PRINCIPLE 1: DEMOCRACY
The Constitution established the rules for our ongoing democratic Australian Government. Australia shares some of our constitutional arrangements with other democracies. Like some others we elect a Parliament. Yet unlike most we have compulsory voting. All Australian citizens 18 and over must vote for their Members of Parliament in Federal and State Government elections. They must also vote in Local Government Council elections. Together, all our democratic constitutional concepts and our interpretations of them give us a democracy that is uniquely Australian.
No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise…
…Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried…
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said this in the British House of Commons after the World War II defeat of the fascist Nazi regime in Germany.
What is democracy?
The meaning of democracy in our modern world can be very hard to put your finger on. We know it involves governments and elections. Here in Australia we have a parliamentary representative democracy. This means that we vote for people to represent our views in the Parliament.
Our Parliamentarians are ‘directly chosen by the people’
Sections 7 and 24 of our Constitution say that we get to vote for our Parliamentary representatives. Some countries don’t do this. For instance, the United Kingdom and Canada have upper houses (what we call the Senate) where members are chosen by the Government.
What about the voting method?
Democracy is always changing and adapting to suit the times. That’s why the people who wrote our Constitution left it to Parliament to pass election laws. Over time the vote was extended to women and Aborigines. Parliament makes laws on things such as political advertising and donations, whether prisoners can vote, how elections are conducted and disputes are solved.
Chief Justice Gleeson, Case: Roach v Electoral Commissioner (2007)
How does our Constitution protect our democracy?
By providing for a system of representative government, our Constitution enshrines democracy. This brings with it certain implied rights, such as freedom of political communication.
Click here to download a PDF of Principle 1: Democracy in detail
Click here to read about the Democracy High Court Case - The right to vote survives incarceration