Flashcards in Unit 3 AOS1a - Chapter 1: The Australian Parliamentary System Deck (75):
A union of sovereign states that relinquish some powers to a central authority to form one nation. Australia is a federation of six independent states with a federal body known as the Commonwealth Parliament.
Laws made by parliament, known as Acts of parliament or statutes.
Define: supremacy of parliament
Also referred to as sovereignty of parliament. This refers to the concept that the final law-making power rests with parliament. Parliament can repeal and amend its own previous legislation and can pass legislation to override common law.
Define: westminster principles
The set of principles that underpin our
parliamentary system, inherited from the United Kingdom, known as the Westminster system. These are the principles of representative government, responsible government, the separation of powers, the structure of state and Commonwealth parliaments, and the roles played by the Crown and the houses of parliament.
Summarise the Australian Parliamentary System.
Australia is a constitutional monarchy, but It is also a representative democracy and a federation of states. The members of parliament are elected by people and must therefore represent the needs of the people. Additionally this system is based off the British Westminster system and the Queen of England is our head of state.
What is a constitutional monarchy?
A constitutional monarchy is a system with a Monarch (Queen Elizabeth II) as the head of state and a constitution that establishes the parliamentary system and provides a legal framework for making laws.
What is a representative democracy?
A representative democracy is a political government carried out by representatives elected by the people.
The members of parliament are elected by people and must therefore represent the needs of the people if they wish to keep their seat in parliament.
What is the Australian parliamentary system based on?
It is based on the British parliamentary system, known as the Westminster system. Under the Westminster system there are two houses of parliament and the monarch is the head of state.
What was adopted in the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900 (UK)?
The British Westminster System - what Australia's parliamentary system is mainly based on.
What did the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900 (UK) do?
It established the Commonwealth parliament and outlined its law making powers. This Act came into operation on the 1st of January 1901.
The Queen of England (also the Queen of Australia) is the head of sate and is therefore part of the parliamentary system in Australia.
What does it mean to be the Head of State?
This title is held by Queen Elizabeth II and it means she has the
highest ranked position in Australia. The Queen has representatives being the Governor-general (at a federal level) and the governor (at a state level) to make decisions on her behalf because she is unable to be in two places at once.
What is the bicameral system?
This means there are two houses/chambers of parliament (like in the Westminster system). With the exception of Queensland and the Territories, all parliaments in Australia have two houses.
What is the structure of the Commonwealth parliament?
Queens representative - Governor-general
Upper house - Senate
Lower house - House of Representatives
What is the structure of the Victorian parliament?
Queens representative - Governor
Upper house - Legislative Council
Lower house - Legislative Assembly
Describe the House of Representatives.
. The House of Representatives is the lower house of the Commonwealth parliament.
. It is also known as 'the peoples house' because it has 150 members distributed around Australia in electorates containing approximately 90,000 voters. This means there is equal representation of the ideas and values of the people.
. The House of Representatives is also know as 'the house of government because it determines which party/coalition should form government as members reflect the current opinion of the people.
. The term of office for a member of the House of Representatives is 3 years.
What was the composition of the House of Representatives in June 2014?
. The Liberal/National Party Coalition: 90 seats (Government)
(Liberal Party: 58 seats + Liberal National Party: 22 seats + Nationals: 9 seats + Country Liberal Party: 1 seat = 90 seats)
. The Australia Labor Party: 55 seats (Opposition)
. The Australian Greens: 1 seat
. Katter's Australian Party: 1 seat
. The Palmer United Party: 1 seat
. Independents: 2 seats
What is a hung parliament?
This is when neither major party hold enough seats in the lower house of state or federal parliament which allows for the successful passage of bills. This occurred in the August 2010 federal election because the Labour Party and the Liberal/Nationals Coalition held 72 seats each, meaning independents and members of smaller parties had a lot of power. Both parties had to try to please these members by shaping their views to be more appealing to them in order to gain their support.
What is preferential voting?
This is a system of voting where the most preferred candidate wins the seat. If no candidate receives more than half the votes cast, then the candidates with the fewest votes are progressively eliminated and the votes received by them are distributed. This continues until one candidate holds a majority of votes.
