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Introduction to Modern Australian Law and Government代寫

    An Introduction to Modern Australian Law and Government

    Australia’s formal name is the Commonwealth of Australia. The form of government used in Australia is a Constitutional Monarchy – ‘Constitutional’ because the powers and procedures of the Commonwealth Government are defined by a written constitution, and ‘Monarchy’ because Australia’s Head of State is Queen Elizabeth II.

    Federation

    The Commonwealth of Australia was formed in 1901 when six independent British colonies agreed to join together and become states of a new nation. The rules of government for this new nation were enshrined in the Australian Constitution, which defined how the Commonwealth Government was to operate and what issues it could pass laws on. (For details more on the Australian Constitution see the Appendix at the end of this document.)
    The birth of our nation is often referred to as 'federation'. This is because the Constitution created a 'federal' system of government. Under a federal system, powers are divided between a central government and individual states. In Australia, power was divided between the Commonwealth Government and the six state governments.

    The Commonwealth Constitution, the Monarch and the Governor-General

    The Australian Constitution is the most important document in Australian government history. It established the Commonwealth government, defined its structure, powers and procedures, and defined the rights and obligations of the states in relation to the Commonwealth.
    The Constitution was brought into existence through a British Act of Parliament, the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act. This Act granted permission to the six Australian colonies, which were still then subject to British law, to form their own Commonwealth government in accordance with the Constitution. The text of the Constitution (which was clause 9 of the Act) was written by representatives of the six colonies during a series of conventions in the 1890s, and accepted by a referendum in each colony.
    Under the Constitution, the reigning British monarch is also the Australian monarch, and therefore Australia's Head of State. The Constitution grants the monarch - currently Queen Elizabeth II - certain governing powers that place them above all other levels of the government. Because of the large distance between Australia and Britain, the monarch is permitted to appoint a Governor-General who can exercise the monarch's powers in the monarch’s absence.
    In practice, the selection of a governor-general is a matter for the Prime Minister of Australia, who may consult privately with staff or colleagues, or with the monarch. The person would also be approached privately to see if he or she is willing to accept the appointment.
    The Prime Minister then provides the nomination to the monarch. The monarch may, in theory, decline the Prime Minister's advice and ask for another nomination or even appoint a person of his or her own choice, but no such cases have been recorded since November 1930, when James Scullin's proposed appointment of Sir Isaac Isaacs was fiercely opposed by the British government. This was not because of any lack of regard for Isaacs personally, but because the British government considered that the choice of Governors-General was (since the 1926 Imperial Conference) a matter for the monarch's decision alone. (However, it became very clear in a conversation between Scullin and King George V's Private Secretary, Lord Stamfordham, on 11 November 1930, that this was merely the official reason for the objection, the real reason being that an Australian, no matter how highly regarded personally, was not considered appropriate to be Governor-General.) Scullin was equally insistent that the monarch must act on the relevant Prime Minister's direct advice (the practice until 1926 was that Dominion prime ministers advised the monarch indirectly, through the British government, which effectively had a veto over any proposal it did not agree with). Scullin cited the precedents of the Prime Minister of South Africa, J. B. M. Hertzog, who had recently insisted on his choice of Lord Clarendon as Governor-General of that country, and the selection of an Irishman as Governor-General of the Irish Free State – both of these appointments were agreed to despite royal disfavour.
    Despite these precedents, George V was still very reluctant to accept Scullin's recommendation of Sir Isaac Isaacs, and asked him to consider Field Marshal Sir William Birdwood. However, Scullin stood firm, and on 29 November the King agreed to Isaacs's appointment, but made it clear that he did so only because he felt he had no option.[3] This right to not only advise the monarch directly, but also to expect that advice to be accepted, was soon taken up by all the other Dominion Prime Ministers. This, among other things, led to the Statute of Westminster 1931 and to the formal separation of the crowns of the Dominions. Now, the Queen of Australia is generally bound by constitutional convention to accept the advice of the Australian Prime Minister and state Premiers about Australian and state constitutional matters respectively.
    Having agreed to the appointment, the monarch then permits it to be publicly announced in advance, usually several months before the end of the current Governor-General's term. During these months, the person is referred to as the "Governor-General-designate". The actual appointment is made by the monarch. After receiving his or her commission, the Governor-General makes an Oath of Allegiance and an Oath of Office to the monarch, and issues a proclamation assuming office. The oaths are usually made in a ceremony on the floor of the Senate, and are administered by the Chief Justice of Australia.[4]
    The functions and roles of the Governor-General include appointing ambassadors, ministers and judges, giving Royal Assent to legislation, issuing writs for elections and bestowing honours. The Governor-General is President of the Federal Executive Council and Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Defence Force. All these things are done and all these posts are held under the authority of the Australian Constitution. Further, the Governor-General acts as vice-regal representative to the Australian Capital Territory.
    The Constitution provides that a "Governor-General appointed by the Queen shall be Her Majesty's representative in the Commonwealth . . ." The Constitution grants the Governor-General a wide range of powers, but in practice he or she follows the conventions of the Westminster system and (with rare exceptions) acts only on the advice of the Prime Minister of Australia or other ministers. Even in the appointment of the prime minister, the Governor-General rarely exercises any discretion, usually appointing the leader of the largest party or coalition of parties in the House of Representatives.
    Beyond constitutional functions, the Governor-General has an important ceremonial role. He or she travels widely throughout Australia to open conferences, attend services and commemorations and generally provide encouragement to individuals and groups who are contributing to their communities. When travelling abroad, the governor-general is seen as the representative of Australia, and of the Queen of Australia, and is treated as a head of state

