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New division procedures adopted

The Queensland Parliament adopted amendments to its Standing Rules and Orders on 11 February 2014, introducing a party voting system for divisions. Party voting involves a block of votes being put forward on behalf of members of a party when a division is called in the Parliament.

This method of voting is used in both the Legislative Assembly of Victoria and the New Zealand Parliament and is designed to streamline the Parliament’s voting process. Party voting maintains all opportunities for each individual Member of Parliament to vote as they choose during divisions.

The new process of party voting will work as follows:

  • when a division is called, all Members wishing to vote must sit in their designated seat
  • Members of a party will be taken to be voting as a block with their party unless they have advised their party whip otherwise
  • each party whip then counts any of their party Members that are not present in their seats, deducts this number from their total number of Members and reports this figure to the Speaker
  • the Speaker will then call if any Member wishes to vote contrary to their party vote
  • the Speaker will then call each Independent Member of Parliament and ask whether they are voting for the Ayes or Noes
  • the Speaker will then declare the result of the division with the total number of votes for the Ayes and the Noes.

Where a conscience debate has been declared, Members belonging to parties will have a personal vote rather than a party vote. The procedure for personal voting will follow the process for how divisions have traditionally occurred in the Queensland Parliament prior to the introduction of party voting.

This former process of voting saw Members physically move to either the right or left-hand side of the Speaker in the Chamber, following a division being called, depending on whether they agreed or disagreed with the question being put to the House. Members voting ‘Aye’, that is they supported the question, would move to the Speaker’s right, while Members voting ‘No’ would move to the Speaker’s left.

The Whip and Deputy Whip of each party would then act as tellers and count each individual Member of Parliament on their respective side of the Chamber. The name each Member was then marked on a roll to formally record how they had voted. The number of votes for the ‘Ayes’ and the ‘Noes’ was then presented to the Speaker and announced to the House.

This procedure proved to be a time consuming process with an average of seven minutes spent on each division during 2012-13. For that period, the longest time taken in a single division was 17 minutes. In the 2012 parliamentary year, almost 14 hours were spent during the division process, representing over 4% of the total sitting time for that year.

Advice received from the Legislative Assembly of Victoria indicates that the party voting system works well and saves time in divisions.