Parliament of New South Wales

The Parliament of New South Wales, located in Parliament House on Macquarie Street, Sydney, is the main legislative body in the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW). It is a bicameral parliament elected by the people of the state in general elections. The parliament shares law making powers with the Australian Federal (or Commonwealth) Parliament. It is Australia's oldest legislature. The New South Wales Parliament follows the Westminster parliamentary traditions of dress, Green–Red chamber colours and protocol.[1]

The Parliament derives its authority from the Queen of Australia, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, represented by the Governor of New South Wales, who chairs the Executive Council of New South Wales. It consists of a lower house, the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, and an upper house, the New South Wales Legislative Council. Each house is directly elected by the people of New South Wales at elections held approximately every four years.

Parliament of New South Wales
56th Parliament
Coat of arms or logo
HousesLegislative Assembly
Legislative Council
Elizabeth II
since 6 February 1952
David Hurley
since 2 October 2014
Shelley Hancock, LPA
since 3 May 2011
John Ajaka, LPA
since 21 February 2017
Seats135 (93 MLAs, 42 MLCs)
NSW Legislative Assembly 2019 (Post-Election)
Legislative Assembly political groups
Government (48)

Opposition (36)

Crossbench (9)

NSW Legislative Council (current composition)
Legislative Council political groups
Government (17)

Opposition (14)

Crossbench (11)

Legislative Assembly last election
23 March 2019
Legislative Council last election
23 March 2019
Legislative Assembly next election
Legislative Council next election
Meeting place
Parliament House,
Sydney, New South Wales,


The Parliament of New South Wales is Australia's oldest legislature. It had its beginnings when New South Wales was a British colony under the control of the Governor. A small, appointed Legislative Council began meeting in 1824 to advise the Governor on legislative matters. By 1843, this had been enlarged with two-thirds of its members elected by adult males who met certain property requirements. In 1856, under a new Constitution, the Parliament became bicameral with a fully elected Legislative Assembly and an appointed Legislative Council with a Government taking over most of the legislative powers of the Governor. The right to vote was extended to all adult males in 1858.[1]

In 1850 the Australian Colonies Government Act was passed by the Imperial Parliament. This expanded the New South Wales Legislative Council so that by 1851 there were 54 members – again, with two-thirds elected. In 1853, a select committee chaired by William Wentworth began drawing up a Constitution for responsible self-government. The Committee’s proposed Constitution was placed before the Legislative Council in August that year and, for the most part, accepted.[2] The Constitution, with an upper house whose members were appointed for life, was sent to the Imperial Parliament and was passed into law on 16 July 1855. The new Parliament of New South Wales was to be a bicameral legislature, similar to that of the United Kingdom. On 22 May 1856, the newly constituted New South Wales Parliament opened and sat for the first time. With the new 54-member Legislative Assembly taking over the council chamber, a second meeting chamber for the 21 member upper house had to be added to the Parliament building in Macquarie Street.[2]

In 1859 Queensland was made a colony separate from New South Wales. The Legislative Assembly was reduced from 80 to 72 members by the loss of the Queensland seats.[3] In 1901, New South Wales became a state of the Commonwealth of Australia and many government functions were transferred to the new Commonwealth government. The current Constitution of New South Wales was adopted in 1902: the Constitution Act 1902 (NSW).[4]

Women gained the right to vote in Commonwealth elections in April 1902 and in New South Wales state elections in August 1902.[1][5] In 1918, reforms permitted women to be Members of Parliament, although no woman was elected until 1925 when Millicent Preston-Stanley was elected to represent Eastern Suburbs. That same year, a proportional representation system was introduced for the Legislative Assembly with multiple representatives from each electorate; this system lasted until it was abolished in 1926.[1] Women were not able to be appointed to the Legislative Council until 1926; Premier John Storey attempted to appoint Kate Dwyer to the Legislative Council in 1921, but the appointment was ruled out of order.[6] The first two women appointed to the Legislative Council were both ALP members proposed on 23 November 1931: Catherine Green, who took her seat the following day, and Ellen Webster, who joined her two days later.[6]

