Australian System of Government

1975 is the year in history of Australia that has created unexpected environment suddenly in the whole world it is commonly called the dismissal due to the removal of Australia’s then Prime minister, Gough Whitlam and appointing sir John Kerr as governor general and appointing Malcolm Fraser as Prime Minister. It made many authors to think on it and express their views. 11 November 1975 was the day when governor general used his reserved power, provided by constitution of Australia, to suspend prime minister.

Whole issue is about reserve power of governor general, which include appointing prime minister when elections fail to give clear result, when prime minister does not possess faith of members House of Representatives and power to refuse to dissolve the house of representatives going opposite to ministers, he can use this power in many faces with different situation. So it is clear governor general is at the top most position of Australia in bicameral government structure. Parliament has two houses upper house named as senate and lower house named house of representative.

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The Australian constitution states that the government is responsible to the House of Representatives where the forced election would take place, and is not answerable to the senate. The Labor government pointed to a weakness in the constitution, arguing that the government should not be forced into an election by the upper-house. Malcolm Fraser was breaking the convention that for 75 years previously that the senate never stopped supply.

Labor believed this to be an irrational abuse of Senate power.

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When a constitutional crisis like this develops, it is the job of the Governor-General to find a solution. He chose to call a double dissolution an election of all the seats of both houses of parliament with Malcolm Fraser as a caretaker prime minister in the build up of the election. During this crisis, Australian society was divided, with some wanting to protest, and others saying it were a good thing.

The Australian crisis illustrates how unwritten conventions can operate flexibly during a crisis, seen by some as a benefit, while being used by others as an argument for the codification of the reserve powers. The latter view is not accepted by many prominent Australian constitutional scholars, who argue that the flexibility is needed, and would be lost in codification. It is argued that in a system where the Houses have equal power, a head of state with wide reserve powers is required to serve as umpire. Codification of powers essentially eliminates the vice-regal ability to use discretion in their exercise, and these scholars argue this discretion is necessary in order to resolve unforeseen difficulties.

Although the crisis was described as Australia’s most dramatic political event since federation in 1901, it caused no disruption in the services of government; it saw the parties remaining committed to the political and constitutional process by contesting the subsequent election and accepting the result. Further, in some of Whitlam’s reflections of this period in the following years, he himself often referred to it as a “political” crisis, rather than a “constitutional” crisis.

In either case, the crisis did precipitate one constitutional change, passed by referendum in 1977, which effectively requires that State Governments fill Senate vacancies with a member of the Party of the original holder of the seat, if they choose to fill the vacancy at all. After some times, some Australian republicans have used the crisis as an argument for change, on the basis that Australia’s current constitution is flawed over i.e. the powers of the Upper House with regard to supply and the lack of security of tenure of the Governor-General in dealing with a crisis, even today many people have very strong feelings about what happened In Australia any law is approved and implemented only when it is passed from both houses.

Laws can be proposed by any member of parliament whether senator or of the house of representative, but monetary bills can be only proposed by house of representative, or indirectly by government because party having majority in House of Representative make government. Senate has power only to accept or reject the bill.

In 1975 Gough Whitlam government was facing many obstructions by people and other members of parliament because of following incidents. The first incident that occurred was the resignation of James Ford Cairns who was Deputy Prime Minister in labor party government, headed by Whitlam during 1960 to 1970 and was one of the best politicians, was made to resign. This happened, after a close relationship with his head of personal staff, Juni Morosi became public. This incident ruined the reputation of Whitlam government.

Vince Gair, a Democratic Labor Party senator created second incident, which was about bribery case, in which he was bribed by Whitlam, this was seen as a very cynical political move by Whitlam, and the reputation of the Government suffered again. Third incident is about increment in unemployment and in inflation rate which reached up to seventeen percent, which was caused because of decision taken by seven sisters, creating world oil crisis. Whitlam government abolished liberal farmer assistance scheme which turned farmers in opposition of the government, in this way labor party lost a large support from public. These reasons were much sufficient for shaking the throne of Whitlam.

Senator and other members of house of representative got point to make condition for resignation of Whitlam and senate stopped passing monetary bills proposed by government that fulfilled funds for government expenditure and also recommended prime minister to call an election. This cold war continued for long time and finely on On 11 November 1975, the Governor General, Sir John Kerr using his reserve power, dismissed Whitlam as Prime Minister and appointed his Liberal opponent Malcolm Fraser as caretaker Prime Minister. This decision created a cyclone in political world and media.

This decision is followed by both favoring part as well as opposing. People showed high rage on tactics applied by Fraser for throne calling him “shame Fraser shame” and by other slogans. It being true that government that time as not having a good support for continuing and popularity decreased by fifteen to twenty percent but public of Australia was not ready to accept its prime minister who has adopted unfair means. But change of government was very necessary for development of country because in 1973, Australia was plunged into the most severe economic

crisis, profits slumped, mass sackings followed, factory closures were threatened and unemployment lurched towards five percent. Looking at all these conditions people voted to Fraser’s party.

