In the two houses of the parliament, nearly half of the total sitting time is spent on debating bills. These proposed laws could range from “comparatively minor proposals of an administrative nature to comprehensive initiatives of major social, economic or industrial significance”. (www.aph.gov.au, 2010) In order to make sure that proper checks and balances are put in place, the framers of the Constitution restricted the areas of public affairs where the Federal Parliament can make laws. These areas include “international and interstate trade; foreign affairs; defense; immigration; taxation; banking; insurance; marriage and divorce; currency and weights and measures; post and telecommunications; and invalid and old age pensions.” (www.aph.gov.au, 2010) The remaining powers are handed to state legislatures so that local issues pertaining to governance, public utilities, schools and hospitals are addressed at that level. (Moon & Sharman, 2003, p.56)
In some policy areas, the Commonwealth Parliament is given sole powers, where the States play no legislative role. In other areas, the States and the Commonwealth share concurrent powers. By default, States hold the power to legislate in policy areas not specifically mentioned in the Constitution. Furthermore, the Australian Constitution has bestowed the Parliament with powers to apply limits to the Senate’s ability to initiate or change certain financial legislation.
“In other respects the Senate has the same law-making powers as the House of Representatives (including the power to reject any legislation). The parliament can adopt special requirements for financial legislation procedures when there is disagreement between the Houses over legislation. This can result in both Houses being dissolved by the Governor-General and, when the disagreement continues, the two newly elected Houses meeting together (a ‘joint sitting’) to resolve their differences.” (www.aph.gov.au, 2010)
Hence, in conclusion, it is quite clear that the constitution empowers the Commonwealth Parliament to make most of the country’s laws. This is a significant achievement on part of the political leaders of the nation. This prevailing arrangement is also a success for democracy. This places Australia in an advantageous position over many of its geo-political allies in its march toward greater prosperity and progress.
Encel, S. (1962). Cabinet Government in Australia. Parkville, V.I.: Melbourne University Press. Print.
Kelly, P. (2001). 100 Years: The Australian Story. Crows Nest, N.S.W.: Allen & Unwin. Print.
Moon, J. & Sharman, C. (Eds.). (2003). Australian Politics and Government: The Commonwealth, the States, and the Territories. New York: Cambridge University Press. Print.
Wear, R. (1999). Commonwealth of Australia. The Australian Journal of Politics and History, 45(4), 544. Print.
Making Laws, House of Representatives – Infosheet, October, 2010, issue No.7, Retrieved from <http://www.aph.gov.au/house/info/infosheets/is07.pdf> on 29th December, 2011
House of Representatives, The Constitution – Infosheet, October, 2010, issue No.7, Retrieved from <http://www.aph.gov.au/house/info/infosheets/is13.pdf> on 29th December, 2011