    The Federal System

    The birth of our nation is often referred to as 'federation'. This is because the Constitution created a 'federal' system of government.
    Under a federal system, powers are divided between a central government and several regional governments. In Australia, power was divided between the Commonwealth Government and the governments of the six colonies, which were renamed 'states' by the Constitution.
    Specific areas of legislative power ("heads of power") were given to the Commonwealth Government, including:
    • taxation
    • defence
    • foreign affairs
    • postal and telecommunications services
    A complete list of Commonwealth heads of power is at section 51 of the Constitution. The Commonwealth also has power to make laws for Australia's territories (section 122).
    The states retained legislative power over all other matters that occurred within their borders, including:
    • police
    • hospitals
    • education
    • public transport
    The wording of the law has often created situations where both the Commonwealth and the states claim the authority to make laws over the same matter. See discussion below of the State-Commonwealth relationship and how these conflicts are resolved.

    Commonwealth Government

    The Commonwealth Government, also known as the Australian Government or the Federal Government, passes laws which affect the whole country. Section 51 of the Constitution defines a number of issues that the Commonwealth Government can make laws on.
    There are three ‘arms’ of the Commonwealth Government:
    • the legislature (or parliament) is responsible for debating and voting on new laws to be introduced under the power of section 51.
    • the executive is responsible for enacting and upholding the laws established by the legislature. Certain members of the legislature (called ministers) are also members of the executive, with special responsibilities for certain areas of the law.
    • the judiciary is the legal arm of the Commonwealth Government. It is independent of the other two arms, and is responsible for enforcing the laws and deciding whether the other two arms are acting within their powers.

    (a) Legislature

    The legislature, also known simply as parliament, is made up of democratically-elected representatives from around Australia.
    These representatives meet at Parliament House in Canberra to discuss legislation and make laws for the benefit of the nation. The issues that they can make laws on are defined by sections 51 and 122 of the Constitution.
    The Commonwealth Parliament comprises two separate chambers:
    • the House of Representatives (or 'the lower house')
    • the Senate (or 'the upper house')
    The House of Representatives has 150 members, each representing a different area of the country ('electorate'). Each electorate has roughly the same number of registered voters within its boundary, meaning that states with larger populations have more electorates and therefore more representatives in the House.
    The Senate is composed of 76 members. Unlike the House of Representatives, membership of the Senate is divided evenly between the states. Each state has 12 senators, and the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory have 2 senators each. The Senate was established this way to ensure that the larger states could not use their majority in the House of Representatives to pass laws that disadvantaged the smaller states.
    The Constitution is silent on the role of political parties in parliament. It does not make any reference to a government party, an opposition party or minor parties, or to roles like Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition. These are conventions that have been adopted to assist the smooth operation of the legislature.

    (b) Executive

    The executive is the administrative arm of government, and is made up of government employees (the public service) working in a number of departments and agencies. The executive is empowered by the laws of Australia to put those laws into operation and uphold those laws once they have begun to operate.
    A Minister is a member of the legislature who has been chosen to also work as part of the executive, usually with responsibility for matters on a specific topic (his portfolio). The Prime Minister also serves as Australia's Head of Government. Ministers (including the Prime Minister) are not mentioned anywhere in the Constitution, but their roles are accepted as being important conventions that help to ensure an efficient executive.

    (c) Judiciary

    The judiciary is the legal arm of the government. Independent of the legislature and the executive, it is the role of the judiciary to enforce Australia's laws. It must also ensure that the other arms of Government do not act beyond the powers granted to them by the Constitution or by parliament. The High Court of Australia is, as its name suggests, Australia's highest court. Underneath the High Court are a number of other Federal Courts.

    State Governments

    Although the six states joined together to form the Commonwealth of Australia and the Commonwealth Government, they still each retain the power to make their own laws over matters not controlled by the Commonwealth under Section 51 of the Constitution. State governments also have their own constitutions, as well as a structure of legislature, executive and judiciary.
    Territories are areas within Australia’s borders that are not claimed by one of the six states. Territories can be administered by the Commonwealth Government, or they can be granted a right of self-government. Self-government allows a territory to establish its own government in a similar manner to a state. The Constitution of Australia allows territories to become states with the approval of the Commonwealth legislature.
    There are six states in Australia: New South Wales (NSW), Queensland (Qld), South Australia (SA), Tasmania (Tas), Victoria (Vic) and Western Australia (WA). Each state has its own state Constitution, which divides the state's government into the same divisions of legislature, executive, and judiciary as the Commonwealth Government.
    The six state parliaments are permitted to pass laws related to any matter that is not controlled by the Commonwealth under Section 51 of the Australian Constitution.
    The monarch's powers over state matters are exercised by a Governor in each state. The head of each state government is known as the Premier.