Australia is divided into 150 areas called divisions. Each division contains approximately 90,000 voters. Voters in each division elect one person to represent them in the house of representatives. The electoral commission checks on the size of the population at least every 7 years, when there is sufficient change in the number of electors in a division the boundaries of the division may be changed.
What is the role of the House of Representatives?
. Initiate and make laws
. Determine the government
. Provide responsible government
. Represent the people
. Publicise and scrutinise government administration
. Control government expenditure
Explain the following role of the House of Representatives: Initiate and make laws
Initiating and making laws is in fact the main function of the House of Representatives because government is formed here. New laws are usually introduced to the house by government, however any member may introduce a proposed law. A bill must not only be passed in the House of Representatives but also in the Senate.
Explain the following role of the House of Representatives: Determine the government
After an election, the political party or coalition of parties that has the most members in the House of Representatives forms government. However, in the case of a hung parliament, has the promise of enough votes to defeat a no-confidence motion and to pass important legislation, such as supply bills.
Explain the following role of the House of Representatives: Provide responsible government
The provision of a responsible government refers to members of parliament being accountable and answerable to Australian citizens in regards to their actions. They may present petitions from citizens and raise citizen's concerns and grievances in debate. If the government loses the support of the lower house it must resign.
Explain the following role of the House of Representatives: Represent the people
The House of Representatives plays a role in forming a representative government because members are elected to represent the people and are given authority to act on behalf of them. The House of Representatives should therefore represent the interests of the majority of people (government). The proposed laws introduced in this house should reflect the views and values of the majority of the community.
What does a federation of states mean for Australia's parliamentary system?
It means whilst the country is divided into states and territories, each has its own parliament. This makes a total of 9 parliaments in Australia:
. The Commonwealth Parliament/Federal Parliament
. 6 state parliaments
. 2 territory parliaments
Explain the following role of the House of Representatives: Publicise and scrutinise government admistratuon
It is the role of the House of Representatives to:
. publicise the policies of government
. to make sure that legislation is debated
. matters of public importance are discussed
. and members of parliament are able to ask the government and ministers questions relating to their work and responsibilities.
Committees also investigate proposed laws.
Explain the following role of the House of Representatives: Control government expenditure
A bill must be passed through both house of parliament before a government is able to collect taxes or spend money. Expenditure is also examined by parliamentary committees.
The effectiveness of the House of Representatives.
If the government holds the majority of seats in the House of Representatives, as it did after the 2013 election, the governing party should be able to pass legislation through the house easily. This would mean it fulfils its program of changes in the law, which it has been elected to do. However, this could mean there is less debate of major issues before proposed laws are passed.
The hung parliament after the 2010 election led to a lot complex negotiations between the Labour Party, the Australian Greens and Independents in order to achieve the passage of many bills through both houses. Although this was time consuming it allowed for major issues to be debated and discussed.
Describe the Senate.
. The Senate is the upper house of the Commonwealth Parliament.
. It consists of 76 members which are divided equally in each state regardless of size or population. Each state elects 12 representatives and each Territory elects 2 representatives.
. Due to the equal distribution of seats between states all, including less populated states, have the same voice as largely populated states, hence why the Senate is also known as 'the States House'.
. Each Senator is elected for 6 years, with half of the Senators elected every 3 years.
What is the role of the Senate?
. Initiate and pass bills
. Act as a states' house
. Act as a house of review
. Scrutinising legislation
. Check on government
. Responsible government
Explain the following role of the Senate: Initiate and pass bills
Whilst the House of Representatives usually initiate bills (as government is formed here) and the Senate passes bills already passed in the House of representatives, the Senate is also able to initiate proposed laws. The only exception is that the Senate cannot initiate or amend any financial bills, as it is not part of its jurisdiction, however it can suggest changes.
Explain the following role of the Senate: Act as a states' house
This is achieved through its equal distribution of representatives for each state. Regardless of size and population all states have 12 representatives and territories have 2 representatives. This means the Senate provides an equal voice for all states, mean less populated states still have power.
Explain the following role of the Senate: Act as a house of review
As the upper house of Commonwealth parliament, the Senate acts as a 'house of review'. This is because the majority of bills are initiated in the House of Representatives, as this is where government is formed. This means the Senate must scrutinise the bills that pass in the lower house so no bills are rushed or too radical.
