependent on many things including the political culture.

    An upper house being ineffective (as the NSW Legislative Council is portrayed by some) is not a reason to remove it – it would be a reason to improve its effectiveness.

    The potential benefits of a directly elected upper house are more than sufficient reason for one to exist.

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