In 1925, 1926 and 1929, Premier Jack Lang made attempts at abolishing the Legislative Council, following the example of the Queensland Legislative Council in 1922, but all were unsuccessful. The debate did, however, result in another round of reforms, and in 1933, the law was changed so that a quarter of the Legislative Council was elected every three years by members of the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council, rather than being appointed by the Governor. In 1962 Indigenous Australians gained the right to vote in all state elections. In 1978, the Council became a directly elected body in a program of electoral reform introduced by the Wran Labor government. The number of members was reduced to 45, although transitional arrangements meant that there were 43 members from 1978 to 1981, and 44 from 1981 to 1984. Further reform in 1991 by the Greiner Liberal-National government saw the size of the Legislative Council cut to 42 members, with half being elected every 4 years. In 1991, the Legislative Assembly was reduced from 109 to 99 Members and then to 93 members in 1999.[3]

Parliament House

The Parliament building was originally built on the orders of Governor Lachlan Macquarie to be Sydney's second major hospital because, when he arrived in Sydney, he recognised the need for a new hospital. In 1810, he awarded the contract to Garnham Blaxcell, Alexander Riley and Dr. D'Arcy Wentworth. The contract gave the builders the right to import 45,000 gallons of rum, for which they paid a duty of 3 shillings a gallon. They were able to sell it for a huge profit and in turn the government refunded them the duty as a payment for their work, thereby gaining for their construction the title of the 'Rum Hospital'. Originally consisting of three buildings, the central main building was demolished in 1879 to make way for the new Sydney Hospital, which was completed in 1885. The first building, now known as the Sydney Mint, was given to the Royal Mint in 1851 to become the Australian branch of its operations; it remained a mint until 1927.[7]

The second building, originally built as the Chief Surgeon's quarters, was given to the government in 1829 for the purposes of a Parliament chamber and is now known as Parliament House. This chamber was added to following the growth of the legislature in 1843, and again in 1856. The last major renovation to the building was from 1974 to 1985, which demolished the jumble of buildings that had become the parliamentary chambers and replaced them with a 12-story block linked by a fountain court to the original Parliament House restored to its 1908 appearance.[7]

Composition and powers

NSWLC 1843
First meeting of the NSW Legislative Council in Parliament House, 1843 (chamber now the Legislative Assembly).

The legislative authority, the Crown-in-Parliament, has three separate elements: the Queen, represented by the Governor; the Legislative Assembly; and the Legislative Council. No individual may simultaneously be a member of both Houses.

All 93 members of the Legislative Assembly are elected at each general election from single-member districts using optional preferential voting to terms of up to four years. The 42 Legislative Council members are elected for two terms (a maximum of eight years), with half elected at each general election. Elections for the Legislative Council are conducted on a statewide, at-large basis (meaning all members represent the entire state) using the single transferable vote system similar to that used for elections to the federal Senate.

In the running of Parliament, the two presiding officers have a role that is similar to Ministers and their departments. The Speaker of the Legislative Assembly and the President of the Legislative Council are responsible for the employing of staff. In consultation with the parliamentary clerks, the presiding officers determine policy for the operation of their respective chambers and jointly for the Parliament.

Royal Assent of the Queen is required for all bills to become law. The Crown also has executive powers which do not depend on Parliament, through prerogative powers, which include among others the ability to dissolve Parliament, make treaties, award honours, appoint officers and civil servants, and appoint and dismiss the Premier. In practice these are always exercised by the Governor on the advice of the Premier of New South Wales and the other ministers of HM Government. The Premier and Government are directly accountable to Parliament through its control of public finances and the need for its confidence, and to the public through Members of Parliament.

The Governor chooses the Premier, usually depending on the results of the general election, who then forms a government from members of the houses of Parliament. This must be someone who can command the confidence of a majority in the Legislative Assembly. This is usually a straightforward decision, though occasionally the Governor has to make a judgment, as in August 1939 when the Governor, Lord Wakehurst, handled a major political crisis brought about when the former Deputy Leader of the governing United Australia Party, Eric Spooner brought down Premier Bertram Stevens in a motion of no confidence. Wakehurst asked the Treasurer, Alexander Mair, to form a government.[8]

The current Premier of New South Wales is Gladys Berejiklian of the Liberal Party.

Government ministers (including the Premier) must regularly answer questions in the chambers and there are a number of select committees that scrutinise particular issues and the workings of the Government. There are also mechanisms that allow Members of Parliament to bring to the attention of the Government particular issues affecting their constituents.

For a bill to become law, it must be passed by both the Legislative Council and the Legislative Assembly and be assented to by the Governor. Under Section 5A of the New South Wales Constitution Act (1902), a bill appropriating revenue for the ordinary annual services of the Government can be presented to the Governor for assent even if the upper house has not agreed to it.

State Opening and traditions

Queen opening
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II opening the NSW Parliament on 4 February 1954.

