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Understanding the Western Australian Constitution

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UNDERSTANDING THE WESTERN AUSTRALIAN CONSTITUTION:

A GUIDE FOR BEGINNERS

 Narelle Miragliotta

INTRODUCTION

 The Western Australian Constitution is this State’s most important Act of Parliament.  It outlines Western Australia’s system of government and describes many of its core political institutions, such as the nature and composition of the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council, the office of the Governor, and the rules relating to eligibility for membership to Parliament. Despite this, the State Constitution does not enjoy a high level of recognition among most Western Australians.  This was confirmed in a study commissioned by Dr Harry Phillips in 1998 which revealed that 53 percent of West Australians knew ‘nothing’ or ‘hardly nothing’ about the state constitution[1].

It is hardly surprising that so few Western Australians know very little about the State Constitution.  The constitution is written in complex and, at times, archaic legalistic language.  The problem is compounded by the fact the State’s primary constitutional document actually consists of two separate statutes, the Constitution Act 1889 and the Constitution Acts Amendment Act 1899.  This can frustrate efforts to fully grasp the interplay between each of the 90 sections and 4 schedules of which it is comprised. 

 The purpose of this publication is to make the contents of the Western Australian Constitution more accessible. It does this by outlining 10 facts about the Constitution that cannot easily be obtained by merely studying the Acts. This section is followed by a summary of each section of the constitution in simple every-day language.  A glossary has also been included to enable the reader to gain a clearer understanding of some of the legal terminology that appears throughout this publication.  The reader is able to identify those words that have been included in the glossary on the basis they are highlighted in bold print.

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  [1] H. Phillips, D. Black, B. Bott, T. Fischer, Representing the People: Parliamentary Government in Western Australia, Fremantle Art Centre Press, 1998.