NewLeaf Green Alternatives Guide and Directory

Australian Legislative Process

Australia inherited its system of government and much of its law from England. The Australian Constitutions Act passed in 1842 established the legislative council of 36 members of who 24 were elected. This was the beginning of self government. In 1901 other colonies joined New South Wales to become the Commonwealth of Australia and the Australian Constitution Act came into effect, establishing the Commonwealth of Australia as a self-governing nation. In 1986 the British Parliament passed the Australia Act giving the Commonwealth and each State full parliamentary sovereignty, limited by the Australian Constitution. Technically, Australia was already politically and legally independent.

In Australian politics there now exists a two - party system. The principle political parties are the Australian Labor Party, the Liberal party, and the National Country party.

Legislative power rests with the Parliament of Australia, which consists of an upper house, the Senate, and the House of Representatives. The leader of the majority party in the House is the Prime Minister, who appoints his ministers from members of the Senate and House. The Senate consists of ten senators from each state and two from each territory. The number of representatives is proportional to the populations of the states and territories. Each state has an appointed governor, an elected premier, and a legislature. Queensland is the only state with a unicameral legislature. State governments are responsible for education, health, public utilities, justice, and transportation.

Referendum

Referendum is a form of direct legislative democracy, and is the referring of a bill or political question to the direct vote of the electorate. Citizens can participate directly in State policy making, but there are drawbacks. Not all voters go to the polls, many ignore or fail to understand the importance of referenda. Often the language of the proposed legislation is complicated. Direct legislation doesn't prevent powerful individuals and interest groups from manipulating policy issues behind the scenes.

Lawmaking Process

The proposed law (Bill) is introduced into a House of Parliament, usually the Lower House. It is read for a first time, the House then allows members the time to considered it carefully. The House then sits in committee to discuss the Bill and makes any necessary amendments. The Bill is then read for a third time, and if in agreement, the Bill passes that House. Upon approval of both Houses the Bill then goes to the Governor - General for signature, and when signed becomes an Act of Parliament, otherwise known as Statutes.

Aspects Of Law Provision

The are two types of laws: Statutory Law (one passed by a state legislature) and Common Law (a large body of unwritten principles and rules based on thousands of past legal decisions. It is used by judges to resolve disputes in the absence of applicable statutory law).

There are also different sources of laws: Common Law, Equity, Statute Law, Delegated Legislation, Judge-Made Law and International Law.

The organization of the state governments is similar to that of the Commonwealth. Each state has an appointed governor, an elected premier, and a legislature. Queensland is the only state with a unicameral legislature. State governments are responsible for education, health, public utilities, justice, and transportation. Since 1974 both the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory have had elected legislative assemblies.

Although citizens have the opportunity to participate more directly in state policy making, reformers have conceded that these procedures have their drawbacks. Not all eligible voters go to the polls. Many who do go ignore or fail to understand the importance of referenda. Often the language of the proposed legislation is complicated. More importantly, direct legislation does not prevent powerful individuals and interest groups from manipulating policy issues behind the scenes, and carefully orchestrated advertising campaigns frequently characterize attempts to gain either approval or disapproval of various referenda issues.

Civil and class action suits are the principle types of lawsuits used in environmental law. In a civil suit the plaintiff seeks to collect damages for injuries to health or for economic loss, to have the court issue a permanent injunction against any further wrongful action, or both. Such suits may be brought by an individual plaintiff or a group of clearly identified plaintiffs.

Class Action Suits - in which a group, often a public interest or environmental group, files a suit on behalf of a larger number of citizens who allege similar damages but who need not be listed and represented individually.




Date Created: 28-Jan-2008
Last Updated: 27-Jan-2008
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