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Essay On Australian Political System


Task: Write an essay addressing the evolution of Australian Political System.


The current report is analyzing the evolution of Australian political system and its various aspects. The country of Australia is itself a continent that covers the total area of 7,682,300 square kilometers of the landmass. Australia was identified to be a distinct and sovereign nation in the year of 1918. As per the census conducted in 2011, the population of Australia is estimated to be about 21,507,717. The parliament house of Australia is situated in the nation's capital city Canberra. The parliament of Australia is officially termed as Federal parliament, which is also generally known as Commonwealth Parliament. The major bodies comprised in the Federal Parliament of Australia are the Governor-General (a representative of the crown), House of Representatives, and the Senate.

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It was in 1901 that the federal system of Australia came into existence. Ever since the federal system of Australia has worked very well and had displayed no signs of sluggishness or disappointments. The features and parameters followed in the federal system of Australia had been altered over time to cope u with the new standards and requirements of the fast-changing society. Keeping in mind the Work Choices judgment ruled out by the High court of Australia many concerns have been raised about the future of the federal system of Australia. The commonwealth government and the state governments of Australia are thrown to the gauntlet since the federal government is now being doubted for its efficiency by the public and the political experts. This report on the Australian political system is intended to provide a clear background and scope on the political system followed by Australia.

The country of Australia is defined as a federal nation in the constitution of Australia. As per the conventions stipulated under the federal system in the constitution, the parliamentary powers are shared among the central and other six federal state governments. In the parliamentary system of Australia, the state governments play a very vital and crucial role in legislation. Although this structure of federalism is not much stronger and the commonwealth government is provided with some powers. The governmental bodies like the High Court provide an extra push to the provisions of the commonwealth government. The conditions that the states are overly dependent on the funds provided by the commonwealth government, schemes and activities conducted by the central government, prevalence and control over the international stage, higher quota over the taxes collected from the citizens, etc. provide more power to the central government.

Several contemporary advancements in the society like elevated level of expectations from the population, more schemes to satisfy the recent requirements of the population, introducing a common code of law to cope up with the increasing migration of the population among the states, increasing geographical extent of cities, etc. had incited some alterations in the federal system of Australia.

If taken an instance of American history, the founders of the country were very eligible in drafting a political system that suited the colonial system that prevailed there in the contemporary period. The political system of America was created in 1787 that addressed the diversity in culture and ethnicity prevailing geographically. The government of America had classified the powers and area of legislation into three subdivisions as per the stipulation on who could make legislation regarding it. The list consisted of one which could be controlled by the central government and other which was solely controlled by the state. The list which was controlled and handled both by the center and the federal state was termed to be the concurrent list. This was done by the creators of America to distribute the powers in the justest way. The constitution of Australia was inspired by this and a similar system of three different lists was introduced.

Although it was being observed in the case of the constitution of Australia that the requirement of the society would change over time and the constitution needs to be get altered or updated according to it. It should be kept in mind that the major source of money for the government like the disinvestment of land would gain much more significance shortly. Similar is the case with the attitude followed by the governments towards the economic depletion. The governments have to make alterations in the Australian political systems to cope up with these imminent problems. The founders of the Australian constitution had never mentioned a local governing body, the absence of which is considered t be an utter blunder in the modern era. Hence, we want to enlighten our readers through this Australian political system report that the limits or the boundaries demarcated in the constitution are not permanent and would keep on changing in due course of time. The governments use to sometimes ignore, overcome, bend these limitations to meet the present requirement of society. Nowhere in the world have been drafted a constitution which has covered all the requirements of the society till the present date and is deemed to be an impossible task to do. Hence it is quite common happening that the drafters of the constitution would get disregarded or misunderstood by the future public.

Model of Australian political system
As per the stipulations mentioned in the constitution of Australia, the powers are distributed among the commonwealth government and other state governments. There is a total of six states in Australia which were earlier the colonies of Britain. The power vested in the present commonwealth government is not that strong as the set of authorities exercised by the earlier colonial governments. The drafting body of the Australian constitution had tried to vest most of the powers to its states since it was believed by them that the people would not accept a different type of government. Hence in the process, the boundaries of authorities for the central government were curtailed to a very greater extent. This approach was also taken to remove the colonial nature of the government which prevailed in the country. The effort of the constitution drafters to conserve and enhance the authoritarian power of the state governments is evident in many instances. The instances like providing equal number of seats or representation for every six states, incompleteness in the power of activities of the parliament without the active participation of the states, installation of powerful governments at the regional level, the special provisions like sections of 106 dealing with state constitutions 107 dealing with the state parliaments and 108 which deals with laws practiced in a certain state, etc. provides the proof of establishing a strong federal system.

