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AUS Legislative Branch

Politics and Law (Year 12) - Australia & America

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The legislative branch refers to the federal parliamentary body of Australia as outlined in Chapter 1 of the Commonwealth Constitution, which makes law for the Australian people.

Relevant Constitutional Sections:

  • Section 1:

    • "The legislative power of the Commonwealth shall be vested in a Federal Parliament, which shall consist of the Queen, a Senate, and a House of Representatives, and which is hereinafter called The Parliament, or The Parliament of the Commonwealth."

  • Section 7:

    • "The Senate shall be composed of senators for each State, directly chosen by the people of the State, voting, until the Parliament otherwise provides, as one electorate…There shall be six senators for each Original State…No Original State shall have less than six senators. The senators shall be chosen for a term of six years…”

  • Section 24

    • “The House of Representatives shall be composed of members directly chosen by the people of the Commonwealth, and the number of such members shall be, as nearly as practicable, twice the number of the senators…Five members at least shall be chosen in each Original State."

  • Section 53

    • "Proposed laws appropriating revenue or moneys, or imposing taxation, shall not originate in the Senate... The Senate may not amend proposed laws imposing taxation, or proposed laws appropriating revenue or moneys for the ordinary annual services of the Government. The Senate may at any stage return to the House of Representatives any proposed law which the Senate may not amend, requesting… any items or provisions therein."

Composure and Composition:

The branch consists of two houses, bicameral in nature: the House of Representatives (HoR) (s24 of Constitution) & the Senate (s7 of Constitution). The branch also further consists of the Crown which is represented by the Governor General.

The HoR is the lower house and where all laws are initiated, consisting of 151 members, elected for a max term of 3 years. The Senate is the Upper house (the States house) and is where all legislation is reviewed, consisting of 76 members - 12 from each original state, and 2 from each territory, elected each for a term of 6 years.

Checks to The Branch:

  • Executive Dominance:

    • Laws cannot be created without the approval of the majority party. The Govt can filibuster any proposed laws by Private MPs, shelving them - meaning they are not brought up for debate.

    • As the HoR is controlled by the Govt, any proposed budget is under the power of the HoR, so the govt has the power to decide how the country's budget is spent. The Senate can sugget additions or changes.

  • The Governor General:

    • The G.G. can dissolve the parliament and order re-elections for both houses (double dissolution (example = 1975: Gough Whitlam). This procedure for a double dissolution is outlined under Section 57 of the Australian Constitution.

  • The Courts:

    • The High Court of Australia has the jurisdiction to rule on the validity of legislation in respect to the Constitution. If any legislation breaches the Constitution as interpreted by the Justices, the legislation can be ruled invalid.

    • Another aspect provided to the courts is the ability to refresh legislation, in order to suit the contemporary belief system. When the courts have brought before them a case regarding legislation, the court can read the meaning of the statute laws to modify it to suit current times. This was evident in the ACT vs Commonwealth of Australia (2013) - Same Sex Marriage.

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