The State Opening of Parliament is an annual event that marks the commencement of a session of the Parliament of the New South Wales. It is held in the Legislative Council Chamber, usually in November or December, or in a general election year, when the new Parliament first assembles. It is an occasion for much pomp and ceremony, usually with a guard of honour and with dignitaries of the state attending. The New South Wales Parliament maintains many of the traditions of the original Parliament of the United Kingdom, from which the New South Wales Parliament was founded.[2]

The Governor, or occasionally the monarch, reads a prepared speech, known as the Speech from the Throne, outlining the Government's agenda for the coming year. The speech is not written by the Governor, but rather by the Cabinet, and reflects the legislative agenda for which they seek the agreement of both Houses of Parliament.

Queen Elizabeth II has opened the New South Wales Parliament on two occasions, on 4 February 1954, as part of her first visit to Australia, which was also the first occasion in which the monarch of Australia had opened a session of any Australian Parliament. The other occasion was on 20 February 1992, during her visit to Sydney to celebrate the sesquicentenary of the incorporation of the City of Sydney, on which occasion she stated:

This is my second opportunity to address this Parliament – a Parliament which I described on the previous occasion, in 1954, as the Mother Parliament of Australia. It is interesting to reflect that that was the first time on which the Sovereign had opened a Session of an Australian Parliament. I was also on my first visit to Australia as your Queen. I have returned to New South Wales eight times since then and am always delighted by the warm and generous hospitality accorded to Prince Philip and me by the people of this State. On this occasion I have come to join in commemorating Sydney's first one hundred and fifty years as a city.[9]


The official emblem of the Parliament is a crowned circlet featuring the Coat of Arms of New South Wales taking the form of a Scottish crest badge. Crest badges, much like clan tartans, do not have a long history, and owe much to Victorian era romanticism, having only been worn on the bonnet since the mid-19th century when the buckled strap device commonly used by the Order of the Garter was adopted as a popular design to encircle monogram escutcheons and heraldic crests.[10]

The crest badge came to be accepted in the mid-20th century as the emblem of both houses of Parliament. The emblem appears on official stationery, publications and papers, and is stamped on various items in use in the Parliament, such as cutlery, silverware and china.

See also


  1. ^ Current independent MLAs: Alex Greenwich (Sydney), Joe McGirr (Wagga Wagga) and Greg Piper (Lake Macquarie).
  2. ^ The current independent MLC is Justin Field.


  1. ^ a b c d "About Parliament". NSW Parliament. Retrieved 28 May 2016.
  2. ^ a b c "Role and History of the Legislative Council". NSW Legislative Council. Retrieved 28 May 2016.
  3. ^ a b "Role and History of the Legislative Assembly". NSW Legislative Assembly. Retrieved 20 July 2010.
  4. ^ "Constitution Act 1902 (NSW)". NSW Government. Retrieved 30 December 2013.
  5. ^ "Women's Franchise Act 1902 (NSW)" (PDF). NSW Government. Retrieved 30 December 2013.
  6. ^ a b "Women in Parliament". About Parliament. Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 28 May 2016.
  7. ^ a b Geoff Stuart, Secrets in Stone - Discover the History of Sydney (Brandname Properties Pty Ltd, 1993) pp 91-93, ISBN 0-646-13994-0
  8. ^ Clune, David; Turner, Ken (2009). The Governors of New South Wales: 1788-2010. Sydney: Federation Press. 513–521.
  9. ^ "The Queen's Speech". NSW Parliament – Hansard. Retrieved 28 May 2016.
  10. ^ Campbell of Airds, Alastair (2002). A History of Clan Campbell: Volume 2: From Flodden to the Restoration. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. pp. 289–290. ISBN 1-902930-18-5.

External links

Coordinates: 33°52′03″S 151°12′46″E / 33.86739°S 151.21269°E

Anoulack Chanthivong

Anoulack Chanthivong (born 20 July 1977) is an Australian politician who was elected to the New South Wales Legislative Assembly as the member for Macquarie Fields for the Labor Party at the 2015 New South Wales state election.Chanthivong was born in Laos and grew up in Raby. He was a Campbelltown City Councillor and served as mayor from 2011 to 2012.

Athol Richardson

Athol Railton Richardson (15 May 1897 – 22 May 1982) was an Australian politician and judge. Richardson represented the Electoral district of Ashfield for the United Australia Party and the Liberal Party from 11 May 1935 until 5 February 1952.

