From 1860 until 1922 Queensland had a bicameral Parliament - a Legislative Council (Upper House) and a Legislative Assembly (Lower House). On 23 March 1922, legislation to abolish the Upper House was passed and Queensland became the only unicameral state parliament in Australia.
The Council had opposed many of the reform measures of the Ryan Labor Government which was elected in 1915. This resulted in the government formulating a policy to abolish the Council. This proposal was continually rejected by Upper House Members and was defeated in a referendum. However, the Acting Governor, William Lennon, then appointed 14 Labor Members to the Council giving the Government a majority in the Upper House. The Council sat for the last time on 27 October 1921, where it voted in favour of passing the Constitution Act Amendment Bill, the purpose of which was to abolish Queensland’s Upper House. The Act was proclaimed on 23 March 1922 and converted the Queensland Parliament to a unicameral Parliament.
The Chamber is now used for ceremonial and other formal occasions, such as the opening of a new parliament following a general election, Estimates Committee hearings and other committee meetings.
The floor of the Legislative Council Chamber is red, the traditional colour of upper houses in Westminster Parliaments. Although a variety of accounts exist as to the origins of this colour scheme, it most likely stems from the traditional use by kings of red as a royal colour.
The original furniture including the President’s desk and chair, the leather seated benches and the central table remain. These were built by John Petrie’s firm in 1870 and made from Queensland yellow wood, a timber now extinct.
The Red Chair situated at the head of the Chamber is reserved for the Sovereign or the Sovereign’s representative in Queensland, the Governor. It is made of carved red cedar, is well-cushioned with red velvet, features a royal crown to denote its status and has lion-paw feet. For many years it was thought that this chair was a gift from Queen Victoria to the new colony, however, recent research in Queensland and the Royal Archives in England has failed to find any evidence to support this story. Rather, it is now believed that this chair was built by a local Brisbane cabinet maker and upholsterer, James Bryden, and was used at the first sitting of Parliament in 1860.
The British Royal Coat of Arms above the chair signifies the connection of royalty with Westminster Upper Houses. It contains the mottos: “Dieu et Mon Droit” (French: God and My Right) and “Honi Soit Qui Mal y Pense” (Latin: Evil be to Him who Evil Thinks).
During restorations conducted in the 1980s, two chandeliers and matching wall sconces were purchased from Waterford Crystal in Ireland for $70,000. This lighting was designed to replicate the original gas lighting utilised throughout the building. Since then, and with the closure of the Waterford factory, the value of the chandeliers has increased to approximately $250,000. The ornate plaster coffered ceiling and wall panels are embellished with 22 carat gold leaf from the Gympie Gold Mine.