SAC DATE: THURSDAY 14 MARCH 2013
15 MARKS (40 MINS) (CHAPTER 2-4)
Structure of Parliament
The commonwealth parliament is a bicameral parliament. It consists of the House of Representatives (lower house), the Senate (upper house) and the Crown. The House of Representatives consists of 150 members. Members are elected to represent areas called electorates, with the same number of voters. It is sometimes referred as the “People’s House”, because it is designed to represent the interests of the majority. It is also called “House of government” because the political party that wins a majority of seats in the House of Representative forms government.
The senate consists of 76 members. Each state elects 12 representatives and each territory elects two. The constitution provides that the lower house has roughly double the number of members in the upper house.
The governor general represents the Crown. The crown acts on the advice of the ministers of state, who are elected members of parliament.
The legislative assembly is the lower house of the Victorian parliament representing the interests of the majority of people. It consists of 88 representatives. The legislative council is the upper house of the Victorian parliament representing the interests of the people in different areas. It consists of 40 members representing 8 regions.
Role of Parliament
Parliaments are the supreme law-making bodies in the Australian legal system; their role is to make laws that reflect the views and values of Australian society.
Roles of the Senate: 1) Making laws, a bill must pass through both The House of Representatives and the Senate in order to become law.
2) Reviewing laws, The Senate provides for a review of legislation passed by the House of Representatives. Historically, the Upper House has the responsibility to check legislation passed by the lower house and thus the Senate is sometimes referred to as the ‘House of Review’
3) Providing for Representative Government, a vital function of the Senate is to safeguard the interests of the States, this form of Representative Government protects the interests of the states. Each State has the same amount of Senators, allowing for equal representation for all states. It is for this reason that the Senate is sometimes referred to as the ‘States house’
4) Providing for Responsible Government, as the Government does not need a majority in the upper house of Parliament to actually form Government, when a situation (such as the political situation in Australia currently) in which the Senate is not composed of a majority of Senators from the Government, the Government is forced to account for its actions, as the non-Government senators may scrutinise Government bills through question time. In addition to this, individual Senators have the opportunity to present petitions.
Roles of The House of Representatives:
1) The main function of the House of Representatives is to make laws. Any member can introduce a bill, yet most proposals come from the Government. To become law, proposals (Bills) must receive majority support from both houses of Parliament.
2) Determining Government, the political party (or Parties in Coalition) with a majority of seats in the lower house of Parliament will form Government, to maintain Government the party must maintain the support of the majority of the Lower House.
3) Providing for Representative Government, members of the House of Representatives are elected to represent electorates in areas with approximately the same amount of people. The electoral system ensures that the House of Representatives represent the interests of the majority of voters.
4) Providing for Responsible Government, individual members have the opportunity to present the views of their electorate by presenting petitions or raising issues with ministers during…