Bill Chaffey

Major William 'Bill' Adolphus Chaffey (18 February 1915 – 4 March 1987) was an Australian farmer, distinguished soldier and long serving member of the Parliament of New South Wales.

Chaffey represented the electoral district of Tamworth from 1940 to 1973. He also served as the New South Wales Minister for Agriculture from 1965 to 1968. Chaffey succeeded his father, Frank in parliament after the latter's death and together they served a combined fifty-nine years and nine months in the New South Wales parliament representing the New England region of New South Wales.

Chris Gulaptis

Christopher Gulaptis is a member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly. He has represented Clarence for The Nationals since the 2011 by-election.

Electoral district of Morpeth

Morpeth was an electoral district of the Legislative Assembly in the Australian state of New South Wales, created in 1859 and partly replacing Northumberland Boroughs and including Morpeth. It was abolished in 1894.

Gurmesh Singh

Gurmesh Singh is an Australian politician. He has been a member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly since 2019, representing Coffs Harbour for the Nationals.

Singh was a blueberry farmer before his election to parliament.

Jamie Parker (politician)

Jamie Thomas Parker is the member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly representing Balmain for the Greens since 2011. Parker is the first Green to represent his party in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly.

Jenny Aitchison

Jennifer Kathleen Aitchison is an Australian politician who was elected to the New South Wales Legislative Assembly as the member for Maitland for the Labor Party at the 2015 New South Wales state election.Before her election Aitchison worked as a managing director of tourism and hospitality companies.

John Sidoti

Anthony John Sidoti (born 31 July 1970), an Australian politician, is the New South Wales Minister for Sport, Multiculturalism, Seniors and Veterans in the second Berejiklian ministry since April 2019. Sidoti is also a member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly representing Drummoyne since 2011.

Julia Finn

Julia Dorothy Finn is an Australian politician who was elected to the New South Wales Legislative Assembly as the member for Granville for the Labor Party at the 2015 New South Wales state election.Finn served on Parramatta City Council from 1999 and was Lord Mayor in 2004.

Michael Daley

Michael John Daley (born 1 November 1965) is an Australian politician who was the Leader of the Opposition in the Parliament of New South Wales from November 2018 to March 2019. He is currently a member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly representing Maroubra for the Australian Labor Party since 2005. Daley is aligned with the Labor Right faction.

Michael Johnsen

Michael John Johnsen is an Australian politician who was elected to the New South Wales Legislative Assembly as the member for Upper Hunter for the Nationals at the 2015 New South Wales state election.Johnsen served as Mayor for the Upper Hunter Shire Council from 2009 to 2012 and previously contested the seat of Hunter for the Nationals at the 1996, 2010 and 2013 federal elections.

National Party of Australia – NSW

The National Party of Australia – N.S.W. , commonly known as the NSW Nationals, is a political party in New South Wales which forms the state branch of the federal Nationals. Traditionally representing graziers, farmers and rural voters generally, it began as the Progressive Party, from the 1922 split until 1925. It then used the name the Country Party until 1977, when it became the National Country Party. The party's name was changed to the National Party of Australia in 1982.

The party, commonly referred to as "The Nationals," has generally been the junior partner in a centre-right Coalition with the NSW branch of the Liberal Party of Australia. Since 1927, the Nationals have been in Coalition with the Liberals and their predecessors, the Nationalist Party of Australia (1927-1931), the United Australia Party (1931-1943), the Democratic Party (1943-1944) and the United Democratic Party (1944-1945). New South Wales is the only state where the Coalition has never been broken, and yet has not merged into a unified non-Labor party.

During periods of conservative government, the leader of the Nationals also serves as Deputy Premier of New South Wales. When the conservatives are in opposition, the Liberal and National parties usually form a joint opposition bench.

New South Wales Legislative Assembly

The New South Wales Legislative Assembly is the lower of the two houses of the Parliament of New South Wales, an Australian state. The upper house is the New South Wales Legislative Council. Both the Assembly and Council sit at Parliament House in the state capital, Sydney. The Assembly is presided over by the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly.

The Assembly has 93 members, elected by single-member constituency, which are commonly known as seats. Voting is by the optional preferential system.

Members of the Legislative Assembly have the post-nominals MP after their names.

From the creation of the assembly up to about 1990, the post-nominals "MLA" (Member of the Legislative Assembly) were used.

The Assembly is often called the bearpit on the basis of the house's reputation for confrontational style during heated moments and the "savage political theatre and the bloodlust of its professional players" attributed in part to executive dominance.