    Territory Governments

    There are ten Australian territories outside the borders of the states. Two mainland territories, The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and The Northern Territory (NT) and one offshore territory, Norfolk Island, have been granted a limited right of self-government by the Commonwealth. In these territories, a range of governmental matters are now handled by a locally-elected parliament.
    Outside of government, the ACT and the NT are often treated like states because of their significant population sizes.
    There are seven territories that have no powers of self government at alla nd are instead governed only by Commonwealth law, usually through a Commonwealth-appointed Administrator. They are:
    • Ashmore and Cartier Islands
    • Australian Antarctic Territory
    • Christmas Island
    • Cocos (Keeling) Islands
    • Coral Sea Islands
    • Jervis Bay Territory
    • Territory of Heard Island and McDonald Islands

    Capital Cities

    Canberra, located in the Australian Capital Territory, is Australia's national capital. The Parliament of Australia is located in Canberra, as is most of the Australian Government public service.
    The other State and Territory capital cities are:
    • Adelaide (South Australia)
    • Brisbane (Queensland)
    • Darwin (the Northern Territory)
    • Hobart (Tasmania)
    • Melbourne (Victoria)
    • Perth (Western Australia)
    • Sydney (New South Wales)

     

     

    Conflict Between State and Federal Law

    If the laws of a state ever conflicts with the laws of the Commonwealth, s.109 the Constitution says that Commonwealth law is to be followed and that the State law is void ‘to the extent of the inconsistency’ between it and the Commonwealth law.

    The Role of Local Government

    Local governments are established by state and territory governments to take responsibility for a number of community services. Local governments have a legislature and an executive but no judiciary. Their powers are defined by the state or territory government which established them.
    ********************************************************************
    APPENDIX
    What is a Constitution?
    A constitution is a set of rules for governing or managing the affairs of a country, State or any organisation, such as a basketball or football club. These rules may be unwritten and based on tradition or conventions. Most constitutions are formal written documents that people are able to read.
     
    The Australian or Federal Constitution
    The Australian Constitution originated in the 1890s when the delegates and representatives from the Australian Colonies drafted a document which would unite the Colonies into a federal system. The Constitution sets out the rules, principles and structures under which the national government must operate. It establishes:
    •? the structure for the federal system of government
    • ?the basis for relations between the central government and the States.
     
    Before 1901 the Australian States were separate colonies of the British Empire. The idea of federation was first discussed in the mid 19th century. Work on drafting an Australian Constitution began in the 1890’s at a series of Constitutional Conventions. Referendums were conducted in each Colony to seek the approval of the people for the Constitution Bill. Voting was voluntary in all colonies and eligibility was generally restricted to males 21 years and over.
     
    The Constitution Bill was approved by the people in most Colonies at the 1899 referendums. Delegates from each Colony took the Constitution Bill to Britain to be passed by the British (Imperial) Parliament. After negotiated amendments to the Bill between the Australian delegates and the British Government, the Bill passed through the British Parliament unamended and was assented to by Queen Victoria on 9 July 1900. On 17 September 1900 Queen Victoria proclaimed the Act to commence with effect from, and thus also the new Australian nation to come into existence on, Tuesday, 1 January 1901. The Queen allowed Western Australia to be an original State of the federation as it had passed its referendum by September 1900.
     
    Since 1901 the British Parliament has passed a number of statutes that have given the Commonwealth and the States greater independence and autonomy.
     
    How is the Commonwealth Constitution structured?
    The Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act consists of two main parts. The first part includes a Preamble and 8 covering clauses. This part can only be changed by the British Parliament. The actual Australian Constitution is Clause 9 of the Act. It consists of 8 chapters and 128 sections. The first part includes a preamble and 8 covering clauses. The Preamble or introduction states that the people, “relying on the
    blessing of Almighty God”, have agreed to the union of the five original founding colonies) under the Crown of the United Kingdom. [NB: Western Australia was not one of these five but agreed to join in before just before actual federation took place.]
     
    The covering clauses were necessary to establish the federation but are now largely of historic interest only. The second part includes the actual Australian Constitution in Clause 9. The first three chapters of the Constitution outline the three main powers of the Federal government – legislative, executive and judicial. Chapter 1 provides for an elected Parliament comprised of an upper house (a Senate) to safeguard the interests of the States, and a lower house (the House of Representatives) to reflect the democratic wishes of the people. Chapter 2 provides that a Governor-General exercises executive power as the Queen’s representative. The Governor-General is Australia’s resident head of state who acts on the advice of a Federal Executive Council. By convention this body is comprised of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet Ministers. Chapter 3 provides for the creation of the High Court of Australia as the nation’s most superior court. It is vested with jurisdiction to be the final court of appeal from all other Australian courts. It is also the court which resolves constitutional disputes. Chapters 4, 5 and 6 deal with Commonwealth/State relations and the admission of new States. Chapters 7 deals with the Territories and the nation’s capital. Chapter 8 outlines the procedure of changing the wording in the Constitution. The main stage in the Chapter 8 process is a referendum where the people of Australia have to vote by secret ballot to change the Constitution.
     