Explain the following roles of the Senate: Scrutinising legislation, check on government and maintain responsible government
Scrutinising legislation - ensure all bills and delegated legislation (regulations made by subordinate authorities) are in the public interest.
Check on government - looks at government administration and government policies.
Maintain responsible government - the above roles help ensure that a responsible government is maintained as anything that isn't in the public interest will be identified and questioned.
What is double dissolution?
Generally, at the time of an election, only half the senators are up for election. The governor- general has the power to dissolve the House of Representatives and the Senate at the same time – a double dissolution. This may occur in situations where the Senate and the House of Representatives are unable to agree over one or more pieces of legislation.
The effectiveness of the Senate.
In practice the senators tend to vote according to the dictates of their party. This means that the upper house largely does not fulfil its role as a states’ house or a house of review. If the government controls the upper house (has a majority), it tends to be a ‘rubber stamp’, merely confirming the decisions made in the lower house.
If, however, there is a hostile Senate (controlled by the opposition), then the upper house is likely to review the Bills passed through the lower house more carefully. If the balance of power in the Senate is held by a minority party or an independent member of parliament (one not aligned to any political party), the government will endeavour to win the support of that minority party in order to pass Bills through the Senate.
What was the composition of the Senate in July 2014?
. Liberal/National Party Coalition: 33 seats
(Liberal Party: 23 + Liberal National Party: 6 + National Members: 3 + Country Liberal Party: 1 = 33 seats)
. Australian Labor Party: 26 seats
. The Australian Greens: 9
. Palmer United Party: 3
. The Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party: 1 seat
. The Democratic Labor Party: 1 seat
. The Family First Party: 1 seat
. The Liberal Democratic Party: 1 seat
. Independents: 1 seat
What are the different aspects of Victorian Parliament?
Queens Representative - Governor
Upper house - Legislative Council
Lower house - Legislative Assembly
Describe the Legislative Assembly.
. The Legislative Assembly is the lower house of the Victorian Parliament.
. There are 88 districts in Victoria which have one representative each to be elected to present the views of the people in that area.
. The parliament sits for four-year term.
What is the role of Legislative Assembly?
. Make laws (most bills are initiated here)
. Representative government
Explain the roles of the Legislative Assembly: Make laws and representative government
As government is formed in the Legislative Assembly, the majority of bills are initiated here.
Their actions must reflect the views and values of the people. If they cease to do this then they will be voted out of office at the next election.
Describe the Legislative Council.
. The Legislative Council is the upper house of the Victorian Parliament.
. Victoria is divided into 8 regions (each consisting of 11 districts, 8x11= Legislative Assembly seats) with 5 members elected to represent each region. This makes a total of 40 members.
. Members are elected to serve a fixed four-year term.
What is the role of the Legislative Council?
. Acts as a house of review
. Responsible government
Explain the roles of the Legislative Council: Act as a house of review and responsible government
Its acts a house of review for legislation that has been passed in the Legislative Assembly. It does so by scrutinising, debating and sometimes amending or rejecting legislation that has been initiated by the government.
As a result, by performing these functions the Legislative Council can apply many of the important checks and balances that uphold the system of responsible government.
What is the Crown?
The Crown is represented in Australia by the Queen's representatives: the governor-general (at a federal level) and governors (at a state level).
What is the role of the crown.
. Reserve powers
. Executive council
. Royal assent
What is the role of the Governor-general of Australia?
. Performing duties of the executive council
. Acting as head of state
. Designating the times for parliamentary sessions
. Bringing a season of parliament to an end and dissolving the house of Representatives to bring about an election
. Appointing judges to the courts
. Exercising reserve powers
Explain the Reserve Powers.
The Governor-general and the Governors of each state hold reserve powers that be exercised without the advice of ministers which are in fact not listed in the Constitution. Reserve powers include:
. The power to appoint a new government after an election
. The power to appoint a prime minister if an election has resulted in a hung parliament
. The power to dismiss a prime minister who has lost the confidence of the parliament or who is acting unlawfully
. The power to dissolve/refuse to dissolve the House of Representatives
. The power to appoint and dismiss ministers.