Monarchy is a type of government where post of head is inherited, in other words progeny of king or queen becomes next emperor, best example is United Kingdom, where after Elizabeth II, her son prince Charles is holding the post. The Australian monarchy is aconstitutal system of government wherein a hereditary monarch is the sovereign of Australia presently Elizabeth II, who has reigned as Queen of Australia since 6 February 1952. The heir apparent is Elizabeth’s eldest son, Prince Charles, and then the royal power within the common wealth of the Australia is exerted by the office of Governor General.

He maintains the direct contact with the monarch the deputation of executive power by the sovereign to the viceroy has led to some debate over whether the sovereign or the Governor-General is Australia’s head of state and the monarch power are exercised by a governorAustralian government is not exactly dependent on United Kingdom monarchy, it has connection to that, considering era in 1975 Elizabeth II was queen of .United Kingdom at that time. In Australia queen only appoints her delegate named governor general, after discussion with prime minister. Governor General Sir John Kerr was appointed by Elizabeth II after consulting Prime Minister Gough Whitlam.

Governor General in Australian government is most powerful authority having some reserve power; he can even take decision about appointment of prime minister. As governor general is appointed with agreement of prime minister, who is elected by Australian public that means United Kingdom monarchy has not much dominancy; which can infer that Australian legal system is dependent on monarchy United Kingdom. But since most powerful person is appointed by queen, so it is dependent of United Kingdom monarchy.

After appointment of governor general of Australian government becomes free to take decisions about their country.  The Australian monarch, besides reigning in Australia, separately serves as monarch for each of fifteen other commonwealth countries known as commonwealth realms. This developed from the former colonial relationship of these countries to Britain, but they are now independent and the monarchy of each is legally distinct.

Supply crisis was created by senate by not passing monetary bills which were very important for government, expenditure, which created shortage of money at the same time inflation rate increased heavily, which worse the condition. The ill tactics used by Fraser were abused by whole world, and the reputation of Australian government suffered heavily and Reputation of Australia also suffered in international market, so the crisis worsened.

The history of the Constitution of Australia began with moves towards federation in the 19th Century, which culminated in the federation of the Australian colonies to form the common wealth of Australia in 1901. However, the Constitution has continued to develop since then, with two laws having particularly significant impact on the Constitutional status of the nation. Acts at the time of Whitlam government are-

Australian Museum Trust Act 1975 No 95 :Assent date of this act 17 December 1975 ,.it is  used of the Australian Museum or other property of or services provided by the Trust, and select fees for admission to the Australian Museum, the taking of photographs within the Australian Museum etc.

Parliamentary Papers (Supplementary Provisions) Act 1975 No 49: this act decides Authority to Government Printer to publish, When either House, a joint sitting or a Committee orders a document or evidence to be printed, the Government Printer is authorized to publish the document or evidence unless the contrary intention appears in the order and The Government Printer is authorized to publish the reports of the debates and proceedings in each House and of a joint sitting.

Teacher Housing Authority Act 1975 No 27: The principal object of the Authority is to provide and maintain suitable and adequate housing accommodation for teachers. Without limiting the generality of subsection (1) the Authority shall also have as its objects:  the initiation, promotion, commission and undertaking of surveys and investigations into the housing needs of teachers,  the undertaking, promotion and encouragement of research into the design, construction and maintenance of housing suitable for teachers.

Legislative party in Australia creates laws,  legislations of Australian constitution are: Acts of the Parliament of New South Wales, statutory instruments of New South Wales such as regulations, rules and by-laws, environmental planning instruments made under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979, eg State Planning Policies and Regional Environmental Plans and Local Environmental Plans.

The law of Australia consists of the Australian common law, which is based on the English common law, federal laws enacted by the Parliament of Australia, and laws enacted by the Parliaments of the Australian states and territories. The most important law of Australia is the Constitution of Australia, which describes Australia’s system of constitutional monarchy, and forms the basis for the government of Australia. Australian constitutional law is the law of Australia relating to the interpretation and application of the constitutions of Australia. Several major doctrines of Australian constitutional law were developed.

This act had the effect of severing links of constitution between Australia and the United Kingdom. Queen Elizabeth II, is the head of state of both countries, she acts in a distinct capacity as head of each state. This law includes amendment about Senate elections state debts, social services, aborigines, senate casual vacancies, retirement of judges, and referendums.

In this law, the High Court has developed several doctrines which underlie the interpretation of the Australian Constitution. Such as: separation and division of powers between commonwealth and state government and intergovernmental immunities. For most purposes Australia became independent with effect from 1901, and in 1931 it in effect acquired to complete independence. The Australian government exposed the weakness of Britain and led Australia to seek much closer ties with the U.S. and it was felt that for this the country needed full independence


  • Infosheet, “The Australian System of Government”, no-20, Feb 2008
  • Phil Griffiths, “Strike Fraser out!” 18 June 1997

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