    How may the Commonwealth Constitution be changed?
    The procedure for changing the Australian Constitution is set out in section 128.  It requires:
    ·         a bill proposing the change to be passed by the Commonwealth Parliament, or by one House of the Parliament twice;
    ·         a referendum, or popular vote, in which the proposal is approved by a majority of people who vote throughout Australia and by State majorities in more than half the States.   As there are six States, majorities are needed in four.  The Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory are not counted as States for this purpose;
    ·         assent to the bill by the Governor-General.
     
    The second-last paragraph of section 128 requires certain types of proposals to be approved by a majority of people in the States affected by them.  In some cases, in practice, this requires majorities to approve the proposal in all States.  This special procedure applies when a proposed change would:
    ·         lessen the proportion of a State's representation in either House of the Commonwealth Parliament (by, for example, changing the rule that each State is equally represented in the Senate);
    ·         lessen the minimum number of representatives from a State in the House of Representatives (presently, 5);
    ·         alter State boundaries, or affect the provisions of the Constitution relating to them.
    [NB: It would probably be necessary to obtain majorities in all States for changes to section 128 itself.]
    Nothing in section 128 requires majorities in all States to amend the Constitution to create a republic.  Although there is some argument about it, it seems likely that these changes could be approved by majorities in only four States.  In practice, however, it obviously is desirable for the people of all States to agree.
    Can the constitution be changed in any other way?
    The text of the Australian Constitution can only be changed by the referendum procedure set out in section 128, although its operation may be affected in other ways. 
    The two most common are:
    ·         interpretation of the Constitution by the High Court (see Fact Sheet 7.4);
    ·         defacto co-operation between governments; eg to establish a single income tax law for the whole country
    It was once possible to argue that the British Parliament could amend the Constitution.  Since 1986 at the latest, when the Australia Acts were passed, that possibility has gone. Section 1 of the Australia Acts makes it clear that the British Parliament will no longer legislate for Australia (with the result that our courts would not accept the British legislation, if it did).  There is a small possibility that section 15 of the Australia Acts might offer another way to amend the Constitution, by agreement between all Australian governments and parliaments.  There are powerful legal arguments against that interpretation, however, and even more powerful political ones. There would be likely to be a public outcry if an attempt were made to change the Constitution without a referendum.
    How can the preamble and covering clauses be changed?
    As stated earlier the Constitution is section 9 of a British Act, the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act. There are circumstances in which we might want to change the earlier parts of the Act as well.  This might happen, for example, if we decided to become a republic, because both the preamble and covering clauses refer to the Crown or the Queen.
    If you look at the opening words of section 128, you will see that it specifically refers to changing "this Constitution".  Those words raise a doubt whether section 128 can be used to change the preamble and the covering clauses, which are not part of the Constitution itself. 
    Various suggestions have been made to overcome this problem.
    There may be an "incidental" power attached to section 128, which would allow its referendum procedure to be used for amendment of the covering clauses as well.
    Alternatively, section 128 itself might be changed by referendum, to extend it to the preamble and covering clauses. 
    Joint action by all governments under section 15 of the Australia Acts 1986 is another possibility, although less attractive in principle, because it does not involve a popular vote. 
    Whatever the answer, it is safe to assume that, one way or another, any necessary amendments to the Constitution Act can be made within Australia itself.
    How do voters know what proposals for change are about?
    The referendum procedure for changing the Constitution makes it particularly important for Australian voters to understand the issues for themselves.  Voting is compulsory, so this need extends to everyone.
    In fact, recent studies have suggested that Australians do not understand the Constitution as well as they might.  Steps are now being taken to make information about the system of government, including the Constitution, more readily available.  As far as particular proposals for constitutional change are concerned, however, there may also be room for improvement in the information which is provided to the electorate before a referendum is held.
    The current requirements are set out in the Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act 1984. That Act provides for a short case "for and against" a proposal for constitutional change to be prepared by Members of Parliament who voted for and against the bill as it went through Parliament.  If no-one votes against a proposal, there will be no "No" case.  The "Yes" and "No" cases are then distributed by the Electoral Commission to all voters.   This is the only official information voters receive.
    In fact, the "Yes/No" cases usually do very little to help people to understand the actual meaning and effect of proposed constitutional changes. Something better is obviously required if the voters are to be able to judge proposals for constitutional change for themselves. On the other hand, it is important to ensure that information that is provided is even-handed and explains the issues fairly and clearly.
     
     
    SUMMARY
    • The procedure for changing the Australian Constitution involves passage of a bill by the Commonwealth Parliament and approval at referendum.
    • In most cases, a referendum will be passed if it is approved by a majority of voters and by a majority of voters in a majority of States.
    • The text of the Constitution cannot be changed in any other way.
    • While there is some debate over exactly how the preamble and covering clauses can be changed, there is no doubt that they can be changed by Australians.
    • Some thought needs to be given to ways in which referendums are run and, in particular, to the kind of information about the issues involved which is provided to the electorate.
     