Australian Political system

Criticism of the Australian political system
The efforts of the founders of the Australian political system were soon questioned for their political immaturity since the political design was considered very inefficient. The Australian political system had to go immense alteration to adjust with the hidden conditions and requirements of the population. The local governments of the states had played a very crucial role in upgrading the provisions of the Australian political system.

The intriguing factor of Party politics
The founders of the Australian political system had ignored the role the political parties in seasoning the attitude of the political federal system followed in a nation. If looked up into the history and political situation of Australia, the Australian Labor Party have been always against the provisions followed in the federal system of Australia. When the nation of Australia was divided into federation there happened a lot of labor movement all across the country since they criticized that the existing federal system would dampen the effort made regarding social welfare. The equal distribution of the seats to the states was considered very undemocratic since the allocation was not based on the population of states. Some of the political groups have even opposed the formation of the upper house at the national level. The members and the leaders of the labor party had always tried to lessen the powers allocated to the states. This was evident from the activities of the labor party leaders John Curtin and Ben Chifley when they became Prime Ministers of Australia. The struggle against it had intensified when the political parties with opposite political ideologies have come into power in states.

Even the major non-Labor parties got influenced by that context. The non-Liberal parties were although expected to be more lenient and favorable towards the federal system, it has been observed that they have succumbed to the influence of other political factors. A relevant incidence had happened in the year 1970 when the government led by John Gorton, a liberal prime minister, allocated comparatively fewer grants to the state of South Australia than other states. This was been done since the government of South Australia was led by Don Dunstan, a Labor government leader. This was the particular situation when the liberal political party had put aside their ideologies to deal with the political differences.

The misconception of the intended perspective
The creators of the Australian political system had vested the states with more powers since they felt it relevant and important for the political and demographic conditions of Australia. The drafting body of the constitution has viewed the distribution of power among the states as a very optimistic approach. This attitude had been developed by various incidents and advancements in the political history of Australia since the year 1901. Since the colonial governments had only tried to fulfill their own needs and requirements by implying biased programs and schemes and had misused and depleted the resources of the nation. The objections and the concerns put forward by the regional bodies or the states were not even taken into consideration. The state governments present at that time had tried to make schemes and acts to satisfy the needs of the regional population. The policy of the state governments was primarily to suffice the requirements of the regional community.

The populist attitude taken by the state governments had earned a lot of local support and had surpassed the political differences among various leaders. In the past, many local parties had held various attitudes towards the concept of federalism and none of them were inspired form their local geography. We have earlier made it clear that although the drafting committee of the Australian political system was optimistic about federalism, the ideologies of the commonwealth were always been the point of debate and had clashed with the federal attitude since 1901. Ignoring the relevance of the issues and policies, various governments and leaders had just tried to gain the popularity and acceptance of the local population. The normal notion that the issues could only be solved by the cooperative effort was not addressed by the leaders. The attitude of the state and other local governments was very crucial in drafting an Australian political system with a very high federalist approach. The attitude of the commonwealth government had undermined and defied the integrity of the nation and hence the attitude of state governments was highly welcomed and accepted by the public. It had been observed by the political specialists of Australia that the issue of clashes between the ideologies of the state government and the commonwealth government would remain for a while. Although the ideologies of federalism would always remain in the Australian political system.

Financial dominance of the Commonwealth government
The stipulations mentioned in chapter IV, section 96 of the Australian political system have been evolved because of the unfair dominance of the commonwealth government in financial matters. When the federation came into being in the Australian political system, the commonwealth government is struggling to meet the expenses in the union list which included a section of social schemes, defense, etc. since now the commonwealth government has many limitations as per the provision of section 96 in Australian pollical system. Since the commonwealth government had to struggle for meeting its immense expenditure it had initiated the cancellation of guarantees over the government financial bonds. The states of Australia had its limitations to surpass such restrictions. Alfred Deakin, the commonwealth Attorney General had made it clear in the year 1902, that the state governments face no legal restrictions in surpassing its authoritarian limits, although it has to rely on the center for its financial findings, hence their powers are curtailed via the means of financial sources. Although the taxes of customs and excise are paid to the state government as per the provisions in the section of 87, there is a limitation put forward to give the surplus amount to the commonwealth government as per the stipulation laid down in the section of 94. Section 94 provides the commonwealth government with dominance over financial matters, and hence coercion could be applied to the state government by the means of relative destituteness. Though this condition was included by the drafters of the Australian political system to deal with the emergency condition.

