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Flashcards in Ch 1 & 2 Deck (22)
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Rule of law

The principle that all individuals are equal before the law. Limits power of government as all government actions must be lawful.

Key elements
- universality (equality before the law)
- law should be known and clear
- judicial independence


Majority rule

A key operating principle of liberal democracy. In a democracy, the majority vote is decisive.

eg: Members of the lower house are chosen by the 'will of the people' and must win an absolute majority of votes; the Government (executive) is formed by having majority support in the lower house


Legislative function

The power to make the law. Exercised by parliament through debating, scrutinising and enacting statutes.


Executive function

The power to administer (carry out) the law. Exercised by the Cabinet (PM + Senior Ministers).


Judicial function

The power to interpret and apply the law. Exercised by the courts (independent of the executive and Parliament) which settle disputes.


Liberal democracy

A political system that combines majority rule with the protection of rights and freedoms.

Key operating principles:
- majority rule
- political freedom
- equality of political rights
- political participation



The principle that the powers of government are defined and limited by a written or unwritten constitution.



The supreme authority to rule in a nation. In representative democracies, sovereignty is based on the consent of the people.


Separation of powers

The division of executive, legislative and judicial functions into separate branches (institutions) that act separately and are independent of each other.



A system of government where the powers and responsibilities of government are divided between a central government and two or more regional governments.

eg: Australia: Cmth Parliament and six State Parliaments


Division of powers

In a federal system, the Constitution allocates powers to the different levels of government. The division of powers is presided over by a constitutional court.

eg: Cmth Constitution sets out exclusive and concurrent powers; the High Court settles disputes between the levels of government.



The requirement that all public officials, both elected and appointed, should be directly or indirectly answerable to the people.

eg: Westminster chain of accountability


Westminster system

A political system that originated in Britain and is based on 'responsible parliamentary government'.


Westminster conventions

Unwritten constitutional rules that govern the practice of government in systems derived from the British Westminster system.

eg: Australia has adopted several Westminster conventions such as 'responsible parliamentary government'.


Responsible parliamentary government

A Westminster convention that the executive is formed by securing majority supper in the lower house of parliament. The executive is thereby accountable to the legislature.


Representative government

A political system where people elect Members of Parliament (MPs) to represent their voice in parliament. MPs are held accountable through elections.

Contrast: direct democracy


Constitutional monarchy

A system of government where the head of state is an inherited position but whose powers are limited by a written constitution or unwritten constitutional conventions.

eg Australia's head of state is the Queen of England and her powers are defined in the Commonwealth Constitution


Political freedom

A key operating principle of a liberal democracy. The ability to make choices without intimidation, coercion or pressure.

eg: freedom of speech: express political views free from oppression or sanction; freedom of assembly: peaceful protest


Political participation

A key operating principle of a liberal democracy. Citizens are able to engage with and be part of the political process.

eg vote; stand as a candidate for election


Equality of political rights

A key operating principle of a liberal democracy. Political rights enable political participation.

eg: 'one vote, one value'; right to a fair trial (judicial independence, impartial judge)


Judicial independence

Relates to the separation of powers: the judicial branch must be completely free from interference from the parliament or the Government. Necessary for the rule of law.



A set of rules which 'govern the governors'. by creating and defining the institutions of power within a political and legal system.

eg: Commonwealth Constitution