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Glossary

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An Act of Parliament
A Bill that has passed through both Houses of Parliament and has received Royal Assent from the Governor becomes an Act of Parliament and is in force unless its operation is delayed until proclamation (as required by the Commencement Clause within the Bill).

Assent 
The formal agreement of the Governor General or the Queen to a Bill that has been passed by the Houses of Parliament in accordance with the Constitution.

Bi-Cameral Parliament
A Parliament with two Houses or chambers: Federally, the Senate and the House of Representatives; In the States, the Legislative Council and the Legislative Assembly.

By-election 
An election to fill a seat in the Lower House that has become vacant during the term of the Parliament, between general elections.

Cabinet
All Ministers are part of a committee called the Cabinet. Cabinet discusses and approves government policy, its agenda and the introduction of new laws. It also carries out the work of administering the day-to-day affairs of government throughout the year.

Constitutional convention
A widely accepted and important practice which affects the operation of the Constitution: for example, the convention that the Governor General generally acts on the advice of the government in exercising his or her powers.

Constitutional monarchy
A monarchy is a system of government in which the position of head of State is hereditary. The monarch exercises his or her power in accordance with constitutional rules, which usually require power to be exercised on the advice of an elected government.

Dissolution
Action taken by the Governor General, on the advice of the Prime Minister, to bring the term of the House of Representatives to an end, making a general election for a new House necessary.

Double dissolution
Action taken by the Governor General, on the advice of the Prime Minister, to dissolve both House in accordance with section 57 of the Constitution, in order to resolve a deadlock between the Houses.

Exclusive powers 
Powers which only the Commonwealth may exercise and which the States may not.

Federation 
A form of government in which power is shared between two spheres of government, each of which has some autonomy: in Australia, the Commonwealth and the States. Australia’s federal system began on 1 January  1901.

Hansard
Hansard reporters are responsible for recording parliamentary speeches, debates and questions. Hansard is not strictly a verbatim report; repetition and redundancies are omitted and obvious mistakes corrected. 

Opposition
Members of the second largest party or combination of parties (coalition) in the Legislative Assembly forms the Opposition. The main function of the Opposition is to examine and scrutinise the work of the Government where necessary and put forward constructive alternative policies.

Preamble
The introduction to a Constitution or Act of Parliament.

Preferential voting
The system of voting presently used for the Lower House of Parliament, under which the second and later preferences may be taken into account in counting votes.

Premier
The Premier is the leader of the government in the Western Australian Parliament and is a member of the Legislative Assembly.

President
The presiding officer of the Upper House (Senate and Legislative Council).

Proportional representation 
The system used for counting votes in Upper House elections. Its effect is to make it more likely that the distribution of seats will roughly reflect the opinions of voters.

Quorum
The minimum number of members required in both Houses of Parliament for business to be transacted.

Referendum
A direct vote by the people on proposals for change.  Section 128 of Australia’s Constitution refers to the need for a referendum for Constitutional change.  Advisory referendums, unlike constitutional referendums, are not binding by the government. For example daylight saving (WA).

Representative Democracy
Under this system the community elects their representatives to the Parliament to participate in the decision making process on behalf of the community/constituents.

Representative government
A system under which government is carried on largely through elected representatives.

Responsible government
A system under which government ministers are drawn from the Parliament, have the confidence of the Parliament and are responsible to the Parliament.

Reserve power
A power which may be exercised by the Governor General against or without advice.

Royal Assent
After passing through both Houses, a Bill is presented to His Excellency the Governor for his signature to signify royal approval. Under the Western Australian Constitution, the Governor is the third part of Parliament and his signature on behalf of the Queen of Australia means the Bill becomes an Act of Parliament. (See also “proclamation”).

Senate 
The Upper House of the Commonwealth Parliament designed to represent the States.

Westminster system
A system of government roughly modelled on that originally developed in the United Kingdom.  Its principal feature is that Parliament is elected and that the government is drawn from the Parliament and depends on the confidence of the Lower House of Parliament for it to continue in office.

Constitutional Monarchy
A constitutional monarchy is a form of government in which the monarch is the head of state, but legislation is made and administered by an elected government representing the people; the government is typically lead by a Chief or Prime Minister. Often a written Constitution sets out the powers and responsibilities of the head of state and the different levels of government within that system (eg. Australia).

Dictatorship
A dictatorship is a form of government in which absolute power is held by one individual. Power is usually obtained and maintained by military might.

Monarchy
A monarchy is a system of government in which the head of state (ie. a king or queen) has absolute power and is appointed in accordance with a line of hereditary or Divine right. The head of state is not elected by the people.

Oligarchy
A form of government in which power is vested in a ruling elite, or dominant class. Those in power are not elected by the people.

Republic
A republic is a form of Government in which the head of state is elected by the people and is directly responsible to them (eg. The United States of America).