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Legal Studies Units 3 & 4 > Australian Parliamentary System > Flashcards

Flashcards in Australian Parliamentary System Deck (13):

Overview of the Australian Parliamentary System
What's it based on
How does it operate
How is govt and opp formed

Australia’s political system is based on the Westminster system used in Great Britain
• Australia operates as a bicameral parliamentary democracy with the exception of Queensland and the two territories which have unicameral parliaments (ONE HOUSE)
• At both federal and state the lower house majority forms government and the minority forms the opposition


3 Principles of the Australian Parliamentary System

Representative Govt
Responsible Govt
Separation of Powers


Distinguish between the purpose of responsible and representative government

Representative government refers to a system in which people elect their lawmakers who are then held accountable to them for their activity within government. The purpose is to ensure that the expenditure of public money is monitored and the actions of the government to ensure they are acting in the best interests of the people they represent.

On the other hand, responsible government refers to a political system where the executive government, the Cabinet and Ministry, is drawn from, and accountable to, the legislative branch. Its purpose is to ensure the power of the Crown, the British monarchy, is exercised in accordance with the will of the people


Constitutional monarchy/ representative democracy/ federation of states

Australia is a constitutional monarchy, with a monarch (the Queen of the United Kingdom and Australia) and a constitution that establishes the parliamentary system and provides a legal framework for making laws. It is also a representative democracy and a federation of states. A representative democracy is political government carried out by elected representatives of the people.


Federal system of government

Under the Australian federal system of government, the country is divided into states and territories. Each state and territory has its own parliament, making a total of nine parliaments in Australia:
• the Commonwealth Parliament (the central parliament or federal parliament)
• six state parliaments
• two territory parliaments.


What's the Australian Parliamentary System based on/constitution

Mainly based on the British Westminster system, which was adopted in the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900 (UK), known as the Commonwealth Constitution. This Act was passed in the United Kingdom because Australia and its states were originally British colonies. The Commonwealth Constitution established the Commonwealth Parliament and outlined its law- making powers. This Act came into operation on 1 January 1901.


The bicameral system

The Commonwealth and state parliaments operate on a bicameral system, which means two houses: an upper house and a lower house. Queensland and the territories are exceptions to this rule and only have one house each. At a federal level the two houses are the Senate (upper house) and the House of Representatives (lower house). In Victoria the two houses are the Legislative Council (upper house) and the Legislative Assembly (lower house).


The structure of the Commonwealth Parliament c

The structure of the Commonwealth Parliament consists of:
• the Queen (represented by the governor-general)
• the Senate (upper house)
• the House of Representatives (lower house).


The House of Representatives

The House of Representatives (the lower house) is sometimes referred to as ‘the people’s house’. This house reflects the current opinion of the people at an election, because it determines which party or coalition of parties should form government. It is therefore also known as ‘the house of government’.


Government/prime minister/ministers/shadow ministers

The political party (or coalition of parties) that achieves the highest number of elected members to the House of Representatives becomes the government of the day.

The leader of that political party becomes the prime minister who appoints the government ministers.

The party with the next highest number of elected members becomes the opposition. The leader of the opposition appoints shadow ministers. A shadow minister is usually appointed for every government minister. Their role is to keep a check on the activities and responsibilities of the corresponding government minister.


House of Rep Voting

There are 150 members of the House of Representatives and each member represents an electoral division. The term of office for members of the House of Representatives is three years. In Australia, voting in an election is compulsory, and failure to vote can result in a fine being imposed. To be eligible to vote, a person must be 18 years old and registered to vote.


Which is the house of government?

The political party or coalition that has the highest number of elected members in the House of Representatives forms the government. The leader of that political party becomes the prime minister who appoints the government ministers.


Explain the significance of a hung parliament. How does this affect the effectiveness of
the House of Representatives? How did the Gillard Government overcome some of these

When neither major party hold enough of the 150 seats to ensure the successful passage of important Bills or defeat of a vote of no confidence motion. If no party emerges with an absolute majority in the House of Representatives, the incumbent prime minister which is the leader of the party holding government before the election has the right to remain in office and test their support.

This effects the effectiveness of the House of Representatives as important bills cannot be passed when a party hasn't got a majority to pass the bill.

The Labor Party was able to secure the promise of three of the independents and the one member of the Australian Greens, to vote with them and was therefore able to form government with a promise of 76 votes which is more than half of the 150 seats.

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