Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

Balancing the power: Queensland needs an upper house

By Nicholas Aroney and Scott Prasser - posted Thursday, 20 April 2006

Premier Mike Rann wants to abolish South Australia's upper house and have only a single chamber - as Queensland has had since its upper house was abolished in 1922 by a Labor government contrary to an earlier referendum.

Yet others have been concerned about the Howard Government's unchecked power since it gained control of the Senate.

Indeed, Queensland's unicameral legislature exacerbates the winner- takes-all approach endemic in Westminster systems regardless of which party is in power.


Recent royal commissions, external reviews and whistleblowers have highlighted how Queensland's weak unicameral parliamentary system has encouraged a lack of ministerial responsibility, political party dominance in public service appointments and secrecy in decision making.

These issues lie at the heart of the state's hospitals, childcare and energy scandals. The Davies commission into Queensland hospitals identified poor accountability processes, Cabinet tactics to avoid freedom of information laws and inadequate public reporting of government performance.

Davies stressed that Coalition and Labor governments had released "misleading" information on hospital waiting lists that had on occasion even acted "contrary to the public interest" on health matters.

The present Queensland parliamentary system offers few opportunities for external probing of executive government actions and even fewer pressures to reveal information. Government in Queensland is for major party and big institutional players only.

There are few countervailing influences and little opportunity for representation of regional and minority interests. Moreover, when things go wrong in Queensland, the state's weak parliamentary system makes it hard for the electorate to allocate responsibility.

Like trying to pin the tail on the donkey, the electorate is so blindfolded by government secrecy that it inevitably misses the target. No one gets the blame. No one takes responsibility.


The game just goes on until the next crisis or, occasionally, the next government. Indeed, despite all the expensive health "fix-its" presently being instigated, the Forster hospital management review's recommendation to establish a parliamentary committee to monitor health issues has been ignored.

Consequently, the opportunity to ensure a connection between executive government, departmental administration and parliamentary public accountability has been missed.

A revived upper house, if properly designed, could overcome Queensland's huge "accountability gap". The issue is not whether Queensland should have an upper house, but how and when it should be introduced.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. All

First published in The Courier-Mail on April 19, 2006.
Dr Scott Prasser, University of Sunshine Coast and Dr Nicholas Aroney, The University of Queensland, are convening "Improving Government Accountability in Queensland: The Upper House Solution" on April 21, 2006. Further information and registration details are available at:

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

15 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Authors

Nicholas Aroney is a Fellow of the Centre for Public, International and Comparative Law and Reader in Law at the TC Beirne School of Law, the University of Queensland. He is author of The Constitution of a Federal Commonwealth: The Making and Meaning of the Australian Constitution (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009) and Freedom of Speech in the Constitution (Sydney: Centre for Independent Studies, 1998).

Dr Scott Prasser has worked on senior policy and research roles in federal and state governments. His recent publications include:Royal Commissions and Public Inquiries in Australia (2021); The Whitlam Era with David Clune (2022) and the edited New directions in royal commission and public inquiries: Do we need them?. His forthcoming publication is The Art of Opposition reviewing oppositions across Australia and internationally. .

Other articles by these Authors

All articles by Nicholas Aroney
All articles by Scott Prasser

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Photo of Nicholas AroneyNicholas AroneyPhoto of Scott PrasserScott Prasser
Article Tools
Comment 15 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy