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Definitions, Explanations And Quotes About Parliament

“Parliament is an arena for the display of leadership.”

– John Maddison, former NSW Minister.

What endures about the big picture of 1901 is the parliament itself, the vehicle of representative democracy, and in the world of 100 years ago representative democracy was still comparatively rare outside the Australian colonies. Not only did most countries deny the franchise to women – a state of affairs the new Commonwealth remedied the next year, 16 years before Britain saw fit to do so – but even nations that claimed to be democracies had governmental institutions that undermined the claim. The US Senate was not yet popularly elected in 1901 and Britain’s unelected House of Lords still had extensive powers to veto legislation originating in the House of Commons. The Senate devised for the new Commonwealth of Australia also had extensive powers over legislation but, unlike these other upper houses, it was to be directly elected.

The Age, Editorial, May 9, 2001.

“Parliaments are the great lie of our time.”

– Konstantin Podednostsev (1829-1907)

The British Parliament emerged in medieval times as the assembly of the king and his Lords, meeting irregularly at the king’s bidding to discuss judicial and other matters of general importance, especially finances.

From the 13th century knights and burgesses representing the shires and boroughs were occasionally summoned to these assemblies, and under Edward III these ‘Commons’ began to meet separately from the ‘Lords’, although they did not gain their own meeting chamber until the 16th century.

Free speech, regular meetings, and control over taxation were not established as rights until after the Civil War and the Bill of rights following the 1688 Revolution.

After the passing of the first Reform Act (1832) the traditional influence of the landed aristocracy began to decline, and the Parliament Act of 1911 reduced the power of the House of Lords, allowing them to delay but not veto legislation; this Act also introduced payment for MPs.

A further Act in 1949 reduced the maximum period of delay and ended the right completely for financial legislation, leaving the House of Commons unequivocally the more powerful and important body.

The building in which Parliament meets was designed by Sir Charles Barry and erected after the destruction by fire of the original Palace of Westminster, its meeting-place, in 1834.

Source: Oxford English Reference Dictionary, Second Edition, 1996, page 1058.

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