Below are provided some other provisions by which section 96 had bought the dominance of the Commonwealth government over the state government.

  • Grant Commission: The states were allowed to spend the grants allowed by the central government as per their conscience and hence these grants were known as general purpose grants. The main purpose of allowing these grants was to make sure that all the crucial administrative bodies under the state jurisdiction are working efficiently. This ideology was evolved from the argument of horizontal fiscal equalization that mandated the state with the extra fund to carry out the duties and services that would be matching the national average levels of efficiency. The commonwealth grant commission was established in 1933 and ever since the horizontal fiscal equalization was implied in the distribution of funds to the states. The major duty of the gent commission was to allocate the funds of the central government to the subsequent states. In the current scenario, the Commonwealth Grant Commission holds a very crucial position in the federal framework of the Australian political system.
  • Income tax: As per the stipulations laid down in section 9 of the Australian political system, it is the commonwealth government that handles the authority to collect and allocate the income taxes of the Australian citizens. Though in the period between 1915 to 1942, both the commonwealth and state governments used to collect income taxes from the Australian citizens. Since the constitution of Australia mandated the commonwealth government to perceive the citizens from all states as same, the equal income tax rate was decided for every Australian citizen. Although the varied tax policies by the state governments had brought the disparity in the rate of income taxes among the states. When the emergency for Great War responsibilities came upon the central government, the government od state governments were asked to abstain from the collection of income tax. This request was rejected by the government of the states as they have done on the instance Of World War II. It was later by the government of Curtin Labor Party that the uniform law income tax was passed in the legislature. The legislation was only to withstand until one year after the war ended. Even though this legislation was challenged by the state governments in High Court, the appeal was rejected by the judicial bench. The greater setback to the states came when Chifley, the Labor Prime Minister snubbed against reinstating the earlier system of the tax collection system. This provision and other challenges prevailing in collecting subsidiary types of taxes had weekend the financial condition of the states. The series of legislations and jurisdictions by the High Court had the state governments if the power to collect taxes like excise duty and estate duty.
  • Over time, the commonwealth government became very self-sufficient for their immense expenditure and consecutively the states are facing very great hindrances in carrying out their basic executive duties. This disparity is termed by political specialists as a vertical fiscal imbalance. This sort of federal financial imbalance is mostly seen in the Australian political system. The current Australian political system is such that around ¾th of the tax returns are being collected by the commonwealth government.

  • Goods and Service Tax: It was in the year of 1999 that the legislation regarding the Goods and Services Tax came into being under the government of Howard Coalition. The provisions under the Goods and Services Tax had made it mandatory to distribute the funds acquired from the citizens according to the horizontal fiscal equalization.

The High Court
The center state relationship in the Australian political system has also been modified by the jurisdiction organizations like High Courts. Many jurisdictions and government policies had facilitated the trespass of the commonwealth authorities into the boundaries of state government. If checked the federal system in the political discipline, the power of the government is divided into several levels of hierarchies. If this context is violated, the high courts are supposed to challenge it based on the constitutional breach. The courts were also very concerned about the ongoing advancement and hence over time developed an ideology of federation that laid down the guidelines regarding the doctrine of mutual non-interference between Commonwealth and states.

The governments who had made milestone developments
Each government that came into power at the hierarchy of commonwealth government had made their policies and had to make an impact on the Australian political system. Many of them have made a large effort to make a sharp turn in the relations between center and states. The notable political parties which contributed to this course are the Liberal National Party and Liberal Party. These all manipulations have consecutively strengthened the position of the Commonwealth government.

Below are given some of the major governments which made crucial advancements in this course, which are: -