New South Wales Legislative Council

The New South Wales Legislative Council, often referred to as the upper house, is one of the two chambers of the parliament of the Australian state of New South Wales. The other is the Legislative Assembly. Both sit at Parliament House in the state capital, Sydney. It is normal for legislation to be first deliberated on and passed by the Legislative Assembly before being considered by the Legislative Council, which acts in the main as a house of review.

The Legislative Council has 42 members, elected by proportional representation in which the whole state is a single electorate. Members serve eight-year terms, which are staggered, with half the Council being elected every four years, roughly coinciding with elections to the Legislative Assembly.

Parliament House, Sydney

The Parliament House in Sydney is a heritage-listed complex of buildings housing the Parliament of the state of New South Wales, Australia. The building is located on the east side of Macquarie Street in Sydney, the state capital. The façade consists of a two-storey Georgian building, the oldest public building in the City of Sydney, flanked by two Neo-gothic additions containing the parliamentary chambers. These buildings are linked to a 1970s 12-storey block at the rear, facing onto the Domain. It is also known as Parliament House, Parliament of New South Wales, Parliamentary Precincts and Rum Hospital.

Built with the initial purpose of a public hospital, unlike the parliamentary buildings of Australia's other capital cities, Sydney's Parliament House is not grand in its architectural appearance. It was added to the New South Wales State Heritage Register on 19 April 2002.

Parliament House is of exceptional historical and social value. It has played a key role in the history of Australia from an early symbol of colonial government and civil improvement to its long tenure as the first NSW Parliament House and association with the Federation of the Australian colonies.

The Parliament House and the Mint Museum are the two surviving wings of the triple wing General Hospital, which was commenced in 1811. Built just 20 years after first settlement, the hospital was part of Macquarie's sweeping building campaign which included schools, barracks, orphanages, churches and storehouses. As Governor Macquarie had been refused funding by London, he entered into an agreement with three businessmen who proposed to build the hospital for three years' exclusive rights to the importation of rum and the hospital became known as The Rum Hospital.

The north wing was requisitioned and converted to accommodate the first NSW Parliament House in 1829 because it was the largest public building in New South Wales at that time. Housing the Colonial Representative Government it was the first Parliament in Australia. Aside from its significance as the legislative arm of government in New South Wales, Parliament House has played a key role in the history of Australia as two important conventions were held to look at the issues of Federation of the colonies and the drafting of the Australian Constitution. Parliament House is significant for its association with important social and political figures of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries

The Parliamentary precincts comprise the original old colonial Georgian building known as the Rum Hospital, which was finished in 1816 as well as later additions and extensions to the Parliament buildings. A new chamber was constructed at the northern end of the building in 1842 to accommodate the partly elected and partly nominee Council which was established with the new constitution of 1842. The Legislative Council is a pre-fabricated cast-iron building, initially shipped to Melbourne from Glasgow, Scotland, before being sent to Sydney as one of the two parliamentary chambers and is still a seat of government in NSW today. The centre wing, which was erected on poor foundations, was demolished in 1879 and the replacement building, the Sydney Hospital, was finished in 1894.

As part of Sydney's oldest remaining complex of public buildings, Parliament House has been at the centre of the history of New South Wales and continues to play a key role in the history of New South Wales as the seat of government today.

Paul Lynch (politician)

Paul Gerard Lynch, an Australian politician, is a member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly representing Liverpool since 1995 for the Labor Party.

Reginald Weaver

Reginald Walter Darcy Weaver (18 July 1876 – 12 November 1945) was an Australian conservative parliamentarian who served in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly for 28 years. Serving from 1917 in the backbenches, he entered the cabinet of Thomas Bavin in 1929 as Secretary for Mines and Minister for Forests until he returned to opposition in 1930. Following the success of the United Australia Party in the 1932 election, Weaver returned as the Secretary for Public Works and Minister for Health in the Stevens ministry.

In 1935 he was dropped from the ministry but was later elected as the Speaker of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly in 1937, holding office until the Mair Government lost power in 1941. Weaver then witnessed the death of the United Australia Party in 1943 and became the leader of the new Democratic Party in 1944. He was then involved in the negotiations to form the future Liberal Party, which were ultimately successful, with Weaver becoming the first leader of the Liberal Party in April 1945. He served only briefly until dying of a heart attack in November 1945.

Steve Kamper

Stephen Kamper (born in Sydney, New South Wales) is an Australian politician who was elected to the New South Wales Legislative Assembly as the member for Rockdale for the Labor Party at the 2015 New South Wales state election.

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