The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) was granted self-government by the Commonwealth Parliament in 1988 with the passage of the Australian Capital Territory (Self-Government) Act 1988. The first Assembly was elected in 1989.
Before self-government, the ACT was administered by the Federal Parliament. The Legislative Assembly for the ACT 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 local government functions such as roads, libraries and waste collection.
There are currently 25 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.
With the passage of the Australian Capital Territory (Legislative Assembly) Act 2014 on 5 August 2014 the Legislative Assembly agreed to increase its size from 17 to 25 members at the 2016 election.
Previously, the size of the Assembly could only be changed by Commonwealth regulations made in accordance with an Assembly resolution. In 2013, the Commonwealth Parliament amended the Australian Capital Territory (Self-Government) Act 1988 to give the Assembly the legislative power to pass an enactment to determine the number of Assembly members.
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.
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 Ms Joy Burch MLA who is a member of the Australian Labor Party, the government party in the Assembly.
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 Mr Andrew Barr MLA who was elected as Chief Minister by a majority of MLAs at the first sitting of the Ninth Assembly on 31 October 2016. Mr Barr is a member of the Australian Labor Party (ALP).
The role of opposition is undertaken by largest non-government party. In the Ninth Assembly the Canberra Liberals are the opposition. The Leader of the Opposition is Mr Alistair Coe MLA.
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.
The rules that govern the conduct of debate and Assembly proceedings (including committees). These are available on the Assembly website (Standing Orders).
The Australian Labor Party has 12 members, the Canberra Liberals has 11 members and the ACT Greens two members.
Fourteen of the 25 members of the Ninth Assembly (or 56%) are women:
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 five multi-member electorates: Yerrabi; Ginninderra; Kurrajong; Murrumbidgee and; Brindabella, each electing five members.
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. More information is also available on the Elections ACT website.
The most recent ACT election was held on 15 October 2016. 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 17 October, 2020.
Unlike other parliaments in Australia, the Assembly does not hold a by-election to fill a casual vacancy (created by the resignation or death of an MLA). The processes for electing a new MLA are set out in the Electoral Act 1992.
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.
For more information about casual vacancies and how they are filled, visit the Elections ACT website.
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.
A question asked orally of a minister during Assembly proceedings 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
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 submitted 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 online e-petition facility. The main difference between paper-based and electronic petitions relates to how the process is started. Before starting 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.