This book is an authoritative history of the NSW Parliament from its establishment in 1856 to 2003. It gives comprehensive accounts of both the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council, including analyses of their performance based on contrasting ‘liberal’ and ‘executive’ models of Parliament.
The history of the Parliament is contextualised by the changing political background in which it operated over 150 years. It is enlivened by portraits of colourful Members, such as WP ‘Paddy’ Crick, drunken brawler and master of Parliamentary procedure, and accounts of incidents such as George Fuller’s seven hour Government and the siege by trade unionists in 2003.
On a broader level, the book is a dissertation on the nature of State politics and Parliaments and on the theoretical study of parliamentary institutions.
...an impressive history of the New South Wales Parliament. - Australasian Parliamentary Review, Vol 21(1), Autumn 2006
Doorstop, what doorstop? This handsome book provides more kilos of knowledge than most I have seen recently. ... ... The ‘Introduction’ and ‘Conclusion’ deserve to be widely studied by students of parliament in other jurisdictions as well as New South Wales, because Clune and Griffith have written a state-of-the-art account of why parliaments matter, drawing not only on New South Wales evidence but also on relevant political theories of where parliaments sit in contemporary democracy. The tensions between the practices associated with a decisionist institution and those associated with a deliberative institution play out in all Australian jurisdictions and are probably a basic feature of parliamentary politics everywhere. What makes this book so compelling is the way in which this framework of institutional tensions has been applied to 150 years of parliamentary politics in Australia. The chapters covering the years since federation include many treatments of federal issues that have complicated but also energised and elevated State politics in Australia. Clune and Griffith have written much more than a reference book, valuable as that is. They have written a very lively political history ... Clune and Griffith are at their best in examining the rise and impact of minor parties and independents... Decision and Deliberation shows the valuable contribution that bicameralism has [made], and is making, to the conduct of responsible parliamentary government in Australia’s most populous State. - John Uhr, Australian Journal of Political Science, Vol 41(4), Dec 2006
[A] magnificent history of the New South Wales parliament. ... The authors achieve an admirable balance ... This is a model for parliamentary histories. - Scott Bennett, Australian Journal of Political Science, Vol 41(4), Dec 2006
This is a huge book ... engagingly written, quite candid, penetrating where I am competent to judge its analysis and sometimes quite funny. All credit to its authors ... Books like this are indispensable to a better understanding of our political life. ... The NSW Parliament has been a robust institution, in several senses of that adjective. But it has also been a place in which personal respect and friendship have frequently crossed party lines, notwithstanding what is said in the chamber. And it has been a place, too, for not a little wit. - Australian Historical Studies, Vol 128, 2006
Along with all the dates, facts, figures and legislation, there is of course a great deal of colour. Postmaster-General Paddy Crick is described as the ‘most colourful member of the See Ministry’, although he could well be a finalist for the full 150 years in that category. There are about 83 tables with statistics on voting patterns, Bills, composition of the Houses, questions and much, much more. ... This is clearly a major and essential reference work and the Sesquicentenary Committee and the authors are to be congratulated on cramming so much vital information into a most readable volume. - Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, Vol 92(1), June 2006
The book is not just dry facts and figures but is an absorbing narrative, in the course of which the workings of the parliamentary system are explained. Anyone who has followed politics in NSW over the decades will find consistent reminders of dramatic events which determined the fate of governments – the rise and fall of Jack Lang, the intrigues which brought down Bertram Stevens, the defection of Labor members in the Upper House who would not vote for their own extinction, and the actions of independents who sometimes held the balance of power in one House or the other. ... - Australian Quarterly, March- April 2006
This book is surely the centrepiece of the [Sesquicentenary] projects; a weighty volume (in every sense of the word) that provides both a narrative account and an analytical history of the challenges of bicameralism and responsible government. ... The authors weave their analytical framework throughout the narrative, along the way considering the ‘decline of Parliament’ thesis as it relates to New South Wales, discussing the history of party political conflict in the Parliament, and assessing the performance of the Parliament from both the ‘executive’ and the ‘liberal’ perspectives. ... The integration of political context with the analysis of parliamentary governance adds an important dimension to the book, bringing light and shade to the narrative, and acknowledging the impact of federalism, the rule of law and the legal and judicial system on the life and work of the parliament. ... [T]his book is surprisingly lively and engaging where one might expect a more dense and turgid tome. As Rodney Cavalier notes in his foreword, when considering the ‘vexed question’ of the role of the Upper House in good government; “You will go a long way to read a yarn about an Australian Parliament as compelling as this account of Legislative Council reform.” Indeed, much of Decision and Deliberation is compelling, setting a high standard in political history. - Australian Journal of Politics and History, Vol 52(3), Sept 2006
Each chapter charts the political and constitutional elements at play and discusses how the Parliament responded to those events, concentrating heavily on both the procedural aspects and the adversarial politics within the two Houses and, on many occasions, between the two Houses. The authors capture the flavour of the times, with judicious quotations from parliamentary debates and the press. The book’s account, to give one example, of the career of Paddy Crick, one of the famous Wild Men of Sydney, is vastly entertaining. The chapters dealing with the Legislative Council are impressively written and, at times, enthralling. The upper Houses’s existence has often been a source of political contention in NSW and the book’s account of the various attempts to abolish the Legislative Council is impressive in its grasp of the political, legal and constitutional issues. ... While the book can be read with great pleasure, it is also well-indexed, allowing it to be used as a reference source. The book is copiously footnoted and some of the footnotes are small treatises on particular details or points, adding to its value as a work of reference. ... Decision and Deliberation is a handsomely produced book ... Its relevance is not restricted to the Australian environment so the book’s readership deserves to be large and it is strongly recommended for the collections of parliamentary libraries and libraries of academic institutions. - Parliamentarian, Issue 2, 2006
It is a history in the best sense. There is a detailed and meticulous narrative of an immense number of events and facts .... The book is a mine of information ... but it is more than that: the narrative is shaped by acute and critical analysis of the events and an assessment of the institution. ... The authors are also not afraid to draw frank political judgments. .... Devotees of hard political analysis will not find the work lacking. The stories of impropriety and incompetence are offset by accounts of many well-intentioned and capable members, office-holders and backbenchers, whose names are less well known than those of the fools and knaves. Some readers may be surprised to learn that there were admirable Speakers and even admirable Premiers. At the end of the work, most readers will find that the institution and the State political process generally have risen in their estimation. The book is a very well turned-out publication. The lively narrative is further enlivened by a good selection of photographs. ... Especially informative are the shots of Richard Jones in a float tank, Fred Nile brought from his sick bed in a wheelchair to keep up the fight against immorality, and a demonstrator holding up a dead fish at the front gate. The book will be found to be instructive and entertaining ... - Constitutional Law and Policy Review, Vol 9(1), 2006
A masterpiece which warrants a mass audience. I opened with the intention of dipping. I read it all because it was a pleasure and adventure. ... This is truly a history of an institution and the two constituent parts. And a story of a space and a human gathering, the driving force of memory, the restraints of ritual and procedure. - Rodney Cavalier, from the Foreword
Table of Contents
Appendix: NSW Ministries 1856-2003