From the study design: Area of Study 1:Parliament and the Citizen Key knowledge This knowledge includes: • principles of the Australian parliamentary system: representative government, responsible government, and the separation of powers • the structure of the Victorian Parliament and the Commonwealth Parliament and the roles played by the Crown and the Houses of Parliament in law-making
Vocabulary • System of checks and balances- accountability, checking on each other to stop abuse • Legal principle-rule, theory, • Bicameral –two houses • Parliament = (all members of) Crown, Upper House and Lower House • Government = political party which holds majority of members in lower house of Parliament. • Cabinet = PM plus senior government ministers = government’s policy making body • Rubber stamp- to pass legislation without scrutinising it adequately; this occurs when the government has a majority in both houses • To hold the balance of power- the party which has the majority in the Senate
ConstitutionalMonarchy • Historically Australia was a colony of Britain. • When it established its parliament , it adopted the British parliamentary system, called the Westminster system. Westminster is the name of the city where the British parliament is located.
The Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900 (UK) came into operation on the 1st January 1901 to make Australia a federation. This meant: • The states were no longer separate colonies • Created a federal constitution • Created a central parliament; • the Federal Parliament (of which • Julia Gillard is the PM) • Created the High Court
Since Australia’s parliamentary system is governed by the terms of the Constitution and the Queen of Britain (the monarch) is still our Queen, Australia is a Constitutional Monarchy
The three Legal Principles: • Representative government • 2. Responsible government • 3. Separation of powers
1. Representative government • A representative government is a fundamental component of Australia’s democratic system of government. • Individual citizens vote for the people they wish to represent them in parliament. • This is achieved through regular elections • At federal level the lower house represents the interests of the people by having approximately equal electorates. And the Upper House represents the interests of the states. • The government should reflect the majority of community values, or otherwise risk losing the next election
2. Responsible government • Responsible government is another fundamental aspect of our democratic system • This means that: • The crown and its ministers are both answerable and accountable to the people for its actions- it must act fairly. • There is ministerial responsibility. This means ministers with a portfolio (responsibility for a government department eg: Education) are ultimately responsible for the decisions and actions of that department. • Ministers therefore can be questioned by other members of parliament (MPs) about their activities as well as the activities of their department.
What can happen when one person has all the power? Corruption Dishonesty Abuse of power Exploitation
Separation of powers • The three main powers in our parliamentary system are kept separate; • The Legislative power- the power to make laws • Executive power- thepower to govern and ensure all necessary laws have been made • Judicial power- the power to enforce laws made
Why must these powers be kept separate? ‘Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely’ - Baron Acton (1834–1902). The historian and moralist,
The Separation of Powers The principle of separation of powers refers to the three separate types of power in our parliamentary system. The legislative power, which is the power to make laws, is performed by the parliament. The executive power (which is the power to administer the laws and to govern the country) is given to the Queen’s representative, the Governor General- but in practice the Prime Minister and the senior ministers - perform this role. The judicial power, the power to enforce the laws made and settle disputes is performed by the Courts.
Separate bodies perform these three functions, to ensure that one body does not have all the power since “absolute power corrupts absolutely”. By separating these three functions then each body can scrutinise the behaviour of the other and a system of checks and balances is created to avoid corruption. In reality, the powers are not completely separate as the executive and the legislative powers overlap as the government is part of the parliament which performs the legislative role.
3. Separation of powers Commonwealth constitution Legislative power Judicial power Executive power To administer the laws and govern the country Enforce laws Make laws Governor- General (In practice PM and ministers (cabinet) exercise this power) Parliament Courts The legislative and executive are not completely separate as the government sits in parliament and is part of the legislative process
From the Study Design: • Key Knowledge: • The structure of the Victorian Parliament and the Commonwealth Parliament and the roles played by the Crown and the houses of Parliament in law-making.
Structure of Parliament Federal Parliament State Parliament • Both Parliaments have a queen’s representative • Both are bicameral; have two houses an upper and a lower house
Role of houses of parliament The House of Representatives role is to: ● Making laws The main function of the House of Representatives is to make laws. Any member can introduce a proposal for a new law. However, most proposals come from members of the government. To become a law, the proposal must receive the approval of both houses of parliament. ● Determining government The party, or parties in coalition, with a majority in the lower house forms government. To remain in government, the party must maintain the support of the majority of members in the lower house.
● Represent the people ( representative government) Members of the House of Representatives are elected to represent areas of approximately the same number of electors. The electoral system ensures that the House of Representatives represents the interests of the majority of voters. That’s why it’s known as ‘the people’s house’ ● scrutinise the actions of government (responsible government) Individual members of the House of Representatives have the opportunity to present the views of their electorate by presenting petitions or raising issues with ministers during question time. ● Controlling government spending The government can only collect taxes or allocate the spending of public money if a law is passed by parliament.
Role of the Senate ● Act as a ‘State’s House’- the senate represents the interests of the states at Federal Parliament. Twelve from each state and two from each territory are voted into the upper house. ● Act as a ‘House of Review’ Since most bills are initiated in the lower house (the House of Representatives), the Senate has the task of reviewing the bills already passed through the lower house. For this reason the Senate is sometimes referred to as the ‘house of review’. In addition, the Senate can originate, amend or reject any proposed law. Since only half the senate is put up for election every three years, the senators that remain are likely to have considerable experience in law-making.
● Initiating and Making laws A Bill must be passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate before it can become law. Most laws are proposed by the government and therefore start in the House of Representatives, but proposed new laws can also start in the Senate, (except money bills-tax bills- which can only be initiated by the House of Representatives.)
How effectively does the Senate perform its roles as a ‘House of Review’ and as a ‘States’ House’? As a ‘House of Review’: The Senate reviews legislations passed by the lower house, hence it is called a ‘house of review’. When government has a majority in the upper house then it cannot perform its role as a house of review adequately. Since government has a majority in both houses then it tends to be a ‘rubber stamp’, merely passing the decisions made in the lower house, without adequately scrutinising them.
Hostile senate: If the opposition has a majority in the Upper house then we are said to have a ‘hostile senate’ (controlled by the opposition). 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 then the government will endeavour to win the support of that minority party in order to pass bills through the Senate. As a ‘States’ House”: In practice the senators tend to vote according to the dictates of the party, rather than in the interests of their state, for this reason it does not fulfil its role as a ‘states’ house’ effectively.
Role of the Crown Her Excellency Ms Quentin Bryce Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia ALEX CHERNOV AO QC Governor of Victoria
Role of the Crown • The Governor-General and Governor’s main responsibility is to ensure that the democratic system operates effectively. Their powers include: • To grant royal assent to legislation: One of the main constitutional roles of the GG is to give royal assent to acts of parliament. Royal assent is the signing of a proposed law. It is the final stage before a bill becomes an act. (at Federal level the GG has the power under the Constitution to withhold royal assent in certain circumstances) • ● to appoint the times for the holding of parliament • ● to bring to an end a session of parliament without dissolution (to • prorogue the parliament) • ● to dissolve the House of Representatives and bring about an election
● to grant pardons or remit fines for offences against the laws of Australia ● to appoint officers in the diplomatic and consular services of Australia ● to choose and summon executive councillors and to appoint ministers of state for Australia.