  1. Whitlam Government: The Australian political system was despised and being regarded as obsolete by Gough Whitlam. Even in his election manifesto, he had made it clear that the current system of the federal stratum in the Australian political system possessed very challenging obstructions and the removal of it is the only way to remove these hindrances that would bring exclusive development in the company. It was being strongly recommended by Gough Whitlam that the matter of national development or the related policies should only be dealt with by the central government. The natural synchronization of economic development was deemed to be only attained if it was under the authority of a single governing party. Although the period to which the Whitlam government stayed in power for a very small period, the impact created by them was very huge and had attracted a lot of political debates. The major public enterprises like the railways were taken over by the central government and the state governments were further warned against providing the subsidiary local governments with any sort of fund since the function was later on handled and controlled by the separate department of the urban and rural department. A separate provision of specific purpose payments was laid on the states to make a deliberate process of increasing the barrier towards the process of state policymaking. It was the crude and strict approach by the Whitlam government had molded the relationship between the center and states to the present form.
  2. The Howard Government: After the first nine decades of introducing the system of the federation in Australia, the Labor party had argued that the systematic division and distribution of the power amongst various local bodies would create a very strong and reliable government, and in reliance to it declared themselves as the preservers of the federal system in Australia. The ministers in the Howard government had been asked to take a common stand and methodology in accordance with the federal system in operating the government activities. The head ministers in the department of the Business and Consumer Affairs had thus forced the state governments to follow the policies of the Commonwealth government. The Howard government had opposed the ideology of state patriotism and in the course tried to promote national patriotism.
  3. Current national issues: The current issues in the Australian political system, like the debate of neo-liberalism which is also termed as economic rationalism, was always a determining factor in the drafting process of the national policy till decades. The commonwealth governments like those led by Howard had taken a very privatization friendly approach which was also termed by the politicians as a free-market approach. These approaches were being justified by the annual surplus budget, disinvestments, decrease in public spending, etc.

As we have much discussed the evolution of the current Australian political system, let us talk about the major ideologies followed in the country. One of the major approaches in the Australian political system is the ideologies of liberalism and other being laborism. There have been many debates and discussions conducted by the political experts on these two separate political ideologies.

The discussions on the political system had immense scope and importance since it had a long-lasting impact on the affairs made by the states, political advancements, etc. It is a general perception that the nations with a flawed political ideology would not last long. The significance of political ideologies is spread beyond the limits of elections and external affairs. It has been argued by the political expert Haywood that the system of politics is intricately connected to the ideologies of struggle and alliances.

It is being believed in the discipline of politics that the factors in the economic system of a nation like national defense, education, transport, trade, health, etc. are held together by the policies and ideologies adopted by the national parties. If looked up into world history it could be observed that multiple types of leadership prevailing include absolute tyranny, which entails the leader with unmatched power over his citizens and the country. On the contrary, there also prevails the leadership styles like a democracy where the whole governing powers are being distributed to the citizens of the country. Various types of leadership styles imply the different types of restrictions and privileges to its citizens. The basic intent of a political system is to assert a sort of control over its citizens for its welfare. In the absence of any control over the population, there would be utter lawlessness and crime. This is why there should be laws and a proper penal code in a nation.

Although a set of restraints is very necessary for the political system, the citizens also need some rights and privileges so that could live their lives peacefully. As the famous political expert Samuel Hendel had mentioned that a citizen is allowed to do whatever he wants to do until his activity becomes a nuisance or the barrier to another citizen’s rights. Everyone should be equal before the code of law and hence there should be no discrimination majorly based on age, religion, sex, custom, etc. As we have mentioned earlier in this Australian political system assignment, various political parties have created great influences on the whole Australian political system. The Australian political system is observed to be a two-party system. Although the Australian political system had been subjected to a lot of debates and suspicions, it had been remained stable for decades.

Liberal Policy
In the political system which had adopted the liberal democracy, the executive authorities work in ordinance with the principles of providing basic and exclusive rights to its students (Parkin, 2002). The political ideologies should be described and elucidated to the public to understand its basic functioning. If looked at the ideology of democracy, it was originated in the ancient country of Greece and means the government elected by the people. The impression of the democracy that it is the sort of government which is elected by the people, doesn't clear or elucidates its whole meaning or concept. It was the political specialist Heywood in 2007 who defined the democracy as the political system prevailing in a country that ensures the prevalence of a government that works accordingly to the requirements and demands of the population not taking into account what their political affiliation is.

In the concept of liberalism, the major ideology is to maintain the level of liberty enjoyed by a citizen and thus enhancing the level of freedom provided to the citizens in the concerned company. In the liberalist form of government, every person is considered to be equal in front of the code of law and the citizen has all the right to know whether the government has accomplished all the promises stated in the election manifesto. It was when the extreme hostility and human right violations prevailed in the past, the ideology of liberation generated. The concept of liberalism was adopted all over the globe to free society from extreme sufferings and brutal autocracy.

Debate on the Context
The matter or the idea of a blended code of democracy and liberalism has been questioned and looked upon suspicion all over the world. The political experts have displayed very varied and controversial accounts from the perspective of liberal democracy. Both supporting and criticizing arguments have been made in this regard of which the positive attitude consists of the argument that the combination would ensure accountability from the behalf of the public. The negative attitude consists of if the argument that liberal democracy could pose a clash between the components of capitalism and democracy. Although there were present a lot of debated and criticisms regarding the ideology of liberalism, it is the only factor that had held the federal system of Australia from collapse.

