Obviously a lot has happened this year and it’s easy to miss things when they come out, so I’m glad I’ve finally learned about a paper published by the Institute of Public Affairs in October titled A Voice for the Regions: Proposals for a Restored Upper House in Queensland. Regular readers will know I’ve been concerned about the quality of governance in Queensland for a long time, and, somewhat reluctantly, because it would mean more politicians, I think it would be worth restoring an upper house or at least installing some citizens’ oversight body, as I discussed in my post No Qld upper house means poorly thought through legislation.
The IPA paper by researchers Morgan Begg and Daniel Wild nicely explains the history of the abolition of Queensland’s upper house and its consequences:
Next year will mark the 100th anniversary of the Queensland Labor government’s successful campaign to abolish Queensland’s upper house in 1921.
Abolition was overwhelmingly against the will of the broader Queensland population, with some 61% of Queenslanders voting against abolition in a referendum held in 1917.
While periodic attempts have been made to revive an upper house, Queensland today remains the only state in Australia with a unicameral parliament—that is, without an upper house.
Queenslanders may be proud of this unique feature, but the absence of an upper house has led to three significant structural deficits in Queensland politics and public policy which present an existential threat to the Queensland way of life.
In the IPA’s view, those three deficits are the accountability deficit, democratic deficit, and regional representation deficit, which you can read more about on page 1 of the report. The IPA proposes a range of models for a Queensland upper house, one of which is designed to provide greater regional representation in Parliament. I’m less concerned about an alleged lack of regional representation in the Queensland Parliament than the IPA, so my preference would be for the population-based representation model with a proportional representation voting system (Model 1 on p. 8).
There would be both pros and cons (e.g. possibly some good legislation being held up or modified adversely) associated with restoring a Queensland upper house, so we’d want to have a comprehensive public discussion of it before settling on a model. I’m looking forward to engaging with the IPA on the Queensland upper house concept in the New Year and promoting a public conversation on it.