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Australia's Constitution, Fossilised?

  • Date Submitted: 01/28/2010 07:16 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 38.6 
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The Australian constitution which came into effect on the first of January, 1901 was a significant Act which forged the Federal Commonwealth of Australia. The constitution is a set of rules which have been created to establish principles to help define and control the institutions of government and sets out rules and procedures that must be followed in order for their actions to be lawful.

(Butterworth Course Materials, 2001)



It has been recently stated by a writer that the Australian Constitution had become fossilised and that changes were urgently required to modernise it. This is because changing the Commonwealth Constitution can only occur in accordance with section 128. Briefly, it states that a bill must be passed by an absolute majority of both houses of parliament and between two and six months after approval by the parliament the proposed alteration must be submitted to voters in each state and territory. The bill then requires a majority of the electorate nationwide plus a majority of voters in a majority of states (4:6) must approve the referendum. This process is known as “double majority”. Only after the bill has been passed with the support of an overwhelming majority from the electorate can the proposed alteration be presented to the Governor General for royal assent.

(S, 128, 1900)  



The first major feature of section 128, states that a proposed alteration to the constitution begins as a Commonwealth Bill that must pass by “absolute majority” through each house of parliament.  

(Evans, H, 1997 p. 263.)

This procedure puts effective control for the setting of new agendas strictly in the hands of the Commonwealth Government. Commentators have been critical of this procedure and suggest that it generates a monopoly for the government of the day; automatically helping to create the suspicion of centralised control by the government over changes to the constitution. This sense of suspicion may...

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