Explain Executive Council.
. The Governor-general (or governor of each state) is responsible for making delegated legislation, while acting in council with relevant ministers as the executive council.
. Delegated legislation (also known as subordinate legislation) is the rules and regulations made by government bodies such as government departments, the executive council or statutory authorities.
Explain Royal Assent.
Royal assent is the signing of a proposed law by the governor-general. It is necessary before an Act of parliament can become law. Royal assent is normally given as a matter of course on the advice of the prime minister or ministers. At a federal level, royal assent can also be withheld.
When can royal assent be withheld?
At a federal level, the Commonwealth Constitution states that the governor-general may:
. withhold or reserve royal assent for the monarch’s pleasure (S58 and S60). The Bill will not come into force unless it receives the monarch’s assent within two years
. make recommendations to the house in which a Bill originated for amendments to the Bill (S58)
. disallow any law within one year of the royal assent having been given (S59). This disallowance would make the law void.
What is parliament?
Parliament is the supreme law-making body. It consists of all members from both houses, from all political parties, as well as the Crown’s representative. The main role of parliament is to make laws.
What are the main functions of parliament?
. Make laws on behalf of the people for the good government of our society - the laws should reflect the views and values of the majority of the community
. Make laws on behalf of the people for the good government of our society – the laws should reflect
the views and values of the majority of the community
. Provide for the formation of government
. Provide a forum for popular representation and debate
. Scrutinise the actions of government
. Delegate some of its law-making power to subordinate bodies and check any delegated legislation
. Balance the books – that is, decide what revenue is required and how it is to be spent.
What are committees?
Parliament is able to set up committees for the purpose of investigating the needs of the community and the activities of government instrumentalities. These committees can be:
. Joint committees (consisting of members from both houses)
. Select committees (set up to investigate one particular issue)
. or standing committees (long-term committees that do not change with a change of government).
What is the Government?
The government is formed by the political party that receives the majority of seats in the lower house of State or Federal Parliament. All members of parliament who are members of the political party that holds the majority of seats in the lower house forms government.
Government does not make laws (that is the role of parliament), but instead decides which laws should be introduced to parliament.
What is the opposition?
The opposition is the political party holding the second largest number of seats in the lower house. It is an alternative government and if the party wins the next election it will form a new government. It is the role of the opposition to examine policies of the government, check decisions made by the government and scrutinise all Bills that are presented to parliament. An effective opposition will hold the government accountable for its actions. It can do this by asking questions at question time.
Explain what the Prime Minister, Premiers, Ministers and Shadow Ministers are.
Prime minister - the member of parliament who leads the political party that has formed government at a federal level.
Premier - the leader of the government in each of the states.
Ministers - appointed by the prime minister and premier to be responsible for various departments. Ministers are responsible for running their departments and are responsible to parliament for the activities of their departments. A minister’s area of responsibility is often referred to as a portfolio.
Shadow ministers - usually appointed for every government minister. Their role is to keep check on the activities and responsibilities of the corresponding government minister.
What is Cabinet?
Cabinet consists of the prime minister and senior government ministers who have been placed in charge of a government department. The cabinet’s main role is to decide on general government policy and to formulate proposed laws (known as Bills) to be introduced to parliament, therefore it is a policy-making body.
What set of conventions does the Cabinet follow.
. The governor-general acts on the advice of the cabinet.
. Members of cabinet (the ministers) come from the party that holds the majority in the lower house.
. Members of cabinet have the support of the members of the party with the majority in the lower
• If members of cabinet lose the support of the party, they will resign from cabinet.
What are the principles of the Australia Parliamentary System?
The three main principles of the Australian Parliamentarg system include representative government, responsible government and the principle of seperation of powers.
Explain the following principle of the Australian parliamentary system: Representative Government
This refers to a government which holds the views of the majority of people and is achieved by having representatives which are chosen by the people.
A representative government can be maintained:
. with regular elections (necessary so people can vote for politicians as representatives for them in parliament)
. because if a government does not represent people properly they won't be voted in during the next election
. with the bicameral system (lower house reflects the will of the people whilst the upper house represents each state/district equally)
. because one house can also act as a review of the operations of the other.
