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 (23 March 1922)
Succeeded byUnicameral Parliament of Queensland
William Lennon[lower-alpha 1]
Seats58 seats[lower-alpha 1]
Political groups
  Labor (34)
  Nonpartisan (23)
  Ministerialist (1)
Appointed by the Governor and on the advice of the Premier
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 26 October 1921, the Council voted itself out of existence;[2] the members who voted for the abolition were known as the "suicide squad".[3] The Council rose for the last time at 8:37 p.m. the next 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, abolishing the Council.

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.[4] The Queensland Greens support the reintroduction of an upper house elected by proportional representation.[5] Neither major party currently supports the reintroduction of an upper house.

Support for reintroduction

Since 2012, there has been support from some politicians for the reintroduction of the Legislative Council in the Queensland Parliament.[6]

Federal Greens senator Larissa Waters, independent MPs Peter Wellington and Liz Cunningham, One Nation leader Pauline Hanson and One Nation MP Stephen Andrew have all publicly supported the return of the upper house, believing that both constituents and political parties would benefit with fairer representation.[7][8][9][10]

However, LNP premier Campbell Newman and Labor premier Annastacia Palaszczuk have both publicly rejected the calls for the upper house to be reestablished.[7][11]

On 11 May 2021, a petition was tabled in parliament which was submitted by Kallangur resident Daniel Boniface and sponsored by Member for Mirani Stephen Andrew requesting a referendum be held on the issue of reinstating the Legislative Council.[12] The petition was signed by 940 people. In a letter addressed to the Clerk of Parliament on 11 June 2021, premier Annastacia Palaszczuk responded that the issue was not one she had taken to the people, nor was it an issue her government intended to pursue.[13]

List of presidents of the Legislative Council

Member Party Term in office
Charles Nicholson Unaligned22 May 1860 – 26 August 1860
Maurice Charles O'Connell Unaligned27 August 1860 – 23 March 1879
Joshua Peter Bell Unaligned3 April 1879 – 20 December 1881
Arthur Hunter Palmer Unaligned24 December 1881 – 20 March 1898
Hugh Nelson Ministerialist13 April 1898 – 1 January 1906
Arthur Morgan Ministerialist19 January 1906 – 19 December 1916
William Hamilton Labor15 February 1917 – 17 August 1920
William Lennon Labor18 August 1920 – 23 March 1922

See also

  • Members of the Queensland Legislative Council by year
  • Category:Members of the Queensland Legislative Council by name


  1. At time of abolishment.


  1. Armstrong, Lyn (1997), "'A somewhat rash experiment':Queensland Parliament as a microcosm of society", in Shaw, Barry (ed.), Brisbane:Corridors of Power, Papers, vol. 15, Brisbane: Brisbane History Group Inc, pp. 54–55, ISBN 0-9586469-1-0
  2. "Legislative Council Hansard (26 October 1921)" (PDF). Queensland Parliament. 26 October 1921. Archived (PDF) from the original on 25 June 2016. Retrieved 3 January 2020.
  3. Moore, Tony (12 October 2011). "The ups and downs of the Legislative Council". Brisbane Times. Fairfax Media. Archived from the original on 13 November 2018. Retrieved 13 November 2018.
  4. Remeikis, Amy (23 November 2013). "Queensland needs an upper house: independent MPs". Brisbane Times. Fairfax Media. Archived from the original on 17 November 2014. Retrieved 31 January 2015.
  5. Democracy Archived 8 August 2014 at the Wayback Machine. Queensland Greens. Retrieved 31 January 2015.
  6. "Greens want Qld upper house restored". Nine News. 9 March 2012. Archived from the original on 24 June 2021. Retrieved 14 June 2021.
  7. "Campbell Newman dismisses Wellington's call for Upper House". Sunshine Coast Daily. 25 November 2013. Archived from the original on 1 March 2014. Retrieved 14 June 2021.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  8. "Minor parties unite in calls for Queensland upper house". Brisbane Times. 13 December 2015. Archived from the original on 24 June 2021. Retrieved 14 June 2021.
  9. Vogler, Sarah; Killoran, Matthew; Marszalek, Jessica (18 January 2017). "One Nation leader Pauline Hanson wants to reinstate an Upper House in Queensland". The Courier-Mail. Retrieved 14 June 2021.
  10. Whiting, Melanie (17 November 2020). "One Nation MP's fresh call for Qld upper house". Daily Mercury. Archived from the original on 14 June 2021. Retrieved 14 June 2021.
  11. Whiting, Melanie (14 June 2021). "Premier rejects call for referendum on Qld upper house". Daily Mercury. Archived from the original on 14 June 2021. Retrieved 14 June 2021.
  12. Boniface, Daniel (1 December 2020). "Petition: Lack of democracy in Queensland Parliament". Queensland Parliament. Queensland Government. Archived from the original on 14 June 2021. Retrieved 14 June 2021.
  13. Palaszczuk, Annastacia (11 June 2021). "Letter to The Clerk of the Parliament". Queensland Parliament. Queensland Government. Archived from the original on 14 June 2021. Retrieved 14 June 2021.

Further reading

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