Federation: The Birth of a Nation Prior to 1901, every inhabitant of Australia was a British subject living in one of six colonies Each colony was a separate political entity Own identity Own government and political institutions Own defence organisations Own business structures All colonies were self-governing. This means that the colonies had the power to make their own laws: Transport Immigration Defence
Reasons for Federating REASONS AGAINST Colonies were concerned that federation would mean surrendering some of their powers Colonies were suspicious of each other All colonies were used to pursuing their own individual self-interest Inter-colonial rivalry REASONS FOR The inefficiency of the tariffs system A growing sense of unity among colonists A belief that a national government was needed to deal with issues such as trade, immigration, currency, weights and measures and the administration of the Northern Territory Fear of growing German and French expansionism in the South Pacific Joining together would make the colonies, and their separate defence forces, less vulnerable to attack and foreign invasion.
Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900 (UK)
The Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act was passed by the British Imperial Parliament in July 1900
In September 1900, Queen Victoria proclaimed that the Act and the new federation would come into force on 1 January 1901
Courts are independent of political pressure and influence
The independence of courts is necessary to maintain Australians’ confidence in the legal system
Both State and Commonwealth Parliament have two important functions:
Passing Acts of Parliament Supervising the executive branch of government (i.e. the MPs responsible for deciding on national strategies).
To remain in government, a party or coalition must maintain the support of the majority of members of the House of Representatives and act fairly and responsibly.
This is called the principle of responsible government.
It ensures that the government is answerable and accountable to the Parliament (and therefore the people).
Thus, the system of responsible government is DESIGNED TO ENSURE THAT THE EXECUTIVE, WHICH IS NOT ITSELF ELECTED, IS ULTIMATELY RESPONSIBLE TO THE ELECTORS (VOTERS)
Consequently, in Australia, the principle of responsible government works together with the principal of separation of powers to guide the way in which law is made and managed.
Responsible Government, continued… The appointment of the executive branch
In Australia, the federal government is selected from and also a part of the federal Parliament.
At a federal election, the party or coalition with a majority of members elected to the House of Representatives forms the government. The leader of this party becomes the Prime Minister.
The PM appoints some Members of Parliament to become Ministers.
Ministers run one or more areas of government (called portfolios).
Ministers work with their corresponding government department to develop policies and implement laws passed by the Parliament.
For example the Minister for Defence works with the DepartmentofDefence to implement laws about defence matters.
In addition, a small group of those Ministers forms the Cabinet (also known as the Executive Council), which is the chief governmental policy-making body.
In cabinet meetings, ministers introduce proposals for new bills from their departments. The cabinet discusses proposals for new bills – especially the costs - and recommends to the minister whether a bill should proceed or further changes should be made.
Sometimes the cabinet sets up a sub-committee of ministers to examine an issue in greater detail.
Cabinet spends a lot of time discussing current national problems and how they can be solved through legislation or other means such as regulations.
The Cabinet is collectively responsible for government policy
It is obliged to resign if loses support of the House of Reps
The individual Ministers are also responsible to the Parliament for their actions and decisions, in addition to being responsible and accountable for the actions of their departments (Peter Garrett – insulation example)
Ministers are obliged to answer questions in Parliament concerning their departments
Ministers are in theory obliged to resign if their performance is found unsatisfactory