"New LC, who dis?" Representation in the new Legislative Council

17 October 2023

As we approach the first anniversary of the 60th Parliament of Victoria, we take a look at the composition and role of the Legislative Council, the voting processes, the minor parties, the diverse voices and what all of this means for democracy.

The aim of this blog is to show the composition of the Victorian Parliament and how it can be explored in the classroom, particularly when studying civics and citizenship, VCE Australian and Global Politics, and VCE Legal Studies. It’s aimed at teachers, to give you ideas on what you can do with your students, but obviously if you want to share this with your students, feel free. Each section of this blog is accompanied by a range of questions or activities you may like to use with your students or to support your own reflection.

Click on each of the subheadings below to read more about how the Legislative Council works in Victoria.


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Representation matters in democracy. Diversity is also important, especially when it comes to representing the diverse range of views of the Victorian people.

The Legislative Council (upper house) is referred to as the house of review. It is often the second house that bills must pass through (although occasionally some bills start in the Legislative Council and then go to the Legislative Assembly). The Legislative Council serves as a mechanism to ensure that proposed laws undergo a comprehensive evaluation—incorporating diverse perspectives and expertise through debate and amendments—before bills become Acts of Parliament and are enacted as laws.


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Proportional voting

In many parliaments, diverse representation can be found in upper houses like Victoria’s Legislative Council because they often use proportional electoral systems. It can be tricky to work out the maths on these systems because the formulas are based on quotas, the number of formal votes and the transfer of votes. The Victorian Electoral Commission now uses computers to work it out. One of the outcomes of this voting system is that parties and independents who may not receive a significant proportion of the overall vote may still end up being elected—provided they meet the quota. This means there is an increased likelihood of each region being represented by a range of political parties.


Reflection questions

With your students, you may find it useful to look at how the regions voted, particularly the region in which your school is located, to raise some probing questions. For example:

  • What parties are represented in a particular region?
  • Where do the parties sit on the political spectrum?
  • What does the party representation say about proportional voting in this region?

You could also conduct a SWOT analysis on proportional voting. You may want to consider outcomes such as someone who won a significant percentage of the vote has the same say in the Legislative Council as someone with significantly fewer votes, and/or the distribution of the political ideology and inclusion of minority voices in the chamber.


Understanding proportional voting

ABC’s expert psephologist (a person who analyses elections) Antony Green explains how proportional voting works for Victoria’s Legislative Council. The main thing to know is that it often means more minority parties end up being elected, resulting in a chamber with potentially more diverse views.

With proportional voting, someone who won a significant percentage of the vote has the same say in the Legislative Council as someone who received significantly fewer votes. This increases the diversity of opinions and voices. It may eventuate that these minor parties and independents have opportunities to influence debates, by seeking amendments to bills or casting the deciding vote that determines whether a bill passes.


Reflection questions

  • What benefits or challenges might this present for minor parties and/or independent MPs?
  • How might proportional voting support or challenge the democratic process of elections and the work of parliament?
    • How does proportional voting support the aims of a liberal democracy; follow the will of the majority while protecting the minority
  • If you had to replace the proportional voting system with a different form of voting, or make changes to the current system, what would you do differently?
  • Why might the people who created the system have chosen proportional voting, compared to preferential voting, for the upper house/house of review?
    • What benefits/limitations does the proportional voting system have for an upper house?  


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Political diversity in the Legislative Council

There are 40 members in the Legislative Council, who represent eight regions across Victoria, with each region electing five members. For a bill to successfully pass through this house the majority of the Members of the Legislative Council (MLCs) must vote for it to pass, meaning the magic number for passing legislation is 21.

If there is agreement on a bill between major parties (Labor and the Coalition), and there is for most legislation, the bill will pass. However, if the opposition is against a bill, the government will need to seek support from members of the crossbench to pass the bill.

After the last state election in 2022, Labor won 15 seats in the Legislative Council, the Coalition (Liberal and The Nationals) won 14, and the crossbench occupied 11 seats. Collectively, the minor parties and the independents are referred to as the crossbench­ because they sit on the benches between the government and opposition in the chamber.

It’s also worth noting that after an election, there can be changes to the crossbench and the minor parties that are represented. Following the 2022 election, the composition of the crossbench is now as follows:

  • Animal Justice Party (AJP) – 1 seat
  • Democratic Labour Party (DLP) – 1 seat
  • The Australian Greens—Victoria (GRN) – 4 seats
  • Legalise Cannabis Victoria (LCV) – 2 seats
  • Libertarian Party (LIBDEM, formerly Liberal Democrats) – 1 seat
  • Pauline Hanson’s One Nation (PHON) – 1 seat
  • Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party Victoria (SFF) – 1 seat

Reflection questions

When exploring the composition of the upper house and changes that may occur after an election and during a parliamentary term, consider:

  • How might changes after an election affect the role of the upper house?
  • How might changes during the parliamentary term affect the role of the upper house?
  • What are the strengths and limitations of the composition of the upper house being able to change?
  • What might be the public’s perception of the upper house’s ability to change?