    How is the Constitution relevant to us today?
    Unknowingly all Australians are affected by the Constitution in their everyday lives. The Commonwealth makes laws for our national defence and the payment of income tax. Without the Constitution the Commonwealth Parliament could not pass laws to allow CentreLink to pay age pensions or unemployment allowances. The States have the power to legislate to provide for compulsory education and a system of hospitals to treat the ill and the injured.
     
    The Constitution is the fundamental foundation of our democratic system of government. It protects people’s rights by clearly prescribing what powers the various government agencies can exercise and which ones they cannot. People can challenge a law in the High Court if they believe it has been made or enforced in a manner not allowed in the Constitution and the High Court can declare laws to be unconstitutional and therefore void and of no legal force and effect.
     
    The Australian Constitution does not include a Bill of Rights. In fact it has very few human right protections in it at all. Three human rights that are in the Constitution include:
    ·         Section 51(31) prohibits the Commonwealth from taking people’s property otherwise than on “just terms”. [This right was the basis of the famous Australian movie, “The Castle”.]
    ·         Section 80 guarantees trial by jury for certain federal offences.
    ·         Section 116 prevents the Commonwealth from passing a law to establish a religion, make religious worship compulsory or to prohibit citizens practising any religion.
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
    Some prominent dates in Australia’s constitutional history
     
    Milestones Details Source Documents
    1787 Captain Arthur Phillip received commissions for the establishment and the government of the colony of New South Wales.  
    1788
    (26 January)
    Captain Phillip takes possession of Australia in the name of the Sovereign.  
    1803 Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) settled from New South Wales.  
    1813
    (4 February)
    Van Diemen's Land (previously divided) to be ruled as a single unit but as part of NSW.  
    1823 New South Wales given status of a full colony.
    New South Wales Legislative Council established (appointed).
    Executive Council established.
    A form of judicial review established.
    New South Wales Act 1823(UK)
    1825
    (17 July)
    Van Diemens Land Legislative Council established (appointed). New South Wales Act 1823(UK)
    1825
    (3 December)
    Van Diemens Land separated from New South Wales by proclamation.  
    1827 The area that later became the Northern Territory was included in New South Wales.  
    1828 Some major changes were made in government in the colonies:
    • laws and Statues of England to operate in New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land
    • legislation required a Legislative Council majority to be passed
    • repugnancy test for all legislation, and
    • trial by jury was now possible.
    Act to provide for the administration of justice in New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land, and for the more effectual government thereof... 1828 (UK)
    1829 Government established in Western Australia. An Act to provide...for the government of...Western Australia 1829 (UK)
    1830 Western Australian Legislative Council established (appointed). Order in Council
    1834 Government established in South Australia. South Australian Colonization Act 1834(UK)
    1842 South Australian Legislative Council established (appointed). Act for the better Government of South Australia 1842 (UK)
    1850 Port Phillip district (Victoria) separated from New South Wales.
     
    Legislative powers of colonies confirmed, and power given them to make their own constitutions.
    Part-elected Legislative Councils established in New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania.
    Australian Constitutions Act 1850 (UK)
    1854 Responsible government established in Tasmania. Constitution Act 1854 (Tas)
    1855 Responsible government established in New South Wales.
    Responsible government established in Victoria.
    Constitution Act 1855 (NSW)
    Constitution Act 1855 (VIC)
    1856 Responsible government established in South Australia. Constitution Act 1856 (SA)
    1859 Queensland separated from New South Wales, responsible government established. Letters Patent erecting Moreton Bay into a Colony, under the name of Queensland...1859
    Order in Council empowering the governor of Queensland to make laws etc.
    1863 Crown annexed to South Australia that part of New South Wales that eventually became the Northern Territory. Letters Patent
    1863 The settlement of the Northern Territory was to be regulated. Northern Territory Act 1863 (SA)
    1865
     
    The range of legislative activity of the colonies was enlarged, especially in giving parliaments the power to pass laws with regard to each colony's constitution. But there were two major restrictions that continued into the 20th Century:
    • State legislation must not be repugnant to Imperial legislation extending to the colonies
    • colonial parliaments could only amend their constitutions in accordance with the manner and form laid down by existing law.
    Colonial Laws Validity Act 1865 (UK)
    1867 Queensland Constitution consolidated from existing legislation. Constitution Act 1867 (QLD)
    1870 Western Australian Legislative Council (part-elected) established. Ordinance to provide for the establishment of a Legislative Council...1870 (WA)
    1883 Intercolonial Convention, Sydney, attended by all colonies plus New Zealand and Fiji. Resolutions included:
    • support for 'a Federal Union'
    • a call for the establishment of a Federal Australasian Council.
     
