Wednesday, April 09, 2003


The cornerstone of the Westminster system is supposedly the separation of the three branches of state power - the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. It doesn't necessarily include the separation of Church and State, although the Australian Constitution does prohibit the government from making provision for an established church. Our legislature and judiciary are separated to the extent that (unlike the House of Lords) the Senate does not include any sitting judges among its members. In 1900, the House of Lords still included the 4 Lords of Appeal in Ordinary or "Law Lords" - an aspect of the then Westminster system our founding fathers decided not to reproduce. Nor did they provide for any "Senators Spiritual" in the membership of the upper house. Of course that hasn't stopped a few Senators Spiritual from entering Parliament from time to time, but at least they had to stand for election like anyone else.

In summary, because I've only time for a quick blog on this topic right now, it's time to drop this historical fiction of a "Westminster system" at least as it applies to Australia. What we have is a federation of states governed under our very own, home grown, Canberra system. Perhaps if we started recognising it as a piece of do-it-yourself genuine Aussie handiwork, instead of a precious heirloom handed down from the mother country which just had to be given a bit of a touch up here and there to make it presentable, we might start to recognise that not only is it possible to improve it, but there's nothing stopping us from doing so if we want to. We can bugger it up if we want to, as well. Because it's our bloody system of government [and nobody else's].

Postscript (Thursday, 10 April): if you're wondering why this post is split over two days, it's because I had to split it to fix up the errors that have been annoying me for the past 24 hours.


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