Bi-cameral legislatures (parliaments of two houses) have been the normal procedure in western nations for many centuries. The British have the House of Commons and the House of Lords, the U.S and Canada have two houses, Australia federally has the House of Representatives and the Senate, and Australian states (other than Queensland) have two houses. Having a second house means controversial legislation can be thoroughly reviewed, amended or rejected. The notion of two houses has Biblical precedence: “…every fact is to be confirmed by the testimony of two or three witnesses” (II Cor.13:1).
Why is Queensland different? Queensland had an Upper House, but it was done away with in 1922. We have one house (the Legislative Assembly), but this has its problems. If a government wants legislation passed, it only has to put it through the House, and bingo!
Think of the Labor Parties’ 2011 legislation regarding election funding, was blatantly designed to favour the Labor Party. Opposition and community complaints were ignored. This has been the practice now in Queensland, for ninety years.
I attended a seminar on restoring the Upper House, in March 2006, which was addressed by constitutional experts, academics and politicians. There was real interest and momentum there for change, but Labor politicians in office who spoke were opposed to making changes. Funny that; they were in power.
The new Parliament could keep making the same mistake: “don’t rock the boat when I’m in it.” But Queenslanders want to see the end of self-serving politicians, who act as if “it’s all about me!”
At the end of the day, our children and grand-children will thank us if the Upper House in Queensland is re-instated. No more one-sided legislative changes, from whoever has a Lower House majority.
This does not necessarily mean that we will need to have lots more politicians. We presently have 89 MPs, so we could have a 60/30 split (Lower and Upper Houses), reducing the Lower House to 60 seats, with an electoral re-distribution at the end of this term of government, with elections for an Upper House with thirty members.
An Upper House is not a silver bullet, but it is a necessary structural change for better government.
The proof? Remember Canberra, 1975. The Labor dominated House of Representatives (led by Whitlam) was engaging in flights of fancy, pressing ahead with controversial legislation. But he was thwarted by the Senate (which had a Coalition majority), which denied him Supply, culminating in a double dissolution and a coalition victory.
This is the time to bite the bullet for genuine, non-partisan political reform. For the good of Queensland, let’s bring back the Upper House!