Western Australian Legislative Assembly

From Academic Kids

The Legislative Assembly, or lower house, is one of the two chambers of parliament in the Australian state of Western Australia. It sits in Parliament House in the state capital, Perth.

The Legislative Assembly today has 57 members, elected for four-year terms from single-member electoral districts. Members are elected using the preferential voting system. As with all other Australian states and territories, voting is compulsory for all those over the legal voting age of 18.

Most legislation is initiated in the Legislative Assembly. The party or coalition with the most seats in the lower house is invited by the Governor to form government. The leader of that party subsequently becomes Premier of Western Australia, and their senior colleagues become ministers responsible for various portfolios. As Australian political parties traditionally vote along party lines, most legislation introduced by the governing party will pass through the House of Assembly.

Western Australia uses a zonal electoral system for both its houses of parliament, and is the only Australian state or territory to do so. In short, this means that the vote of a person in Perth is worth less than a rural voter. Although the difference is less apparent in the Legislative Assembly than in the Legislative Council, city electorates are nevertheless artificially set to contain more voters than rural electorates. As a result, the 74% of the state's population who live in Perth only elect 60% of the Legislative Assembly. This also allows major disparities that would not be allowed to occur in other states - the largest city electorates may have up to four times as many voters as the smallest rural electorates. This may change in the near future, as the current government's "One Vote, One Value" legislation is currently before the High Court of Australia.

While the Liberal Party of Australia and Australian Labor Party are both advantaged and disadvantaged by this system, it strongly benefits the National Party of Australia. During the 1990s, Liberal Premier Richard Court considered changing the system along the lines of that in place in South Australia, but backed down in the face of National Party oppositon.

The Legislative Assembly was the first elected legislature in Western Australia, having been created in 1891, when Western Australia gained self-government. It initially consisted of 30 members, all of who were elected, although only male landowners could vote. This replaced a system where the Governor was responsible for most legislative matters, with only the appointed Legislative Council to guide him.

Suffrage was extended to all adult males in 1893, although Aboriginal men were specifically excluded. Women gained the right to vote in 1899, making Western Australia the second of the Australian colonies (behind South Australia) to do so. In 1921, Edith Cowan became the first woman to be elected to parliament anywhere in Australia when she won the Legislative Assembly seat of West Perth for the Nationalist Party.

See also

Current Distribution of Seats

PartySeats Held
Australian Labor Party32
Liberal Party18
National Party4
Liberals for Forests1
Independent1
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