Parliament of South Australia

The Parliament of South Australia at Parliament House, Adelaide is the bicameral legislature of the Australian state of South Australia. It consists of the 47-seat House of Assembly (lower house) and the 22-seat Legislative Council (upper house). All of the lower house and half of the upper house is filled at each election. It follows a Westminster system of parliamentary government.

Parliament of South Australia
53rd Parliament
Coat of arms or logo
HousesHouse of Assembly
Legislative Council
Elizabeth II
since 6 February 1952
Hieu Van Le
since 1 September 2014
Vincent Tarzia, Liberal
since 3 May 2018
Andrew McLachlan, Liberal
since 3 May 2018
47 MHA
22 MLC
SA House of Assembly (From March 2020).svg
House of Assembly political groups
     Liberal (24)

     Labor (19)

     Independent (4)[a]
South Australian Legislative Council 2018.svg
Legislative Council political groups
     Liberal (9)

     Labor (8)

     SA-BEST (2)
     Greens (2)
     Advance SA (1)
Instant-runoff Vote
Single Transferable Vote
Last general election
17 March 2018
Next general election
19 March 2022
Meeting place
Adelaide parliament house.JPG
Parliament House,
Adelaide, South Australia,

The Queen is represented in the State by the Governor of South Australia. According to the South Australian Constitution, unlike the Federal Parliament, and the parliaments of the other states of Australia, neither the Sovereign or the Governor is considered to be a part of the South Australian Parliament. However, the same role and powers are granted to them.[1]


Old Parliament House in 1872
Recreated lower and upper house booths, history, and voting procedures
The competed New Parliament House being opened in 1939

The Legislative Council was the first Parliament in South Australia, formed as a result of the South Australia Act 1842, and replaced the South Australian Colonisation Commission appointed in 1834 by means of the South Australia Act 1834. The 1842 Act gave the British Government, which was responsible for appointing a Governor and at least seven other officers to the Council, full control of South Australia as a Crown Colony, after financial mismanagement by the first administration had nearly bankrupted the colony.[2] The Act also made provision for a commission to initiate the establishment of democratic government, electoral districts, requirements for voting rights, and terms of office.[3]

The Australian Colonies Government Act 1850 was a landmark development which granted representative constitutions to New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania and the colonies enthusiastically set about writing constitutions which produced democratically progressive parliaments with the British monarch as the symbolic head of state.[4] In 1851 elections for the legislative council were held.[5]

In 1855, limited self-government was granted by London to New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. This was expressed in South Australia by the Constitution Act 1856 (headed "1855–6: No. 2" and followed by the long title "An Act to establish a Constitution for South Australia, and to grant a Civil List to Her Majesty") establishing the constitution of the Parliament of the Province of South Australia. It was the first Constitution in the Australian colonies to provide "manhood" suffrage.[6][7]

This Act provided for a bicameral Parliament with full authority to enact laws, apart from a few Acts requiring the monarch's personal Royal Assent. The Legislative Council was elected by property owners only, while the 37-member House of Assembly was elected by a full male franchise.[8]

The adoption of the "one man, one vote" principle removed the ability of voters to vote in any electorate in which they owned property. The Act also defined the rules of tenure for the parliamentarians.[8]

Women gained the right to vote and stand for election in 1895, taking effect at the 1896 election.[9][10]

South Australia became a state of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901, following a vote to federate with the other British colonies of Australia.[11]

Parliament House

Although the lower house had universal suffrage from 1895, the upper house, the Legislative Council, remained the exclusive domain of property owners until the Labor government of Don Dunstan managed to achieve reform of the chamber in 1973. Property qualifications were removed and the Council became a body elected via proportional representation by a single state-wide electorate.[12] Since the following 1975 South Australian state election, no one party has had control of the state's upper house with the balance of power controlled by a veriety of minor parties and independents.

Elections were held every 3 years until 1985, when the parliament switched to 4 year terms, meaning 8 year terms for the upper house. Beginning in 2006, election dates have been fixed at the third Saturday in March of every fourth year.[13]

House of AssemblyEdit

House of Assembly chamber.

The House of Assembly (or "lower house") is made up of 47 members who are each elected by the full-preference instant-runoff voting system in single-member electorates. Each of the 47 electoral districts (electorates) contains approximately the same number of voters.

