Now that we have got all our ministers and are still waiting for the Legislative Council election result, you might begin to ask: ‘why do we go through so much trouble voting for a “second legislature” anyway?’
Well, the short answer is to provide checks and balances against any excessive concentration of powers. Unlike the Legislative Assembly where the government generally holds an absolute majority, no government has had a majority of members in the Council since 1988. Lack of government control means that the Council can better scrutinise the government and hold it to account.
For example, one of the Council’s main roles is to review bills passed by the Assembly. In this way, the Council serves as a legislative safeguard against any extreme, excessive or impulsive measures imposed by the Government which may lack broad community support. To date, the Council has effectively used various procedures, such as ordering the production of government papers, committee inquiries and direct questioning of ministers, to expose to public scrutiny the operations of government. This level of scrutiny would not be possible without a “second” House.
But of course, a non-government majority House is not an outcome achieved through sheer luck. The Council’s proportional representation voting system means that it is easier for representatives of minor parties and independents to be elected, and harder for bigger parties to attain a majority. The greater mix of diverse representatives also means that a wide range of interests and views can be represented in the Council. So, yes, the Legislative Council matters. Because you did not just vote for an identical second legislature, but a separate and independent mechanism that ensures the elected Government is doing its job between elections.
Now, bear with us for just a little longer. The Electoral Commissioner is going to press the button on Monday 15 April to allocate the final preferences. Follow our Twitter @nsw_upperhouse for our live posts on election results. We will also provide the complete list on the House in Review blog. Be the first one to know who your new members are!