Australian Parliament House

Beginner’s Guide to the Australian Parliament

Every country has its own unique system and the Australian Parliament is no different! Australia is both a democratic country and a constitutional monarchy with Queen Elizabeth II as Australia’s head of state. Australia is a federation of six States and two self-governing Territories. Each of these States and Territories has their own constitutions, parliaments, governments and laws. On a national level, the government is also known as the Federal or Commonwealth Government.

Not only is this article a great guide to anyone who wants to learn about the Australian Parliament, but it is also an introductory piece to the upcoming study tour on Australian Parliament in Perth, Western Australia.

Three Levels of Government

In Australia, there are three levels of government: federal, state and territory, and local government, which can be translated into three different levels of law-making. All three levels of government have a similar process of election, whereby citizens have a vote in who are the representatives of each government.

Federal Government

The Federal Parliament holds the power to pass laws nationwide and is listed in the Constitution. This means that these laws will affect the whole country. Issues like immigration, marriage, communications, defence, foreign affairs and taxation are taken care of by the Federal Government.

State and Territory Government

The six States join together to form the Commonwealth of Australia. While the Federal Government makes  laws on a nation-level, each state will pass their own laws over matters not controlled by Commonwealth listed in the Consitution. Issues such transport, roads, electricity, agriculture, schools and hospitals are dictated by the government on a state and territory level.

On the other hand, Territories are areas in Australia that are not claimed by one of the six states and are either administered by Australian Government or be granted self-government.

Local Government

Also known as local councils, local government is responsible for issues related to a certain area or group of suburbs. These issues include local roads, rubbish collection, libraries, signage, and parks.

Role of Australian Parliament

It is without a doubt that the role of Parliament is integral to Australia, but what exactly do they do? To understand, we must understand how it is made up. The Australian Parliament consists of the Queen (represented by the Governor-General) and two Houses, the Senate and House of Representatives. There are three arms of government: the legislature (Parliament), the executive (Australian Government) and judiciary (legal arm). The Parliament’s role is responsible for debating and voting on new laws under the Constitution.

Passage of Legislation

Now how does the Parliament passes laws and why does it take so long? Even after all the effort in developing a policy and passing a Bill, there is a lengthy process for the passage of legislation:

  1. Notice of motion: before a Bill is introduced, a minister or private member must give notice of their intention to introduce the bill. The full text is published for the next sitting day.
  2. Introduction and first reading: the introduction is when the minister or member introduces the bill, reading the long title.
  3. Second reading: the second reading debate is the discussion of the motion and is usually the most substantial debate that takes place. Its purpose is to consider the principles of the bill and why it should or should not be supported. At the end of the debate, a vote is taken to decide the House’s view, and if the House has agreed, the Clerk will read out the long title to signify the completion of the second reading.
  4. Consideration in detail: the aim of this stage is to investigate the bill in detail, clause by clause and enable changes to be made. Each amendment is voted on. Detailed debates are usually not required, thus this step is often optional.
  5. Third reading: as the final stage of the consideration of a bill, the third reading is usually a formality. The Clerk reads out the long title of the bill to signify that the bill has finally passed the House sitting.

Finally, the bill has passed and is ready for presentation to the Senate. It is then delivered to the Senate where it goes through three readings in the Senate. When the bill has passed in both Houses in identical form, it is presented to the Governor-General for assent. The bill then becomes an Act of Parliament and a law of the land.

Now, the above passage of legislation is just the most common route. Often, conflict occurs and other alternative passages must be used. For the sake of this blog, we had to cut it short – the Australian government is way more complicated than that! Fortunately, we are offering much more comprehensive and engaging study tours for those who are interested in learning about the Australian government. We cater the programs to each client and their needs. Contact us now and let’s see what we can do for you.

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