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Government of the Australian Capital Territory

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Government of the Australian Capital Territory

Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly
Type Unicameral
Houses Legislative Assembly
Founded 1989
Speaker Vicki Dunne, Liberal
Since 2012
Chief Minister Katy Gallagher, Labor
Since 2011
Seats 17
Legislative Assembly Political groups Government
     Labor (8)
     Liberal (8)
     Greens (1)
Meeting place
Legislative Assembly Building, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia

The Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly (formally, the Legislative Assembly for the Australian Capital Territory) is the unicameral legislature of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). It sits in the Legislative Assembly Building located on Civic Square, close to the centre of the city of Canberra.

It was created by four acts of the Commonwealth Parliament in 1988, including the Australian Capital Territory (Self-Government) Act 1988. The first election was held on 4 March 1989[1] and the assembly first sat on 11 May that year. Until this point, the ACT had been directly administered by the Commonwealth Government. It replaced the House of Assembly (also known for a period as the Legislative Assembly), which existed from 1976 to 1986, but had no executive power, with a principal function of advising the Commonwealth on matters relating to the Territory.

The Legislative Assembly has 17 members, elected for four-year terms by the Hare-Clark system, a variation of the Single Transferable Vote form of proportional representation. The 17 members come from three constituencies—Brindabella and Ginninderra, which have five members, and Molonglo, which has seven members. The Assembly was originally elected by a modified d'Hondt system, but a 1992 referendum supported the Hare-Clark method, and this was introduced in 1993.

Members of the Legislative Assembly vote to elect a Chief Minister—in practice, the leader of whichever party can form government. The Chief Minister, in turn, selects up to five ministers to form a cabinet. The leader of the second-largest party in the assembly usually becomes the Leader of the Opposition.

The ACT is unique among Australian states and territories, as it has no vice-regal post exercising authority as the representative of the Head of State, such as a Governor or an Administrator. Instead, the functions of the head of the Executive—commissioning government, proroguing parliament and enacting legislation—are exercised by the Assembly itself and by the Chief Minister. Instead of vice-regal or regal assent, a Bill passed by the ACT Legislative Assembly is enacted on ‘notification’—publication of a notice authorised by the Chief Minister, in the Government Gazette.[2]

Election dates for the Assembly are fixed in legislation, with elections held in October every four years (until 1997, elections were held in February). Elections are always held on Saturdays. The term of the Assembly was increased in 2004 from three to four years.

As with the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, the ACT Legislative Assembly lacks the full powers of a state legislature. For example, legislation passed by the Assembly can still be overridden by Australian Commonwealth legislation under the Territories Self-Government Legislation Amendment (Disallowance and Amendment of Laws) Bill 2011.[3] Although this is rare in practice, the Civil Unions Act, which allowed same-sex couples to enter into "civil unions" was overruled following concerns that the civil unions mimicked marriage. In July 2006, the Federal Government again threatened to overrule the ACT Stanhope Government's anti-terror legislation, which was not consistent with other state laws. The Federal Government Attorney General, Senator George Brandis, has threatened a High Court challenge to the same-sex marriage laws passed in the ACT Legislative Assembly on 22 October 2013. The Commonwealth also retained control of the Territory's justice system until handing it over to the Assembly in 1992. The Assembly has the functions of a local council and the city of Canberra has no other local government.

Current distribution of seats

Australian Capital Territory general election, 2012

Electorate Seats held
Molonglo (7)              
Ginninderra (5)          
Brindabella (5)          

In this diagram, the red, blue and green squares indicate assembly members who belong to the ALP, the Liberal Party and the Greens respectively.

See also


External links

  • Legislative Assembly for the Australian Capital Territory

Coordinates: 35°16′54″S 149°07′52″E / 35.2816°S 149.1312°E / -35.2816; 149.1312

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