This two house system is referred to as a bicameral system. The Legislative Assembly has 88 members who are elected from electorates called districts. The Legislative Council has 40 members elected from eight electorates called regions. Members of both the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council serve a fixed term of four years.
The Government must be chosen from the elected Members of Parliament. The party that has the support of the majority of the Legislative Assembly forms Government. It must govern in accordance with the laws passed by Parliament.
- provides for the formation of Government;
- passes legislation;
- approves the Government’s budget appropriations;
- represents the people of Victoria; and
- scrutinises the actions of Government.
A Bill must be passed by the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council. The Upper House or Legislative Council is known as the house of review as it is responsible for providing a second opinion on Bills passed by the Lower House or Legislative Assembly.
Parliament has a committee structure. Committees consist of Members of Parliament from all parties, not just the elected Government. Committees conduct investigations into specific areas. Joint investigatory and standing committees operate throughout the life of a Parliament. Committees that are set up for a specific purpose and disband after presenting their final report are called select committees. A list of parliamentary committees can be found on the Parliament website.
Another function of Parliament is Question Time. This is generally held each day in the Legislative Council and the Legislative Assembly when Parliament sits. It allows Members of Parliament to ask oral questions directly of the Premier or a Minister. They must respond directly after the question is asked. This differs to questions on notice which are written questions from Members to a Minister. These request detailed information which a Minister must provide in writing.
At the commencement of each Parliament, the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council select a Member to serve as the Presiding Officer. The Presiding Officer of the Legislative Assembly is known as the Speaker. In the Legislative Council, the Presiding Officer is the President. Each Presiding Officer is elected by the Members of their respective houses.
Parliament sitting dates are published on the Parliament website.
Further information: www.parliament.vic.gov.au.
3.1 Independent Officers of Parliament
Officers of Parliament are governed by specific legislation. They are responsible to Parliament, not the Government of the day. The Officers of Parliament are the Auditor-General, Ombudsman, Electoral Commissioner, IBAC Commissioner, Victorian Inspector and Parliamentary Budget Officer.
On behalf of Parliament and Victorian taxpayers, the Auditor-General is responsible for examining the management of resources within the public sector. The appointment, operational independence and tenure of the Auditor-General are set out in the Constitution.
The Auditor-General is not subject to control or direction by either Parliament or Government. The independence of the Auditor-General is enshrined in the Constitution which ensures that findings from financial and performance audits are communicated to Parliament without interference. The Audit Act 1994 is the main legislation governing the powers and functions of the Auditor-General.
The Audit Act also addresses the relationship of the Auditor-General with Parliament and with Parliament’s Public Accounts and Estimates Committee. The Act assigns several statutory responsibilities to the committee in relation to the work of the Auditor-General, including consideration of the Auditor-General’s draft annual work plan and annual budgetary requirements.
Further information: www.audit.vic.gov.au.
The Ombudsman’s responsibilities include investigation of complaints about administrative actions taken by Victorian government departments, statutory authorities and officers of Local government. The Ombudsman reports to Parliament and can conduct own motion investigations. The Ombudsman’s jurisdiction extends across all arms of the State government and its statutory authorities.
Further information: www.ombudsman.vic.gov.au.
3.1.3 Electoral Commissioner
The Victorian Electoral Commission is the administrative agency through which the Electoral Commissioner’s statutory obligations are carried out. The main responsibilities of the Victorian Electoral Commission are to maintain the electoral enrolment register; conduct Victorian Parliamentary elections, local council elections, certain statutory elections, commercial and community elections; conduct electoral boundary reviews; and increase the public’s awareness of, and engagement in, electoral matters. The Electoral Act 2002 defines the functions of the Electoral Commissioner and specific requirements for the conduct of elections. Federal elections are conducted independently by the Australian Electoral Commission.
Further information: www.vec.vic.gov.au.
3.1.4 IBAC Commissioner
The IBAC Commissioner is the head of the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC), a body that investigates and exposes corruption and police misconduct. Its jurisdiction includes Members of Parliament, state and local governments and the judiciary. IBAC has powers similar to a Royal Commission and may also conduct own-motion investigations. IBAC also assesses complaints made under the Protected Disclosures Act 2012. Heads of public bodies have a legislative obligation to report suspected corrupt conduct to IBAC.
IBAC also educates and informs the public sector and community about corruption and police misconduct, and ways to prevent it.
Further information: www.ibac.vic.gov.au
The Inspector is the head of the Victorian Inspectorate (VI). The main role of the VI is to ensure that the agencies it oversees are using their powers and exercising their functions properly. The VI is required to monitor the use of coercive powers (such as powers to summons, examine witnesses or to make organisations provide documents as evidence) by each body it oversees and has power to receive and investigate certain complaints made to it about:
- Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) and its personnel
- Victorian Ombudsman officers
- Chief Examiner and Examiners
- Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner (OVIC) officers
- Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) officers
The VI is required to inspect and audit relevant records kept by the Public Interest Monitor (PIM) and report to the Minister and the Parliament on that inspection and audit.
The VI also has a compliance role, promoting the public interest by ensuring that agencies that are able to exercise covert powers (such as intercepting telephone conversations, placing surveillance devices and conducting controlled operations) adhere to their statutory record-keeping and other obligations. VI officers physically inspect and assess records and documents relating to the use of covert powers.
Further information: www.vicinspectorate.vic.gov.au/
3.1.6 Parliamentary Budget Officer
The Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) was established in 2017 to cost policy proposals and provide financial advice independently of the Government. The primary functions are:
- preparing election policy costings, pre-election reports and post-election reports;
- preparing costings of other policies or proposed policies at the request of a Member of Parliament; and
- providing advisory services to Members of Parliament on financial, fiscal or economic matters (including in relation to the costing of proposals included in the State Budget).