    1885 Federal Council of Australasia established, an intercolonial body with limited legislative power. This met intermittently between 1886 and 1899. New South Wales never joined the Council. Act to Constitute a Federal Council of Australasia 1885 (UK) & Australian colonial equivalents
    1889 UK Government commissioned Major-General Edwards to report on Australian colonial defences. Edwards' report called for the federation of the forces of all Australian colonies.  
    1889
    (24 October)
    Tenterfield Address of Sir Henry Parkes, where he spoke of creating 'a great national Government for all Australia'. Sydney Morning Herald, 26 October 1889
    1889 Responsible government established in Western Australia. Constitution Act 1889 (WA)
     
    1890
    (6-14 February)
     
    Federation Conference, Melbourne, attended by all colonies plus New Zealand. It resolved in favour of 'an early union under the Crown', and the creation of a National Australasian Convention to draft a national constitution.
     
    Official Record of the Proceedings and Debates of the Australasian Federation Conference, 1890
    1891
    (2 March-9 April)
    National Australasian Federation Convention, Sydney, attended by all colonies plus New Zealand. This drafted a constitution, but it was not later proceeded with by the colonial parliaments. It was, however, the basis of future discussion of Federation. Official Report of the National Australasian Convention Debates, 1891
    1893
    (31 July-1 August)
    The Corowa Conference, sponsored by New South Wales and Victorian border Federation Leagues, called for a federal convention to consider a new constitution.  
    1894
    (22 May)
    Sir George Dibbs, Premier of New South Wales, proposed a scheme of unitary government for the Australian colonies. Sydney Morning Herald, 12 June 1894
    1895
    (29 January)
    Premiers' meeting in Hobart resolved that an intercolonial convention be held to draft a constitution.  
    1896
    (November)
    People's Federal Convention, Bathurst, discussed Federation at length, using the 1891 draft constitution as the basis for discussion. Proceedings of the Bathurst People's Federal Convention
    1897
    (22 March-5 May)
    National Australasian Federation Convention, Adelaide session. Queensland did not send delegates. At this and subsequent sessions, most of the final Constitution was drafted. Its most important feature was its establishment of a federal system of government. Official Report of the National Australasian Convention Debates, Adelaide 1897
    1897
    (2-24 September)
    National Australasian Federation Convention, Sydney session. Official Record of the National Australasian Convention Debates, Sydney 1897
    1898
    (20 January-17 March)
    National Australasian Federation Convention, Melbourne session. Official Record of the National Australasian Convention Debates, Melbourne 1898
     
    1898
    (3 June)
     
    Constitutional referenda to approve the draft Constitution, New South Wales (failed), Victoria, Tasmania (both approved).
     
    1898
    (4 June)
    Constitutional referendum in South Australia to approve the draft Constitution (approved).  
    1899
    (24-27 January)
    A special Premiers' Conference made various alterations to the draft Constitution to make it more acceptable to New South Wales.  
    1899
    (29 April)
    Constitutional referendum in South Australia to approve the revised draft Constitution (approved).  
    1899
    (20 June)
    Constitutional referendum in New South Wales to approve the revised draft Constitution (approved).  
    1899
    (27 July)
    Constitutional referenda in Victoria, Tasmania approve the revised draft Constitution  
    1899
    (2 September)
    Constitutional referendum in Queensland approves the revised draft Constitution  
    1900
    (31 July)
    Constitutional referendum in Western Australia approves the Constitution. This was held after the new Constitution was enacted, but before it was proclaimed.  
    1901
    (1 January)
    The Constitution took effect when the Commonwealth of Australia was inaugurated. Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900 (UK)
    1903 High Court established in accordance with Chapter III of the Constitution. Judiciary Act 1903 (Cwlth)
     
    1904 The federal system of conciliation and arbitration was established-Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904 (Cwlth)
    1904 A Colonial Conference, held in London, included governments from all parts of the British Empire, in recognition of their independent status.  
    1906
    (12 December)
    Constitutional amendment carried involving changes to Senators' terms. Constitution Alteration (Senate Elections) Act 1906 (Cwlth)
    1907
     
    The reservation powers of Governors was limited to Bills which altered the Constitution or legislature of a State. Australian States Constitution Act 1907 (UK)
    1910
    (13 April)
    Constitutional amendment carried giving the Commonwealth unrestricted power to take over State debts. Constitution Alteration (State Debts) Act 1909 (Cwlth)
    1910 First regularised scheme of Commonwealth grants to States. Surplus Revenue Act 1910 (Cwlth)
    1911 Northern Territory separated from South Australia. Northern Territory Surrender Act 1907 (SA)
    Northern Territory Acceptance Act 1910 (Cwlth)
    Northern Territory (Administration) Act 1910 (Cwlth)
    1911 Australian Capital Territory separated from New South Wales. Seat of Government Acceptance Act 1909 (Cwlth)
    Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1910 (Cwlth)
    1914-19 Colonial involvement in British Imperial War Cabinet and in post-war peace discussions. Australia was separately represented at the Peace Conference.  
    1917 A United Kingdom resolution stated that Governors-General were to be regarded as representatives of the Crown and not in any sense representatives of, or answerable to, the British Government.  
    1920 Australia was an independent (and founder) member of the League of Nations.  
    1920 The High Court overturned the doctrines of 'implied immunities' and 'reserved State powers' previously underpinning High Court cases on intergovernmental relations. Since then, High Court interpretation of the Constitution has given the Commonwealth economic and other powers greater than envisaged by the Constitution-writers. Amalgamated Society of Engineers v Adelaide Steamship Co Ltd 1926
    1922 Queensland Legislative Council abolished. Constitution Act Amendment Act 1922 (QLD)
    1926 The High Court confirmed that specific purpose payments from the Commonwealth to the States could be directed to areas of government responsibility that were not included in formal Commonwealth responsibilities. Victoria v Commonwealth (1926) (Roads Case)
    1926 The Balfour Declaration recognised that the 'self-governing communities comprised of Great Britain and the dominions' were 'autonomous ... within the British Empire, equal in status, in no way subordinate to another in any aspect of their domestic or external affairs ...'
     
