How and why is power divided in Australia? Is a good and commonly asked question by looking at the Australian Constitution, and federalization it is possible to understand how power is divided within Australia. Through the ideas of the three arms of government following the Montesquieu view, the Washminster hybrid, Westminster and Washington systems of government which all influence Australia’s political system to shape it to what we know it as today. One demonstrates why power is divided in Australia.
By doing this it will be easy to see and understand why it is necessary for power to be divided in Australia and how it is done to form a responsible and representative government. Australia became an independent nation on 1st of January 1901 when the British parliament passed legislation allowing the six Australian colonies to govern their own rights as part of the commonwealth. The commonwealth was established as a Constitutional Monarchy, constitutional in that it was established with a written constitution and monarchy because the head of state is the Queen.
Australia’s constitution was approved on the 9th of July 1900 and was in effect on the 1st of January 1901. Some aspects of the constitution are model on the U. S. constitution but it doesn’t include a bill of rights like theirs. The constitution institutes a federal system where the national government or commonwealth and states share power. It states that the current British monarch is also Australia’s head of state and because of the distance they may have a governor general who governs on their behalf. The head of state has powers above all levels of government and may rule over them.
During federation as mentioned before the constitution created a federal system of government. Under a federal system of government powers are divided through a bicameral parliament which consists of a monarch and two houses the senate and the House of Representatives. Further more it is split between different levels of government, commonwealth, state and local. The constitution allocates certain powers and responsibilities to the Commonwealth government. All remaining responsibilities are handled by the States. Further, each state has its own constitution so that Australia has
seven separate Parliaments, none of which can effects the functions of any other. The Commonwealth Government is divided into three arms following the Montesquieu view: •legislative •executive •judiciary Legislative The legislative arm, also known simply as parliament, is made up of democratically-elected representatives from around Australia. These representatives meet at Parliament House in Canberra to discuss legislation and make laws for the benefit of the nation. The Commonwealth Parliament is made up of two separate houses: •the House of Representatives (or ‘the lower house’)
•the Senate (or ‘the upper house’) The House of Representatives has 150 members, each representing an electorate. Each electorate has about the same number of registered voters within its boundary, meaning that states with larger populations have more electorates and therefore more representatives in the House. The Senate is made up of 76 members. Unlike the House of Representatives, membership of the Senate is divided evenly between the states. Each state has 12 senators, and the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory have 2 senators each.
The Senate was made this way to make sure that the larger states could not use their majority in the House of Representatives to pass laws that disadvantaged the smaller states. Executive The executive arm is the administrative arm of government, and is made up of government employees working in a number of departments. The executive arm is authorized by the laws of Australia to put those laws into operation and uphold those laws once they have begun to operate. Judiciary The judicial arm is the legal arm of the government. Independent of the legislative and the executive arm, it is the role of the judiciary to enforce Australia’s laws.
It must also ensure that the other arms of Government do not act beyond the powers granted to them by the Constitution or by parliament. The High Court of Australia is Australia’s highest court. Underneath the High Court are a number of other Federal Courts. The “Washminster” hybrid History provides a model for describing the Australian system of government. When Australia’s founding fathers wrote the Australian Constitution they combined elements of the British parliamentary model and the federal model of government from the United States of American into something Australian.
In 1980, Elaine Thompson used the phrase “the Washminster mutation” to show us that the Westminster system is dominant, but influences of the American model (Washington) on our system of government cannot be ignored. Westminster The Westminster system is commonly known as responsible government, from the British tradition Australia’s founding fathers borrowed: •A constitutional monarch •The Westminster model of representative parliamentary democracy and responsible Cabinet government; and •The English legal system. Washington From the US tradition they borrowed:
•a federal system where powers are divided between the Commonwealth and state governments; •a constitution which provides the fundamental law, limiting the sovereignty of Commonwealth and state parliaments; •a supreme court (known as The High Court of Australia •a Senate as part of the legislative arm with equal representation from each state; •different parliamentary terms for both Houses of Parliament, and a rotating system of elections for Senators; and •Relatively short terms for the House of Representatives of up to 3 years.