Published on February 16, 2014
Statute Law: Role and Structure of Parliament Sources of Contemporary Australian Law
Australian Parliament consists of the Queen (represented by the Governor-General) and two Houses (the Senate and the House of Representatives). These three elements make Australia a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy.
There are five important functions of parliament: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. to provide for the formation of a government; to legislate; to provide the funds needed for government; to provide a forum for popular representation; and to scrutinise the actions of government.
Parliamentary Structure The Australian form of government follows the British (Westminster) tradition. The Federal and all state parliaments (except Qld) are bicameral; i.e. they have two houses of parliament. Federal Parliaments are elected for a maximum of 3 years.
The House of Representatives The Lower House The House of Representatives has 150 Members - each representing a separate electorate (of around 80,000 voters). Members are elected for terms of up to 3 years. The party or group with majority support in the House forms the Government. Traditionally, the members of the House of Representatives belong to the Australian Labor Party, the Liberal Party of Australia and the National Party of Australia. The Liberals and Nationals have an agreement to vote together, so they form a “coalition”. The primary role of the House is to make new laws and to amend existing ones.
The Senate The Upper House The Senate has 76 Senators 12 for each state, and 2 each for the ACT and NT. State Senators are elected for 6 year terms, territory Senators for 3 year terms. The States enjoy equal representation in the Senate, regardless of their population, and State matters are important to Senators. Bills can‟t become law unless they are agreed to by each House. The Senate is often seen as a “House of review” Bills can be introduced in the Senate (with the exception of „Money Bills‟.
The current government (2014)
The Governor-General The Governor-General is appointed by the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister. The Governor-General is the Queen‟s representative in Australia, and acts on her behalf. Usually, the Governor-General will follow the advice of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (senior members of the Government).
Current and future GG Quentin Bryce Peter Cosgrove
Reserve Powers 1. 2. 3. 4. There are some areas where the GovernorGeneral can exercise power against the PM&C‟s advice. These are known as Reserve Powers: The power to appoint a Prime Minister if an election has resulted in a „hung parliament‟; The power to dismiss a Prime Minister where he or she has lost the confidence of the Parliament; The power to dismiss a Prime Minister or Minister when he or she is acting unlawfully; and The power to refuse to dissolve the House of Representatives despite a request from the Prime Minister.
The Governor-General also has a supervisory role to see that the processes of the Federal Executive Council are conducted lawfully. The Governor-General acts to protect the Constitution and to facilitate the work of the Commonwealth Parliament and Government. E.g. Before giving assent to legislation, the GovernorGeneral must be satisfied that the proposed law has passed both Houses of Parliament and that the necessary certification from the Attorney General has been obtained.
Research Compare the structure of the NSW parliament to the Federal Parliament
Debate „The Governor-General should not be allowed to dismiss a government which has been elected by the people.‟
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