    Imperial Conference 1926 Summary of Proceedings
    1927 The Financial Agreement established the Loan Council, designed to bring governmental borrowing under central control. A new arrangement for Commonwealth Grants to the States was put in place. Financial Agreement Act 1928 (Cwlth)
    1927-29 Royal Commission on the Constitution investigated various matters including:
    • the powers of the Commonwealth
    • the working of the Constitution since Federation
    • possible changes to the Constitution
    • a number of specific matters including aviation, company law and health.
    Report of the Royal Commission on the Constitution, 1929
    1928
    (17 November)
    Constitutional amendment carried giving constitutional validity to the Loan Council. Constitution Alteration (State Debts) Act 1928 (Cwlth)
    1930 In the wake of the controversial appointment of Australian-born Governor-General Isaacs, an Imperial Conference accepted that henceforth the monarch would act on the advice of the relevant country, and not the British Government, in appointing a Governor-General.  
    1931 As a follow-up to the 1926 Imperial Conference, the Dominions were declared to be 'autonomous Communities within the British Empire, equal in status, in no way subordinate to one another in any respect of their domestic or external affairs, though united one to another by a common allegiance to the Crown, and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations'.
    This was a major landmark in the shift from the notion of the 'British Empire' to the 'British Commonwealth of Nations'-from colonial status to national independence.
    Once the Statute was adopted by a Dominion, it released that Dominion from:
    • restrictions on its power to enact legislation outside its territory
    • the overriding force of existing British law
    • further British legislation, unless requested by, and consented to, the Dominion concerned.
    However, two impediments to full Australian legal independence remained:
    • the United Kingdom parliament could still legislate for the Commonwealth, though only following the Commonwealth's 'request and consent' for it to do so
    • the States were still bound by the repugnancy doctrine laid down in the Colonial Laws Validity Act 1865.
    Statute of Westminster 1931 (UK)
    1932
    (13 May)
    Dismissal of New South Wales Government by the Governor.  
    1933 Commonwealth Grants Commission established to advise the Commonwealth Government on State applications for financial assistance. Commonwealth Grants Commission Act 1933 (Cwlth)
     
    1934
    (16-18 February)
     
    A conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers met at Melbourne to discuss aspects of the federal system.
     
    Conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers on Constitutional Matters 1934
    1939
    (3 September)
    Australia was considered to be “automatically at war” with Germany following the declaration of war by the United Kingdom. Australia therefore made no general declaration of war. Commonwealth of Australia Gazette, 3 September 1939
    1942
    (24 November-2 December)
    Convention of Commonwealth and State representatives to discuss the question of giving the Commonwealth Parliament extra powers in relation to the matter of post-war reconstruction. Convention of Representatives of the Commonwealth and State Parliaments on Proposed Alteration of the Commonwealth Constitution. Record of Proceedings.
    1942 The Statute of Westminster was adopted by the Commonwealth Parliament, with the adoption being backdated to 3 September 1939, the date on which war was declared on Germany by the United Kingdom.
     
