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Queensland Legislative Council: Wikis


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The Queensland Legislative Council was the upper house of the parliament in the Australian state of Queensland. It was a fully nominated body which first took office on 1 May 1860. It was abolished by the Constitution Amendment Act 1921, which took effect on 23 March 1922.

Consequently, the Queensland Legislative Assembly is the only unicameral state Parliament in Australia. Australia's two territories, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory, maintain unicameral parliaments.


The Legislative Council was seen by the Australian Labor Party as undemocratic and a tool of patronage, and upon the establishment of a secure Labor majority in the Assembly in 1915, Labor sought the house's abolishment. Unsurprisingly, bills for its abolition were rejected by the Council itself in 1915 and 1916, and a referendum failed on 5 May 1917 on a vote of 179,105 to 116,196. In 1920, the Government under Premier Ted Theodore changed tack, persuading the Governor of Queensland to appoint additional members of the Council, thus securing a majority in that Chamber.

The abolition bill was eventually passed by the Assembly on a 51-15 vote on 24 October 1921. The bill was then introduced to the Council by the leader of the Government in the Council, Alfred Jones, who remarked, "Until we had a majority here, [the Council] was obstructive, and now that we have a majority here it is useless." However, Opposition councillor Patrick Leahy protested that the abolition of the chamber would result in the Assembly "be[ing] able to do what it thinks fit" and become unaccountable. The Council rose for the last time at 8:37pm on 27 October 1921, after voting itself out of existence.

The non-Labor parties petitioned the British Government, but Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill concluded that the matter was "essentially one for determination locally", whilst the Governor felt "unable to say that there is evidence of any strong or widespread feeling in the country against this assent being given." Royal Assent was given on 3 March 1922, and the Act was proclaimed in the Government Gazette 20 days later.

Labor's view was summed up in 1980 by Labor politician and historian Dr Denis Murphy, who claimed the "dominance of wealth and property over the Queensland parliament" was broken. However, some scholars and political commentators have argued that the excesses of the Bjelke-Petersen years (1968–1987) in Queensland were only possible because of the absence of a house of review, and that the problem was not the Council itself but its existence as a nominated rather than elected body (Legislative Councils in all other states were fully elective by 1900, except in New South Wales where some nominative features lasted until the 1970s.)

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