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Steps to improve the relevance of the Victorian Parliament

By Judy Maddigan - posted Friday, 15 February 2002

Discussion with mainly Officers of the Parliament covered a wide range of operation of Parliaments.

In this section of my report I will cover those which I found of particular interest.

1. The Adversarial Nature of the Victorian Parliament

The visits to the Commonwealth Parliaments confirmed my previous views of the problems of an adversarial system of Government.


In effect there are two main parties in Victoria, the National Party either in official or non-official coalition with the Liberal Party and the Labor Party. In terms of the Parliamentary behaviour there is a distinct conservative/Labor split which governs not only question time but also the manner in which Government and other business is addressed.

While the comparison with Westminster is less obvious the operation of the Welsh Assembly and the Irish and Scottish Parliaments show a parliamentary process that in my view has much merit.

When the Scottish Parliament was set up there was concern that if the voting system was the same as for Westminster (first past the post) then the Scottish Parliament would have only Labor members in it. A similar concern was expressed for the Welsh Assembly.

Both States have set up voting systems which therefore allow for smaller parties to be represented. (Details of their voting systems can be found on their web pages). The outcome of these voting systems has been the proliferation of smaller representative groups in the Parliament and often, a need for larger and smaller parties to work together to form coalition governments.

The structures of the Parliament have therefore developed on a co-operative model rather than an adversarial one.

For example the Irish Parliament has a Parliamentary Business Committee rather than separate government/opposition ones.


This means the representatives of all the parties represented in the Parliament meet together and determine the business program of the House. This Committee decides the dates on which legislation will be debated, the time allocated for the Bill ( negotiated according to the importance of the Bill) the inclusion of Private Members Bills, motions to be debated and other parliamentary business.

The process appears to be a very orderly one, and it means that Members of Parliament know about 6 months ahead the timing of legislation and the parliamentary business program. There is of course provision for changes if urgent legislation or urgent matters requiring debate arise.

This process also has a further by-product by increasing the role of the Presiding Officers. The Presiding Officers have a role in determining the speaking order and the length of time that Members of Parliament can speak.

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This is an extract from a Report on the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association study tour to England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales from 16 June until 9 July 2001.

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About the Author

Dr Judy Maddigan is the Member for Essendon in Victoria.

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