Today marks the 100th anniversary of the day Queensland’s Upper House ceased to exist.

It was abolished by Labor’s ‘Red Ted’ Theodore, against the clear will of the Queensland people, 61% of whom had voted against its abolition in a referendum held in 1917.

All of which counted for nothing with Labor, who simply set about achieving their ends by ‘other means’.

First, they installed a submissive Laborite as Governor and then proceeded to ‘stack’ the Legislative Council with ex-Labour functionaries – mostly union secretaries and party hacks.

Once they had the numbers, the Bill was rushed through both Houses before being signed off on by ‘their man’, the Governor.

As one Queensland editorial put it at the time, it was a “gross abuse of representative power”.

The Sydney Morning Herald went even further, describing the whole thing as “tyrannical trickery”, with Labor first “degrading and then destroying the House which was a real bulwark of popular right and political decency in the State”.

There is a long history of political philosophy and theory behind the argument that having two houses of parliament is preferable to one, particularly for protecting the separation of powers.

Without an upper house the Executive branch of government—the ministers, government departments and agencies—enjoy free reign to push through any agenda they choose and there is little anyone in Parliament can do about it.

It results, as a former UK Lord Chancellor famously put it, in an “elective dictatorship.”

Requiring laws to pass through and be debated in a second chamber by different parliamentarians with different viewpoints, and representing different regions ensures that proposed laws are subject to proper oversight and scrutiny.

It also ensures much better representation for sub-national or regional areas, which often have very different values and interests to urban jurisdictions.

Today, of the 93 seats in Queensland’s Legislative Assembly, 64, or 69%, are located in the South-East region.

Only 5 seats (5%) cover Far North Queensland, the Darling Downs and South West regions combined, six seats (6%) account for North Queensland and Wide Bay Burnett regions, 4 seats (4%) are in the Central Queensland region, and 3 seats (3%) represent the Mackay, Isaac, and Whitsunday region.

This has resulted in an inbuilt, structural bias towards the concerns and interests of the South-East corner.

Without an elected, proportional upper house, there can be no limits or check, on this dominance of the lower house by Queensland’s urban elites, at the clear expense of those living in regional areas.

When you put this numerical dominance in the context of the contemporary party system and the rigid discipline it exercises over its members, then a propensity for ‘groupthink’ and uniformity of opinion becomes inevitable.

An upper house which increases the overall size of parliament would give Queensland a much greater range of voices and a lot more scrutiny, accountability and public debate.

All of which has never been more needed than it is today.

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