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The Australian Parliamentary System

With the passing of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900 (UK) On 1 January 1901, Australia came into being as a nation, more specifically, a federation. The structure and many of the procedures of the Commonwealth Parliament are also laid down in the Commonwealth Constitution.

The structure of Commonwealth Parliament
The Australian Constitution created the Commonwealth Parliament consisting of: • the Queen (the Crown) • The lower House: House of Representatives • The upper house: Senate.

The Lower House: The house of Representatives
• The ‘people’s house’ • 150 members- each represents an electorate of about 80,000 voters- therefore the physical size and number of electorates varies from state to state. • Members are elected for a 3 year term

Roles of the House of Representatives
• Initiate laws
Usually introduced by the government, although any member can introduce a bill

• Determines government
the political party with the highest number of elected members in this house forms the government

• Represents the people
reflects the current opinions and views of the people because all members votes are worth the same and elections are held regularly so that members continue to represent their voters

Roles of the House of Representatives
• Publicises and scrutinises government administration • Controls government expenditure
Government cannot collect taxes or spend money unless allowed to do so through appropriate bills, which must be passed through both houses. Government expenditure is also examined by parliamentary committees.

The Upper House- The Senate
• ‘State’s House’ and ‘House of Review’ • Made up of 76 Senators– 12 Senators from each state and 2 from each territorytherefore states have equal representation, regardless of their population • Senators are elected for a 6 year term

• Initiates laws

Roles of the Senate

can initiate any bills except money bills.

Debates proposed law
Senators enquire into policy issues in depth

• Protects interests of the states
Each state is equally represented (s.7 of the Constitution)

• Reviews legislation
Reviews bills already passed in the lower house- can reject or amend any proposed law.

Concerns with the Senate
• Although the Senate is intended to be the ‘states’ house’ in practice the senators tend to vote along party lines. • If the opposition has a majority in the upper house it can cause a ‘hostile upper house’ which can delay the passage of bills

Concerns with the Senate
If the government has a majority in the upper house also, bills tend to be ‘rubber stamped’ and therefore the review process is not being fulfilled.

Concerns with the Senate
If the opposition has a majority in the upper house it can cause a ‘hostile upper house’ which can delay the passage of bills

The Role of the Crown
•The Crown’s main responsibility is to ensure the democratic system operates effectively.

•The Crown appoints times for parliamentary sessions
•It dissolves the House of Representatives to bring about an election.

•It can dissolve both houses and call for a new election – double dissolution powers s.57
•It appoints judges to the courts. •Has the power to appoint a Prime minister if the election results in a ‘hung parliament’ or dismiss a Prime Minister who has lost the confidence of parliament or who is acting unlawfully (like the dismissal of the Whitlam Government in the 1970s).

Royal Assent s.58
s.58 of the Constitution sets out the signing of a bill by the Crown’s representative after a bill has passed through the other two houses of parliament. While this is usually given as a matter of course, the GovernorGeneral can withhold or reserve royal assent, return the bill to the originating house or suggest amendments to the bill.

The structure of Victorian Parliament
Legislative Assembly
Lower House 88 members Each electoral district elects one member to represent them in Victorian Parliament 4 year terms

Legislative Council
Upper House 40 members Eight regions provide 5 members

4 year terms

Roles
Make new laws

Roles
Similar to the senate (except of course it does not represent the states) House of review for legislation passed by the Legislative Assembly Scrutinising, debating and sometimes amending or rejecting legislation that has been proposed Bills can be initiated here (except money

Majority party forms government Represents the interests of the people