Queensland Legislative Council

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.

Legislative Council
Established1 May 1860
Disbanded23 March 1922
Succeeded byUnicameral Parliament of Queensland
Meeting place
Legislative Council Chamber
Parliament House, Brisbane
Queensland, Australia

Consequently, the Legislative Assembly of Queensland is the only unicameral state Parliament in Australia. Two territories, the Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory, also maintain unicameral parliaments.

Most of the early members of the Council came from wealthy families, were well educated and were born in England.[1] Absenteeism was a problem in the early years, with some members returning to England, being absent for several years.[1]


The Legislative Council was seen by the 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 abolition. Bills for this purpose 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 Labor 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 James 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 being "able to do what it thinks fit" and becoming unaccountable. On 27 October 1921, the Council voted itself out of existence; the members who voted for the abolition were known as the "suicide squad".[2] The Council rose for the last time at 8:37 p.m. that evening.

The non-Labor parties petitioned the British Government, but the Colonial Secretary, Winston Churchill, concluded that the matter was "essentially one for determination locally", and 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.)

Several independents have at various times supported the reintroduction of an upper house.[3] The Queensland Greens support the reintroduction of an upper house elected by proportional representation.[4] Neither major party currently supports the reintroduction of an upper house.

Presidents of the Legislative Council

Member Party Term in Office
Hon Sir Charles NicholsonNone22 May 1860 – 26 August 1860
Hon Sir Maurice Charles O'ConnellNone27 August 1860 – 23 March 1879
Hon Sir Joshua Peter BellNone3 April 1879 – 20 December 1881
Hon Sir Arthur Hunter PalmerNone24 December 1881 – 20 March 1898
Rt Hon Sir Hugh Muir NelsonMinisterialist13 April 1898 – 1 January 1906
Hon Sir Arthur MorganMinisterialist19 January 1906 – 19 December 1916
Hon William HamiltonLabor15 February 1917 – 17 August 1920
Hon William LennonLabor18 August 1920 – 23 March 1922

See also


  1. Armstrong, Lyn (1997), "'A somewhat rash experiment':Queensland Parliament as a microcosm of society", in Shaw, Barry (ed.), Brisbane:Corridors of Power, Papers, 15, Brisbane: Brisbane History Group Inc, pp. 54–55, ISBN 0-9586469-1-0
  2. Moore, Tony (12 October 2011). "The ups and downs of the Legislative Council". Brisbane Times. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 13 November 2018.
  3. Remeikis, Amy (23 November 2013). "Queensland needs an upper house: independent MPs". Brisbane Times. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 31 January 2015.
  4. Democracy Archived August 8, 2014, at the Wayback Machine. Queensland Greens. Retrieved 31 January 2015.

Further reading

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