    Statute of Westminster Adoption Act 1942 (Cwlth)
    1942 Commonwealth legislation established the Commonwealth's effective monopoly over income taxation. This was confirmed in the First Uniform Tax Case. South Australia, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia v Commonwealth (1942)
    1946
    (28 September)
    Constitutional amendment carried giving the Commonwealth power to make special laws with respect to certain social services. Constitution Alteration (Social Services) Act 1946 (Cwlth)
    1948 First Australian citizenship legislation passed. Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948 (Cwlth)
    1956-59 The Joint Committee on Constitutional Review was appointed to review the Constitution and to make any recommendations for constitutional amendment that it thought necessary. Report from the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review, 1959
    1957 Commonwealth monopoly over income taxation remained in place, despite second State challenge. Victoria v Commonwealth (1957)
    1967
    (27 May)
    Constitutional amendment carried giving the Commonwealth power to make special laws with respect to Aborigines living in the States and to include indigenous people in the national census. Constitution Alteration (Aboriginals) Act 1967 (Cwlth)
    1968 Matters which could be appealed from the High Court to the Privy Council were limited, and appeals to the Privy Council from other Federal and Territory courts abolished. Privy Council (Limitation of Appeals) Act 1968 (Cwlth)
    1971 As a consequence of a High Court decision, the Commonwealth gained power to control a substantial part of Australian trade when conducted by corporations. Strickland v Rocla Concrete Pipes Ltd (1971)
    1973 The Queen was from then on to be refereed to as: 'Queen of Australia'. Royal Styles and Titles Act 1973 (Cwlth)
    1973
    (3-7 September)
    Victoria called upon other governments to join in a constitutional convention to consider problems of Australian federalism.
    Australian Constitutional Convention, Sydney session.
    Proceedings of the Australian Constitutional Convention 1973
    1975 The High Court confirmed that sovereign rights over territorial seas and the continental shelf were vested in the Commonwealth. New South Wales v Commonwealth (1975)
    1975 Privy Council (Appeals from the High Court) Act 1975 prevented appeals being taken from the High Court to the Privy Council without a certificate from the High Court. The High Court has said it will not issue such a certificate.  
    1975
    (24-26 September)
    Australian Constitutional Convention, Melbourne session Proceedings of the Australian Constitutional Convention 1975
    1975
    (11 November)
    Dismissal of Commonwealth Government by the Governor-General.  
    1975
    (16 November)
    In regard to the dismissal of the Commonwealth Government, the Queen declared in letter to Speaker of House of Representatives her inability, 'to intervene in person in matters which are so clearly placed within the jurisdiction of the Governor-General by the Constitution Act'.  
    1976
    (27-29 October)
    Australian Constitutional Convention, Hobart session Proceedings of the Australian Constitutional Convention 1976
    1977
    (21 May)
    Constitutional amendments carried that were aimed at ensuring that a replacement Senator should be from the same party as the departing Senator and giving voters residing in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory the right to vote in constitutional referenda providing a retirement age (65) for all federal judges Constitution Alteration (Senate Casual Vacancies) Act 1977 (Cwlth)
    Constitution Alteration (Referendums) Act 1977 (Cwlth)
    Constitution Alteration (Retirement of Judges) Act 1977 (Cwlth)
    1978 Self-government established in the Northern Territory. Northern Territory (Self-Government) Act 1978 (Cwlth)
    1983 The High Court suggested that the external affairs power of the Constitution gave the Commonwealth power to legislate on a matter of international concern whether or not Australia was a party to a treaty on that matter.
     
    Commonwealth v Tasmania (1983) (“The Tasmanian Dams Case”)
    1983
    (26-29 April)
    Australian Constitutional Convention, Adelaide session. Proceedings of the Australian Constitutional Convention 1983
    1984
    (19 April)
    'God Save the Queen' declared the Royal Anthem.
    'Advance Australia Fair' declared the National Anthem.
    Commonwealth of Australia Gazette 19 April 1984
    1985
    (29 July-1 August)
    Australian Constitutional Convention, Brisbane session. Proceedings of the Australian Constitutional Convention 1985
    1986
     
    The final steps in Australia's attaining independence from the UK were taken:
    • the Australian States and the Commonwealth confirmed their 'sovereign, independent' status from Britain
    • Britain could no longer legislate for any part of Australia
    • all Privy Council appeals ended from Australian courts other than the High Court-it remains theoretically possible for some appeals to be taken under s.74 of the Constitution
    • State Governors were not representatives of British Government
    • States could now legislate to repeal or amend any UK legislation extending to them.
    Australia Act 1986 (Cwlth), Australia Act 1986 (UK)
    1985-88
     
    A Constitutional Commission inquired into and reported on the possible revision of the Australian Constitution. Final Report of the Constitutional Commission 1988
    1988 Self-government established in the Australian Capital Territory. Australian Capital Territory (Self-Government) Act 1988 (Cwlth)
    1992 The Mabo case suggested that customary laws of Australia's indigenous people may have legal standing, providing legislative or executive actions have not extinguished them. Mabo v Queensland (No 2) (1992)
    1993 Republic Advisory Committee appointed to produce an options paper describing the minimum constitutional changes that would be necessary to achieve an Australian federal republic. An Australian Republic. The Report of the Republic Advisory Committee, 1993
    1997 State excise/franchise tax regimes struck down. Ha v New South Wales (1997)
    1998
    (2-13 February 1998)
    Constitutional Convention met in Canberra to consider the question of whether or not Australia should become a republic. Report of the Constitutional Convention 1998
    1998
    (3 October)
    Northern Territory Statehood referendum (failed).  
    1998 High Court confirms that the UK is a foreign power for purposes of determining Australian citizenship. Sue v Hill (1999)
    1999
    (June-July)
    All States passed uniform request legislation to allow the Commonwealth Parliament to amend s.7 of the Australia Act 1986. This request legislation would not commence unless the 6 November referendum were successful. The amendment of s.7 was necessary to facilitate the establishment of republics at the State level.  
    1999
    (6 November)
    Referendum on proposed constitutional amendment to change Australia to a republic. The alteration would see the Governor-General replaced by a President, and would provide a method for choosing and dismissing the President.
    Referendum on question of inserting a new preamble to the Constitution.
    Both referenda failed.
    Constitution Alteration (Establishment of Republic) Act 1999 (Cwlth)
    Constitution Alteration (Preamble) Act 1999 (Cwlth)
     

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