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Parliamentary Democracy

Australia is a parliamentary democracy. This means that our political system is based on the idea that Parliament is supreme, or sovereign.

A parliamentary democracy is one in which the people choose representatives at regular elections. These representatives are responsible for a number of functions:

  • the formation of the government. This is achieved by majority vote in the lower house, in Australia’s case, the House of Representatives.
  • the passage of legislation (the laws of the nation) by majority vote of the Parliament. In Australia’s bicameral Parliament, this requires the support of both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
  • the scrutiny and monitoring of the executive government, the public service and other authorities and institutions created by Parliament. Most importantly, this scrutiny extends to monitoring the expenditure of public (taxpayers’) money.

Australia’s status as a parliamentary democracy does not preclude the use of other terms which also define our political system.

At its heart, Australia is a system of representative government.

Our particular kind of representative government is a parliamentary democracy. More specifically, our parliamentary democracy is a variation of the Westminster system, the system that is characterised by responsible government.

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