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Passing bills through the Legislative Council

Given the Labor Party (ALP) is six votes shy of a majority, they would need the support of either the Coalition, or support from a combination of the crossbenchers. Support may come in the form of compromise or input on a different bill (a strategy that parties can use and is negotiated outside of parliament), or through proposing and voting on amendments.

This latter process is called ‘Committee of the Whole’ and is an optional stage of the second reading debates. During Committee of the Whole, Members of the Legislative Council debate, suggest amendments and vote on every clause of a bill. This can result in some very long sitting days. It’s during this process that the minor parties and independents can have input into the bill through suggesting amendments.


Reflection questions

Here are some questions to help students explore the political diversity of the Legislative Council:

  • What political ideologies might be represented across the Legislative Council?
  • Given the overall composition of the Legislative Council, how might you use the political spectrum to describe the overall political ideology? How might this description help or hinder the understanding of political diversity within the chamber?
  • What benefits and limitations are there to having diverse political ideologies represented in the upper house?
  • Within your region, what political parties were elected to the Legislative Council?
    • What does this say about the region?
    • What is the importance of geography if two very different kinds of parties can be elected in the one region?
    • Often regions will elect ideologically different parties. All regions have at least one member from each major party, for example. Why is this?

An interesting activity to do with students could include having the students determine the political ideologies, spectrum, and interests of parties in the Legislative Council. This would help show the different ways that diversity is being represented in the legislative process.


In simplistic terms, houses of parliament, especially the Legislative Council in its role as the house of review, are sometimes given labels to characterise the composition of the membership, such as ‘progressive’, ‘hostile’ or ‘conservative’.

  • How might you characterise the different parties currently represented in the Legislative Council, especially the minor parties and independents?
  • How might the various priorities of the different parties and independents influence the bills that pass through parliament? Consider how bills might be amended, as well as whether they pass. It may be useful to use case-studies of bills currently before parliament or parliamentary committees.
  • What consequences might there be for parties if compromising on bills and how might they feel about the outcome?
  • What might be the different priorities of the crossbenchers represented in the upper house? Given the priorities of the different crossbenchers, what considerations might the government take into account when drafting or negotiating proposed legislation?


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How does the Legislative Council represent other forms of diversity?

The diversity of the Legislative Council, and the ways in which it is representative of the broader Victorian community, goes beyond different political parties or ideologies. It can also be fascinating to look more closely at the individual members themselves.

A member’s first speech to parliament, referred to as an ‘inaugural’ speech, can be a useful focus for this exercise. For many members this is an opportunity not just to thank the people who supported them but to speak about their life experiences, and motivations for standing for election.

Each new member of parliament have a link to the Hansard record of their inaugural speech on their Parliament of Victoria profile page. For example:

Other inaugural speeches can be accessed via the Find a member page and highlights from both the Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council Inaugural speeches can be found on the News page

Snapshots from other inaugural speeches are available on the parliament’s YouTube channel


Reflection questions

Students could consider the ways that the Legislative Council represents other forms of diversity, or not, and how representative this is of Victoria in general. For instance, this is the first time the Legislative Council is made up of a majority of women (22). Students could also consider the increased variation of age.

A list of the current Members of the Legislative Council can be found here


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Diversity and democracy

Discussing representation and the political spectrum, as distinct from the act of law making, can provide new insights into the processes of parliament. It can highlight the diverse political voices that are integral to the democratic processes in parliament and that ensure Victorian’s have the opportunity to have their voices heard through their elected representatives.


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Classroom connections

This blog post can be used as a resource from Grades 5 to Year 10 to explore how the Legislative Council works and key concepts such as decision-making. It can be used for VCE Politics and VCE Legal Studies when discussing the role of political parties and independent representatives in Victoria’s system of government and the law making process.

Grades 5 & 6

At Grades 5 & 6 the activities in this resource can be used to explore how state/territory and federal laws are initiated and passed through parliament (VCCCL012), and to discuss the values, principles and institutions that underpin Australia’s democratic form of government, such as representation (VCCCG008).


Years 7 to 10

At Years 7 to 10, the activities and questions in this resource can help students explain how citizens can participate in Australia’s democracy including contact with their elected representatives (VCCCG020) and discuss the role of political parties and independent representatives in Australia’s system of government (VCCCG028).


VCE Politics

This resource can be used to support those teaching VCE Politics:

  • exploring key terms and concepts such as representative democracy and representative government, and the political spectrum and associated labels such as left, right, conservative, moderate, progressive, radical, liberal and reactionary
  • analysing the roles and functions of political groups, and the decline in support for major parties and the emergence of minor parties
  • evaluating the operation of the Australian electoral system, focussing on the aims and effectiveness of proportional representation.

VCE Legal Studies

This blog post can be used to support those teaching VCE Legal Studies, with a focus on students being able to discuss the factors that affect the ability of parliament to make law, including the roles of the houses of parliament and the representative nature of parliament.