Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Politics of Queensland
Like the other Australian states, Queensland is a dual-level constitutional monarchy. Thus the Queen of Australia is head of state of the Commonwealth but also head of state of Queensland. The Queen is represented in the state by the Governor, currently Quentin Bryce. The Governor appoints the Premier (currently Peter Beattie) and members of Cabinet from the majority party in the Legislative Assembly.
Queensland is the only Australian State to have a unicameral Parliament. The Legislative Assembly has 89 members (MLA's) and sits in Parliament House, Brisbane. Currently the Australian Labor Party holds 63 seats, the Nationals 15, the Liberal Party of Australia five seats, and the One Nation Party one.
The Supreme Court of Queensland is the highest appellate jurisdiction within Queensland. The current Chief Justice is Paul de Jersey . Appeals from the Supreme Court may be held in the Commonwealth High Court.
Queensland has several factors rendering it different from the government of other Australian states. Firstly, as has been mentioned, the legislature has no upper house. Secondly, for a large portion of its political history, the state was under a gerrymander that heavily favoured rural electorates. This, combined with the already decentralised nature of Queensland, meant that politics has been dominated by regional interests. Thirdly, Queensland operates a balloting system known as Optional Preferential Voting, which renders the single transferrable vote system normally used in Australia closer to a first-past-the-post ballot to the detriment of minor parties.
The two above conditions have had notable practical ramifications for politics in Queensland. The lack of substantial legislative review has meant that Queensland has had a tradition of domination by strong-willed, populist Premiers, often with markedly authoritarian tendencies, holding office for long periods while managing to escape high levels of criticism.
The focus on rural and regional interests has meant that the state has been a stronghold for the National Party. The long-standing conservative coalition in Australia has usually been dominated by the Liberal Party, with the Nationals in a subsidiary position. The reverse is true in Queensland, with the Queensland division of the Liberal Party often fighting the Nationals for control of electorates which they see as rightfully theirs. The coalition has been subject to periods of strife and this has been exploited by a number of Premiers, notably Joh Bjelke-Petersen in the 1980s and more recently by Labor Premiers.
The dramatic collapse in support for the Goss Government resulted in its returning from the 1995 general election with a majority of only one seat. This in turn was subsequently lost after the controversial and closely-fought Mundingburra by-election. The Nationals formed minority government after securing the support of independent Liz Cunningham, with Rob Borbidge becoming Premier.
In stark contrast to that of some of his predecessors, Borbidge's government was not markedly domineering. However, controversies such as public service purges, disputes with the Criminal Justice Commission, and other scandals did do some damage to the government.
Events were superseeded by the meteoric rise of controversial federal politician Pauline Hanson. Especially popular in her native Queensland, Hanson's decision to form her own political party (Pauline Hanson's One Nation) was greeted with apprehension by all the other parties, in particular the Nationals striving to maintain their rural conservative heartland. In 1998 A bitter dispute broke out within and between the Liberal and National parties over whether One Nation candidates should be ranked lower on how to vote cards than Labor candidates. Eventually, the Nationals decided to place Labor behind One Nation. This move backfired spectacularly in the election, with the urban Liberal vote deserting to Labor and an unexpectedly high One Nation primary vote giving the party 11 seats in Parliament. Labor attained 44 seats, one short of a majority, and achieved government with the support of Cunningham and new independent Peter Wellington .
The new minority government managed to secure itself a majority in a by-election and was dominated overwhelmingly by the always-smiling self confessed "media tart" Peter Beattie. A major controversy broke in 2001 on the eve of the election, when a number of very prominent Labor Party figures were implicated in rorting internal preselection and party ballots. The subsequent Shepardson Commission of Inquiry was widely expected to destroy the government. Beattie immediately undertook a purge, taking the opportunity to dispatch several factional enemies, and promised a "cleanskin" approach.
To the surprise of many, Beattie's public contrition was overwhelmingly popular, and in contrast to its previous tenuous hold on power, the government won a massive majority of 66 seats, with the Liberal Party being reduced to only three seats in Parliament.
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