Australian Political System

Based on the liberal democratic tradition, the Australian system of government guarantees religious tolerance and freedom of speech and association. The Federal Government of Australia comprises the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The Australian political system consists of:

•  The Parliamentary System

•  The Commonwealth Parliament

•  Governor-General

•  The Senate

•  The House Of Representatives

•  Executive Government

•  Federal Judicature

The Parliamentary System
The Federal system of government was established in 1901 under the Constitution of Australia. The powers are distributed among the national government (Commonwealth) and the six states by the Constitution.

The Commonwealth Parliament
The Commonwealth Parliament constitutes the Queen represented by the Governor- General and two houses –the Senate and the House of Representatives.

The most important functions of the Parliament are :

•  To form a Government

•  To legislate

•  Provide government funds

•  To provide a popular representation forum

•  Inspect government actions

Proposed laws can become Acts of Parliament only after it has been passed by both the Houses and is approved by the Governor-General.

Constitutional changes involve actions of both Houses of Parliament as well as the people and if an agreement is not reached, the Governor- General presents a proposal to the people.

On the advice of the Prime Minister, the Queen appoints the Governor- General. The functions of the Governor- General are categorized into:

•  Constitutional and Statutory duties

•  Formal ceremonial duties

•  Non-ceremonial social duties

The Senate
The Senate comprises 76 Senators. Each of the six states has 12 elected Senators and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and the Northern Territory have 2 each. State Senators have a six year term while the territory senators have a three year term.

The House of Representatives
The House of Representatives consists of 150 members, each one representing a separate electoral system and is elected for a three year term. Other functions of the members of the House of Representatives include:

•  Law making

•  Committee work

•  Representing their electors

A distinguishing feature of the House is that the party with the majority support gets to form the government.

Executive Government
The Governor-General appoints the Prime Minister who, as per the constitutional convention, further appoints the parliamentary leader of the party.

The Federal Executive Council constitutes all the ministers presided by the Governor-General. Its primary functions include:

•  Receive ministerial advice

•  Approve the signing of formal documents like proclamations, regulations, ordinances and statutory appointments.

The key decision making-body of the government is the cabinet. It consists of Senior Government Ministers.

Federal Judicature
The establishment of the High Court of Australia and other courts is provided for by the constitution. The Governor-General in Council appoints the High Court judges.

Major functions of the High Court are:

•  Interpret and apply the law of Australia

•  Decide cases of special federal significance

•  Hear appeals by special leave from Federal, State and Territory courts.

Major Political Parties of Australia

•  Australian Democrats

•  Australian Greens

•  Australian Labor Party

•  Country Liberal Party

•  Family First Party

•  Liberal Party

•  The Nationals


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