ACT Legislative Assembly


ACT Legislative Assembly - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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When was the Australian Capital Territory granted self government?

How many members are there in the ACT Legislative Assembly?

Where is the Legislative Assembly Building? 

What is the role of the Speaker in the ACT?

Who is the Chief Minister in the ACT?

Who is the Leader of the Opposition in the ACT?

What is the cross bench?

What are the standing orders?

How many members of each political party are represented in the Eighth Assembly?

How many members of the Eighth Assembly are female?

What is an electorate?

Which electoral system is used in the ACT?

When will the next ACT election be held?

How does the ACT Legislative Assembly fill casual vacancies?

What is a question on notice?

What is a question without notice?

What is a petition?

When was the Australian Capital Territory granted self government? 

The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) was granted self-government in 1988 with the first Legislative Assembly for the Australian Capital Territory coming into being in 1989. Before self-government, the ACT was administered by the Federal Parliament. The ACT Legislative Assembly is unique in Australia in that it has responsibility for state/territory functions such as health, education and the administration of justice as well as the local government functions such as roads, libraries and waste collection. 

How many members are there in the ACT Legislative Assembly?

There are 17 members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs). Members are elected every four years by the people of the ACT to represent them and make decisions on their behalf.

Where is the Legislative Assembly building?

The Legislative Assembly is located on 196 London Circuit, Civic Square, in what used to be named the South Building. It is adjacent to the Canberra Theatre.

What is the role of the Speaker in the ACT Legislative Assembly?

The Speaker is the member of the Assembly who controls the proceedings of the chamber. The Speaker presides over all debates, speeches and question time, making sure that the standing orders (rules of conduct) and practices of the Assembly are followed. The Speaker is elected by the Assembly and sits at the head of the chamber on a raised bench.

The Speaker of the current Assembly is Mrs Vicki Dunne MLA who is a member of the Canberra Liberals, the opposition party in the Assembly. 

Who is the Chief Minister in the ACT?

The Chief Minister is the head of the government of the ACT and is elected by members of the Assembly. The current Chief Minister is Katy Gallagher who was first elected as Chief Minister by a majority of MLAs on 16 May 2011. Ms Gallagher was re-elected to the position at the first sitting of the Eighth Assembly on 6 November 2012. Ms Gallagher is a member of the Australian Labor Party (ALP).

Who is the Leader of the Opposition in the ACT?

The role of opposition is undertaken by largest non-government party. In the Eighth Assembly the Canberra Liberals are the opposition. The Leader of the Opposition is Mr Jeremy Hanson MLA.

What is the cross bench?

This is the set of seats allocated to MLAs who belong to neither the government nor the opposition. It is also the name used to refer to this group of MLAs more generally.

What are the Standing Orders?

The rules that govern the conduct of debate and Assembly proceedings (including committees). These are available on the Assembly website (Standing Orders)

How many members of each political party are represented in the Eighth Assembly?

The Australian Labor Party has eight members, the Canberra Liberals has eight members and the ACT Greens one member.

How many members of the Eighth Assembly are female?

Seven of the 17 members of the current Assembly (or 41%) are women:

  • Ms Yvette Berry (ALP)
  • Ms Joy Burch MLA (ALP)
  • Mrs Vicki Dunne MLA (Canberra Liberals)
  • Ms Katy Gallagher MLA (ALP)
  • Ms Nicole Lawder MLA (Canberra Liberals)
  • Mrs Giulia Jones MLA (Canberra Liberals)
  • Ms Mary Porter AM MLA (ALP)

Women MLAs in previous Assemblies

What is an electorate?

An electorate is an area represented by one or more members of parliament. An electorate is sometimes referred to as a seat, division or a constituency. The ACT Legislative Assembly has three multi-member electorates: Brindabella, electing five members; Ginninderra, electing five members; and Molonglo, electing seven members.  

Which electoral system is used in the ACT?

The Hare-Clark electoral system is used in the ACT. It is a proportional representation electoral system. A booklet, The ACT's Hare-Clark Electoral System: How it works is available from Elections ACT [Ph:(02)62050033]. More information is also available on the Elections ACT website www.elections.act.gov.au

When will the next ACT election be held?

The most recent ACT election was held on 20 October 2012. The ACT has a set election date which is the third Saturday of October, every four years. The next ACT election will be held on the 15 October, 2016.

How does the ACT Legislative Assembly fill casual vacancies?

Unlike other parliaments in Australia, to fill a casual vacancy (created by the death or resignation of an MLA), the Assembly does not hold a by-election.

Instead, a new member is chosen by recounting the votes received by the vacating member to establish which candidate is next preferred by these voters (the people who originally voted for the vacating member). For a candidate to be considered in this process, they must have contested the original election and also have indicated that they wish to contest the casual vacancy.

In the event that it is not possible to fill the casual vacancy through this process, for example, if a candidate does not come forward to contest the vacancy, the Legislative Assembly will choose a person to fill the vacancy.

If the vacating member was elected as a member of a registered political party – the new member must be of the same political party. If the vacating member was not a member of a political party (for example, an independent member), the person chosen to fill the vacancy cannot have been a member of a registered political party in the 12 months prior to filling the vacancy.

What is a question on notice?

A question on notice is a written question listed on the Notice Paper asked of a minister which is answered in writing. Questions on notice must relate to public affairs with which the relevant minister is officially connected, to proceedings pending in the Assembly or to any matter of administration for which that minister is responsible.

What is a question without notice?

A question asked orally of a minister during Assembly prodeedings where the minister usually has no warning of the content of the question. Like questions on notice, questions must relate to public affairs with which the relevant minister is officially connected, to proceedings pending in the Assembly or to any matter of administration for which that minister is responsible

What is a petition?

Petitioning is one of the traditional methods by which members of the public can make a formal request to the Legislative Assembly. Petitions may be started and sbumitted by any citizen or group of citizens of the ACT, and must relate to matters within its ministerial responsibility.

Until recently, petitions were only possible in paper form, but in 2013 the Assembly launched an e-petition facility. The main difference between paper-based and electronic petitions relates to how the process is started. Before stating an e-petition you must seek the sponsorship of an MLA, however paper petitions are often circulated for signatures before a sponsoring MLA is sought. Find out more about petitions.

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