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Happy "Today should be a holiday" Day
Russell Degnan

"And whereas it is expedient that the District of Port Phillip, now part of the Colony of New South Wales, should be erected as a separate Colony ... there shall be within and for the Colony of Victoria a separate Legislative Council"
An Act for the better Government of Her Majesty's Australian Colonies (5th August 1850)

There are, of course, several days that could be used to celebrate Victoria's independence: July 1st (when it offically occured), or Separation Day (November 11th) when parliament first sat. But today, sitting, as it does, in the interminable gap between the Queen's Birthday holiday and Cup Day seems the most appropriate.

The original Legislative Council was partly appointed, and partly elected. And for the five year period of its existence (1851-1856) it was widely reviled. The Sydney Morning Herald was particularly unimpressed:

"I must say a worse regulated, worse governed, worse drained, worse lighted, worse watered town of note is not on the face of the globe ... nowhere in the southern hemisphere does chaos reign so triumphant as in Melbourne"

But Sydney has never liked us. The discovery of gold, and subsequent rush caused innumerable problems for the fledgling democracy. But, there was a lot of good done. To quote, again, The Blended House by Ray Wright (available from Information Victoria if you are interested).

It drafted the constitution of Victoria, held at the time to be the most liberal in the British Empire. It invented the secret ballot. It began construction of Parliament House. It founded the supreme and county courts of Victoria. It created a durable system of local government. It devised the miner's right. It ultimately learned the value of a gold export duty. It founded the Parliamentary Library, a State Library of Victoria, and a University of Melbourne. It encouraged telegraphy, railway extension, port and pilotage development, macadamisation, and gas distribution. It reformed the collection of custom tarrifs. It founded a National Education Board, a Central Road Board, a Water and Sewerage Commission and a Bank of Victoria. It resisted transportation, and convictism. Not without misgivings, it conceded the inevitability of democratisation and at least commenced the process of enfranchising the diggers. It crafted standing and sessional orders that were practical and enduring. It sought to address such issues as environmental management, land alienation, state aid to denominational schools, and the "imprest" system of financial supervision, problems that took more experienced legislators in less difficult times decades to resolve. With no prior experience, it was obliged to explore the early bounds of "responsible government". It demonstrated the value of legislative rather than autocratic control of the colony. It provided, despite almost insuperable challenges, legislative counsel. If charges of ineptitude or mismanagement are to be conceded, as they must, then such contributions need equally to be recognised.

General 5th August, 2003 22:03:41   [#] 

Comments

Houses
When was parliament in Victoria split into two houses - i.e. the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council?
Aaron Hewett  7th August, 2003 12:43:21  

Re: Houses
It was a drawn out process because it involved the writing of a constitution. The Constitution Act was given royal assent on 16 July 1855, was recieved by the then Governor Sir Charles Hotham on 23rd October 1855, and proclaimed a month later. The Legislative Council then argued over the proper method of elections (including the secret ballot) before sitting for the last time on 20th March 1856.

Elections for the new Parliament of Victoria were held in the Spring. It was sworn in on 21st November 1856 and opened on the 25th November 1856. There is substantially more information here while the original separation act is here.
Russell  8th August, 2003 15:34:30  


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