Political expert, Vromen had opined in 2005 that the concept of liberal democracy allows the citizen of the nation to deliver their criticism regarding any crucial issue since they are entitled to basic human rights. The leaders who belong to the political parties having a liberal attitude believe in sustaining the basic rights of citizens and thus elevating the liberal thoughts of the society. The prominent ideas which are being stressed by this type of government comprise providing exclusive freedom to the press.

While drafting the whole concept of the market and the idea of an invisible hand, Adam Smith had considered the ideology of Liberalism. If the nation doesn’t possess any free market in its premises then the implementation of the liberal ideas is not complete. Contrary to the concept of liberalism, the concept of communism negates the existence of the invisible hand and thus argues for the increased control of the market by the government.

Impact of the Policy
The ideologies and the policies adopted by the governing bodies and the political parties had made a very significant influence on the evolution of the Australian political system. As the political expert Ward had commented on the constitution as the social contract which demarks the methodology to be followed in the political system of the country. The processes in the Australian political system were outlined by the politicians from the colonial background of Britain. The process of drafting the Australian political system was done in the latter decades of the 19th century. The outline of the constitution was approved by the parliament in the year 1900. The drafted Australian political system had accepted the federal and democratic ideology.

It was by the Australian Constitution Act that the commonwealth government of Australia was linked with the U.K. When the act was passed by the parliament, it had 9 sections. Among these, the sections from 1 to 8 pertains to the implication of the commonwealth government in Australia. The last section, otherwise the 9th section signifies the Australian constitution that is again classified into subsequent 8 chapters and 128 chapters. The Australian political system is segregated into two major political parties. Of which the Australian Labor Movement had brought the generation of Australian Labor Party. The major motive of the Australian Labor Party is to provide the working class with all sorts of rights and thus ensure their welfare. Julia Gillard who became the prime minister of Australia in 2007 belonged to this party and had strongly worked for the welfare of the working class.

The opposition section Liberal Party was established in the year 1944 and since then the party has been a very significant factor in the Australian political system. Unlike the labor party, the party favors the ideology of economic liberalism but the current undertakings of the party had made it clear that it is concentrating more on the conservative political agenda.

Application of the political alternatives
If looked at the Australian political system, you may observe that most of the procedures and provisions in it have a strong resemblance to the system of Britain. Having a membership in the commonwealth has also created a strong influence on the constitution of Australia. As per the constitutional framework of Australia, the parliament holds a very crucial position in the Australian political system (Singleton 2009).

Since the country has adopted the status of being a democratic liberal state, the constitution of it provides for a Senate and a House of Representatives, members of which are elected by the citizens democratically. Although Australia is a democratic federal nature, it still holds the features of constitutional monarchy which were brought from the system of the British parliament. Many executive offices and the procedures followed in the Australian political system are adopted from the British parliamentary system. Although the hierarchy of the federal system is adopted from the constitution of the United States of America.

Unlike the constitution of the UK, the constitution of Australia is documented and hence comes under the category of the written constitution. This would help in providing the guidelines in which the executive, legislative, and judiciary should work in the political framework of the country. The guidelines provided in the written form would turn out to be the basic foundation for the mode of political power execution. The constitution of Australia is not a flexible one and it requires a special act to amend the existing provision. The articles and provisions prevailing in the Australian constitution could only be amended by the means of a public referendum.

Unlike other countries, the declaration of the election could be done invariably at any instance. Although the Australian political system lays down a specific interval between two consecutive elections, it is kept considerably shorter. Because of the shorter period between the election processes, the governing party and the opposition party always remain in caution.

The two major pillars of the Australian political system are the ideologies of Democracy and the liberal system. For a very stable and strong political system in a country, there should be very reliant and perfect ideologies adopted in society.

It had been discussed in this report on the Australian political system that the constitution had provided the nation with a reputation of welfare and a liberal democratic state. Both the concept of liberalism and democracy are incomplete without each other and have high reliance over each other’s existence. The ideology adopted in the Australian political system favors the betterment of its citizens and at the same time encouraging the rule of law. Throughout the national history of Australia, it has been observed that the liberal democratic ideology has helped in maintaining political stability in recent years. The intense debates among the leaders of liberal and labor parties had made it clear that both are incomplete without the existence of each other. It is the strict and well-arranged laws, legislative system, and supportive market Australia has evolved itself into a very modern and sophisticated society. The nation of Australia holds the status of a well-governed liberal democratic country among all other countries.

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