Legal Studies Notes

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Unit 3 AOS 1, 2 & 3:

AOS: Parliament and the citizen

1 Principles of the Australian parliamentary system: Representative government, responsible government and the separation of powers

1 Representative government

Central to Democracy, because Government is formed by the political party with the majority of seats in the lower house, it represents the views and values of the majority of people. If the Government fails to represent the views of the majority adequately, the electoral process will allow the community to not re-elect that particular political party to office. This ensures that Government policy reflects the majorities views and values, thus Government is forced represent the community, or face electoral back-lash and not be re-elected to office.

A system of government where members of parliament are democratically elected to create laws that reflect the values and expectations of their constituent.

Established in the Constitution (s7 & 24)

The government must embody the concerns, expectations & interests of the people who voted them in last election and protect these interests in their law-making.

Each electorate votes for a representative for Parliament, who must obtain to majority of votes in that electorate.

To achieve this, there must be regular elections. This is essential for a democracy, whereby the government consists of representatives chosen by the people.

Lower House - Represents the people

Upper House - Represents the states

2 Responsible government

Central to Democracy, ministerial responsibility provides that ministers are accountable to the Parliament through question time, as relevant ministers for Government departments must be able to answer questions relating to that department. Because ministers are accountable to the Parliament, they are thereby accountable to the people. If a minister responsible for a particular Governmental department cannot answer questions about the operation of that department, they may be called on to resign. This also is the case for Ministers with portfolio.

A chain of accountability from the executive to the parliament to the people.

The democratically elected government & parliament must be answerable & accountable to the people for its actions.

The upper house is able to scrutinise bills before they are passed & become law. This helps to ensure the govt. is being accountable to the people.

All members of parliament are expected to act in a manner that is ethical & with integrity & propriety (not use power/information for their own gain) or resign.

Ministers are responsible for their department (portfolio) & must maintain the confidence of the govt, while members are responsible to their electorate.

Members of parliament have the opportunity to question ministers about their activities & the activities of their department

If the govt. loses support of the lower house, often through a motion of no confidence, it must resign, hence the govt. is responsible to parliament, the parliament in turn is responsible to the people.

If governments are irresponsible, they must answer to the people periodically, preventing potential abuse of power.

3 Separation of powers

This principle refers to the 3 main functions to be performed within a legal and political system to ensure the effective operation of the Country. The Doctrine of the Separation of Powers states that the three different types of powers held by the Commonwealth must be exercised by different bodies and kept separate, thus ensuring that no one body has absolute power, and that no one branch can control or interfere with the operation of another branch.

1 Three Branches of Government

1 Legislative

The power to make laws, which resides with the parliament.

Parliament makes laws by debating, considering, amending and – finally – making legislation by passing...
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