Basic System of Government & Democratic Ideals
Australia is a liberal parliamentary democracy similar in style to that used in the UK, USA and Canada, however, with some of its own distinctive Australian features. In Australia, the Commonwealth government consists of two ‘Houses’ or chambers, the Upper House (also called the Senate) and the Lower House (the House of Representatives). Whichever political party wins the most votes in the Lower House becomes the national government at election time. The leading political figure, the Prime Minister, is not voted for directly as in the United States, but attains that position by virtue of the fact they are the head of the winning political party.
The democratic ideals of this system of government – fairness, justice, freedom of speech, equality for all and so on – are enshrined in Australia’s basic founding document, the Constitution.
Federation occurred in 1901 – this means that Australia
became an independent entity and was no longer governed by the British. Since that time, Australia
has cut nearly all remaining ties with Britain. The Queen is head of state, however, that she remains so is of symbolic or of historical value only and Australia
- if not in name - otherwise has all the features of a Republic. In this, Australia
is similar to Canada’s system of government.
Independence for Australia
began with the passing of the Commonwealth of Australia
Constitution Act 1900 (Cth), containing the Commonwealth Constitution of Australia. This is the basic governing document and outlines the powers of the federal parliament (the Commonwealth government) in matters such as defence, immigration and tenures for legislators. Powers not mentioned in the Constitution usually fall into the hands of state governments.
With the passing of the Australia
Acts in 1986 the last constitutional ties were forever severed between Australia
Ever since the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1924 (Cth) was passed, voting has been compulsory in Australia. All Australians must vote at state and national government elections – evasion means risking a hefty fine.
Some interesting facts about Australian voting history:
• Australian women were among the first in the world to receive the right to vote (1892 in South Australia).
• The secret ballot now used in nearly all voting systems worldwide was first introduced in the Australian colony of Victoria (now one of the six states) in 1855.
Government in Australia
is divided into three arms: the Executive (the Prime Minister and Cabinet), the Legislature (parliament) and the Judiciary (the courts). The Australian legal system operates on the concept of the rule of law and strives to provide justice, equality and procedural fairness to all.
For the reason that the judiciary is formed of independent adjudicators and the fact that the High Court of Australia
is the last court of appeal for any dispute in all matters, the importance of the doctrine of Separation of Powers – i.e. the Judiciary’s independence – is of heightened importance for this arm of government than for the other two. For federal judges, years for term of office are protected in the Constitution (for state judges, each state Constitution is relevant).