Abolishing Tasmania’s Legislative Council should be considered in light of the Rosevears and Huon elections, Windermere independent MLC Ivan Dean says.
Last Saturday’s upper house elections will likely see the Liberal’s Jo Palmer and Labor’s Bastian Seidel elected but the final results will not be declared until after August 11.
This will see a total of five Labor members, including Legislative Council president Craig Farrell, and three Liberal members in the upper house.
Mr Dean said the election results alone were not sufficient to abolish the upper house but cause for Tasmania to take a good look at where it was going.
“I’ve said before, once we get strong control of the house by party members we should do away with the Legislative Council, when it gets to a position where it cannot do what it is required to do and that is to operate as a house of review,” Mr Dean said.
“I’ve looked at unicameral states and they function very well.”
Mr Dean said the election for his seat of Windermere next year would see the parties strongly vying for the position with high-profile candidates.
“It’s unhealthy and it’s not going to help the place at all – it’s loosing its capacity and ability to property review legislation,” he said.
In other news:
Mr Dean said Labor’s power in the upper house was a problem.
“Particularly when you’ve got the house with so many Labor members in it and you’ve got a Liberal government, you virtually get in our house at times a de facto Labor government,” he said.
But former Labor Bass MHA Brian Wightman said the Legislative Council had an important role to play in Tasmanian democracy.
“Unicameral parliaments are a rubber stamp compared to the Legislative Council,” Mr Wightman said.
“If the parliament were to consider reform to the Legislative Council then four-year terms rather than six would be far more in line with modern leadership practice.
“The art to politics is negotiation and much of that goes on behind the scenes out of view of the public. One would hope that high quality briefings, facilitated by ministers and departmental staff, continue no matter the makeup of the Legislative Council.”
He said it should be remembered the Liberals had not held Rosevears, formerly Cornwall, since 1961 and Labor had not held Huon since 1948.
“Saturday’s Legislative Council elections were unique because they involved two extremely high-profile candidates who were very difficult to beat due to their positioning in the communities they wished to represent,” he said.
“The Legislative Council in Tasmania has long been viewed as the house of review – that will ebb and flow with the politics of the day.”
Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Michael Bailey said a decline in recent years of independent members in the upper house may be the result of a perception the Legislative Council had been a blocker on delivering government priorities.
“The voters have spoken and we should respect their judgement,” Mr Bailey said.
“I have no doubt that the Legislative Council and its members – whether Labor, Liberal or independent – will continue to play an important part in Tasmania’s democratic processes moving forward.”
Premier Peter Gutwein said at the end of the day this matter came down to democracy in action.
“It’s the public that make the decision as to who goes into the Legislative Council,” Mr Gutwein said.
After the counting of provisional and out of division votes on Monday, Ms Palmer holds 41.8 per cent of first preference votes in Rosevears, followed by independent candidate Janie Finlay with 30.4 per cent.
At this stage, 81.2 per cent of the votes have been counted.