The Queensland Parliament can trace its origins back to the British parliamentary or Westminster system. Because Britain was the colonising nation and the majority of Queensland’s early settlers were of British ancestry, it was a natural consequence that the colony’s legislature would be based on the British model.
Queensland’s present electoral system is governed by the Electoral Act 1992, which creates an independent authority, the Electoral Commission of Queensland, to — conduct State elections, by-elections and referendums; administer Queensland’s electoral laws; maintain the electoral roll; conduct redistributions of electoral district boundaries; undertake research; and educate Queenslanders about their democratic rights and obligations.
In its purest sense the doctrine separation of powers refers to the distinct separation of the three branches of Government - the legislature, the Executive and the judiciary.
Until recently, Queensland’s Constitution was located within a diverse range of legislative instruments, i.e. statutes (Imperial, Federal, State), Letters Patent, proclamations and an Order in Council. However, as a result of the work of a number of bodies, the Queensland Constitution has been consolidated into the Constitution of Queensland 2001 which came into effect on Queensland Day (6 June) 2002.
The Queensland Parliament is often viewed as an historic, sandstone structure which is located at the end of George Street, Brisbane, and is somehow connected to the State's laws. However, responsibility for legislation is only one of a number of its functions, which are outlined below. The Parliament comprises parliamentary Members from a diverse range of backgrounds representing differing political interests, who are assisted by approximately 190 Parliamentary Service staff, of which the senior officers' positions reflect the legacy of parliamentary tradition.
One of the principal and familiar roles of the Queensland Parliament involves the passing of legislation which establishes the laws of the State. A piece of legislation passed by the Parliament becomes an Act or Statute, and in its draft form prior to and during its legislative passage is called a Bill.
The scrutiny by Parliament of the Government's annual financial requirements is an important and powerful feature of the legislature's role, and personifies the House of Commons' long, arduous battle that eventually saw it gain control over the British monarchs' revenues and expenditures. Thus, it is replicated today with a similar parliamentary overview of the Crown's (ie the Queensland Government's) appropriations and expenditure estimates.
Because the Crown is solely responsible for the State's expenditure, section 68 of the Constitution of Queensland 2001 provides that prior to the Parliament passing any vote, resolution or bill appropriating money from the 'consolidated fund', it must be recommended by a message from the Governor. The 'consolidated fund' comprises all taxes, imposts, rates, duties and other revenues of the State. Therefore, the Governor's recommendation that "a Bill for the appropriation of the Consolidated Fund" is required prior to the presentation of the Appropriation Bill and the Treasurer's Budget Speech.
Queensland's system of Government is a constitutional monarchy and, in its broadest sense, consists of the Governor and Executive Council, and the Legislative Assembly, with the judiciary completing the constitutional trinity. In its operative sense, Queensland's Executive Government is identified as the Governor (who is the Queen's representative in the State), and the Executive Council. The latter is presided over by the Governor and comprises the Premier plus the total Ministry, who each head and are responsible for the ministerial departments.
The following provides an outline of the routine of business during a sitting day in the Queensland Parliament. Several procedures that happen on different days have been included in order to demonstrate the various types occurring during a parliamentary week.
(Including the parliamentary calendar, the parliamentary chamber, the opening of Parliament, the election of the Speaker, the Governor’s opening Speech and the Address-in-Reply debate)
Meetings of Parliament involve complex and time-honoured processes based on tradition, the Standing and Sessional Orders, as well as the volatile, unpredictable ingredients resulting from adversarial, party politics. To the uninitiated, a visit to the Parliament can be a bewildering experience. This section will provide a description of the parliamentary calendar and the make-up of the Chamber, as well as a brief overview of the processes involved in the opening of the Parliament and the parliamentary sitting days.
The Queensland Parliament is presided over by a number of officers who are responsible for the proceedings of the Legislative Assembly's business and the daily administration of the parliamentary complex.
Although Executive Governments originate from the Parliament, because of the advent of 20th century political parties they have tended to develop wills of their own. Over the years, therefore, the Parliament has evolved particular procedures and structures which are aimed at scrutinising an Executive Government's policies and performance. A number of these have been outlined in other sections of the Queensland Parliament’s web site and include - Question Time, Matters of Public Interest, Private Members' Statements and Motions, Adjournment Debates, legislation debates, and the Address-in-Reply. All of the above provide opportunities for the Opposition, or even Government backbenchers, to focus attention upon the Executive's program as well as its possible inadequacies. There are limitations to these processes, however, since the Government normally controls the numbers in the House, and can use the same forums to defend or bolster its own image.