Since 1975, the distribution of electoral boundaries has been set by the South Australian Electoral Districts Boundaries Commission.[13] Since 1991, boundaries have been redistributed after each election by the Electoral Commission of South Australia, an independent body. Previously they were redistributed after every third election.

Government is formed in the House of Assembly by the leader of the party or coalition who can demonstrate they have the support of the majority of the House, and is called upon by the Governor to form government. The leader of the government becomes the Premier.

While South Australia's total population is 1.7 million, Adelaide's population is 1.3 million − uniquely, over 75 percent of the state's population resides in the metropolitan area and has 72 percent of seats (34 of 47) alongside a lack of comparatively-sized rural population centres, therefore the metropolitan area tends to decide election outcomes. At the 2014 election for example, although the statewide two-party vote (2PP) was 47.0% Labor v 53.0% Liberal, the metropolitan area recorded a 2PP of 51.5% Labor v 48.5% Liberal.[14]

Legislative CouncilEdit

Legislative Council chamber.

The Legislative Council (or "upper house") is made up of 22 councillors (MLCs) who are elected for the entire state by the Proportional Representation single transferable voting system (with optional preferential voting) to serve for a term of 8 years. Elections for the Legislative Council are staggered so that 11 seats are up for re-election every 4 years, at the same time as House of Assembly elections.

The primary function of the Legislative Council is to review legislation which has been passed by the House of Assembly. This can cause tensions between the government and the Legislative Council, which may be viewed by the former as obstructionist if it rejects key legislation, as can happen at times when the electoral makeup of the two houses are different.


The seat of the Parliament of South Australia is Parliament House in the state capital of Adelaide. Parliament House sits on the North-Western corner of the intersection of King William Street and North Terrace.[15]

See alsoEdit

Individual electionsEdit



  1. ^ "Constitution Act 1934". South Australia: Parliament of the United Kingdom. 1934. Retrieved 9 October 2011.
  2. ^ "South Australian Colonization Commission". Bound for South Australia. Creative Commons 3.0. History Trust of South Australia. Retrieved 5 November 2019.CS1 maint: others (link)
  3. ^ "An Act to provide for the better Government of South Australia [30th July 1842]: Anno 5o et 6o Victoriae" (PDF). Founding Documents. Retrieved 13 November 2019.
  4. ^ The Right to Vote in Australia. Australian Electoral Commission. Retrieved 21 March 2012.
  5. ^ Jaensch, Dean (1 March 2007). "History of South Australian elections 1857-2006, volume 2". State Electoral Office of South Australia. Retrieved 24 June 2020.
  6. ^ "Constitution Act (No 2 of 19 Vic, 1855-6)". 4 January 1856. Retrieved 6 November 2014.
  7. ^ Government of South Australia. "Constitution Act 1934". Retrieved 13 November 2019.
  8. ^ a b "Constitution Act 1856 (SA)". Museum of Australian Democracy. Retrieved 13 November 2019.
  9. ^ "Women's Suffrage Petition 1894:" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 March 2011. Retrieved 8 January 2016.
  10. ^ "Women and Politics in South Australia". Parliament of South Australia. 19 February 2009. Archived from the original on 16 April 2019. Retrieved 17 April 2015.
  11. ^ Wise, Bernard Ringrose (1913). The Making of The Australian Commonwealth. Longmans, Green, and Co.
  12. ^ Dunstan, Don (1981). Felicia: The political memoirs of Don Dunstan. Griffin Press Limited. pp. 214–215. ISBN 0-333-33815-4.
  13. ^ a b History of Redistributions, South Australian Electoral Districts Boundaries Commission
  14. ^ Metropolitan 2PP correctly calculated by adding raw metro 2PP vote numbers from the 34 metro seats, both Labor and Liberal, then dividing Labor's raw metro 2PP vote from the total, which revealed a Labor metropolitan 2PP of 51.54%. Obtained raw metro 2PP vote numbers from ECSA 2014 election statistics Archived 7 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine, ECSA 2014 Heysen election Archived 11 December 2014 at the Wayback Machine and ABC 2014 Fisher by-election.
  15. ^ "Google Maps". Google Maps. Retrieved 3 October 2017.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit

Coordinates: 34°55′16″S 138°35′55″E / 34.92111°S 138.59861°E / -34.92111; 138.59861