Explain the following principle of the Australian parliamentary system: Responsible Government
This principle refers to the governments duty to be accountable and answerable to voters in regards to their actions. Ministers must carry out their duties with integrity, otherwise they must resign.
A responsible government can be maintained:
. because ministers are drawn from within the government and must maintain the confidence of the government.
. because the Senate is able to scrutinise Bills before they are passed and become law (to ensure the government is being accountable to the people).
What are the principles of a Responsible Government?
. Ministerial accountability - Ministers are responsible to parliament and therefore to the people. A minister can be called upon to explain in parliament his or her actions and those of the department and agencies under his or her control.
. Members of parliament have the opportunity to question ministers about their activities and the activities of their departments.
. Ministers must carry out their duties with integrity and propriety or resign.
. There are opportunities for public scrutiny of the law-making process so the public can hold the government accountable for its actions; the government must respond to concerns of the parliament and the people and must answer questions where appropriate
. If the government loses the support of the lower house it must resign, hence the government is responsible to parliament. The parliament in return is responsible to the people.
Explain the following principle of the Australian parliamentary system: Separation of powers
. The separation of powers is a principle which involves branching power in three different ways, being executive, legislative and judicial power.
. This principle is in place to ensure no one body has complete power or control over the political and legal system
Explain executive powers.
This is the power to administer the law and manage the business of government. It is fixed to the Governor-general in theory but executed by the Prime Minister and Ministers in practice.
Explain legislative powers.
This is the power belonging to Parliament which allows it to make laws.
Explain judicial powers.
This is the power to apply and interpret the law and belongs to courts and tribunals. It is kept separate from the legislative and executive powers.
What are the reasons for the separation of powers?
. protects the stability of government and the freedom of the people
. provides independence between the bodies that make the law (the legislature, that is parliament)
and the bodies that enforce the law (the judiciary, that is the courts)
. provides a check on the power of parliament to ensure that it does not go outside its area of power.
What is the function of parliament?
Parliament is fact referred to as the supreme law-making body because its main function is to make laws for and on behalf of the people. Additionally, it can change or appeal its own laws and override laws made by courts.
What issues question the effectiveness of parliament?
. Is parliament a rubber stamp?
. Time for public debate
. Restrictions on parliament
. Do laws reflect values?
. Participation by the individual
Explain the following issue which questions the effectiveness of parliament: Is parliament a rubber stamp?
. Voting on party lines - members of parliament from the government ranks are expected to support all government Bills (rubber stamp).
. Majority in lower house - once cabinet has decided to introduce a Bill into parliament, it will generally be passed due to majority.
. Opposition scrutiny -'proposed legislation is scrutinised by the opposition to ensure that it reflects the needs of the people.
. No absolute majority - have to negotiate with independent members of parliament, and sometimes compromises must be reached in order to gain their support.
. Conscience vote does exist - the members of parliament are allowed to vote according to their conscience in some circumstances.
Explain the following issue which questions the effectiveness of parliament: Time for public debate
Parliament can allow time for public debate on a proposed law by delaying its passing. This is done in order to gauge the popularity of the proposal and also find out any problems that the proposal may cause if it becomes law. Whilst this means a bills passing is postponed, it does allow for better laws to be passed.
Explain the following issue which questions the effectiveness of parliament: Restrictions on parliament
Parliament is the supreme law-making body because it can override other types of law-making bodies such as courts and subordinate bodies. However, this supremacy is restricted by the Constitution. Each parliament can only pass laws within its jurisdiction.
. Can only pass laws presented to it
. Issues with cost of implementing any new laws
. Issues with the long-term effects on the economy from new laws
. Issues with the acceptability of new laws (the parliament has been reluctant to change the law without a clear majority view).
Explain the following issue which questions the effectiveness of parliament: Do laws reflect values?
For laws to be effective they must reflect the values of the community. The government, when deciding on proposals for changes in the law, has to establish which changes would be most generally acceptable.
For example, values have changed about the right to smoke in a public place. Some people believe they should be able to shop in a smoke-free area, while others believe they should be allowed to smoke when they are shopping.