GLOSSARY OF CONSTITUTIONAL TERMS
Places that hold great meaning and significance to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples history and culture.
More than half the total votes of all those eligible to vote; in a house of Parliament, one more than half the votes of the total number of members of the house, whether they are present or not, as opposed to a simple majority.
Involvement and informed participation in the civic and political activities of society at local, state, national, regional and global levels. It contrasts with ‘passive citizenship’ where citizens participate only minimally to meet their basic individual responsibilities including voting and paying taxes.
Act (of Parliament)
A law made by Parliament; a bill which has passed all three readings in each house and has received the royal assent.
As defined in the Australian Curriculum: History, the ancient period covers history from the development of early human communities (from 60 000 BC) to the end of late antiquity (around 650 CE).
Apply to a higher court for a reversal of the decision of a lower court.
As defined in the Australian Curriculum: History, Asia refers to the territorial area that extends from the western border of Pakistan, to the northern border of Mongolia, the eastern border of Japan, and to the southern border of Indonesia.
Australian Government, the
The national government of the Commonwealth of Australia, which is also known as the federal government or the Commonwealth Government. It was established by the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act at the time of Federation in 1901.
Legal documents that outline the minimum pay rates and conditions of employment.
A person called to the bar and entitled to practise as an advocate, particularly in the higher courts.
Historically, a man who held lands or property and held his rights and title by military or other honourable service directly from a feudal superior (King).
An abbreviation of ‘before Christ’. Historical dates before the birth of Christ are classified as BC.
A proposal for a new law which has been presented to Parliament.
Bill of Rights
A summary of fundamental rights and privileges guaranteed to a people against violation by the government.
burden of proof
In law, an obligation to prove what is alleged. In criminal cases, this obligation rests on prosecution, which must prove its case beyond reasonable doubt. In civil cases, it rests on a plaintiff, who must prove his or her case on the balance of probabilities. Sometimes, however, this burden shifts, for example, where a defendant raises particular defences.
The Cabinet consists of the most senior ministers, including the Prime Minister in our federal government. The Cabinet's role is to make major policy decisions, including decisions about spending, appointments and introducing legislation.
An official count or survey, especially of a population.
A study of time. In history, chronology involves an arrangement of events in order, as in a timeline.
A court that sits at two or more places within one judicial district.
A person who holds citizenship of a polity, such as a country, and who is a member of a political community that grants certain rights and privileges to its citizens, and in return expects them to act responsibly such as to obey their country's laws.
In the Australian Curriculum: Humanities and Social Sciences, there are two uses of the term:
1. A legal status granted by birth or naturalisation to citizens involving certain rights (for example, protection, passport, voting) and responsibilities (for example, obey the law, vote, defend country). A modern sense incorporates three components: civil (rights and responsibilities), political (participation and representation), and social (social virtues and community involvement).
2. An identifiable body of knowledge, understanding and skills relating to the organisation and working of society, including a country's political and social heritage, democratic processes,
Government, public administration and judicial systems.
A participation one has within a community or communities as distinct from private and family life.
An identifiable body of knowledge, skills and understandings relating to the organisation and working of society. It refers to a nation’s political and social heritage, democratic processes, government, public administration and legal system.
Habits of people that display courtesy, politeness and formal regard for others. These behaviours contribute to society’s effective functioning.
The joining together of two or more groups or parties, usually to form a government or opposition.
The action or process of settling among and establishing control over the indigenous people of an area.
A country or area under the full or partial political control of another country and occupied by settlers from that country.
A term that is popularly understood as sharing of resources among a community for the benefit of that community as a whole. The common good is often seen as a utilitarian ideal representing the greatest possible good for the greatest possible number of individuals as opposed to the private good for
individuals or sections of society.
A body of English law traditionally based on custom and court decisions. Also known as case law or precedent, it is law developed by judges through decisions of earlier courts and an understanding of current context.
Commonwealth of Australia
The nation established 1 January 1901 as "one indissoluble Federal Commonwealth under the Crown" and for which the Constitution is the foundation document. Tasks considered as better performed by a Federal Government for the common good of the people are outlined in section 51 of the Constitution.
A system of government in which the ultimate goal is that all (or nearly all) property and resources are collectively owned and produced by a classless community and not by individual citizens.
A formal meeting of people with a shared interest, typically one that takes place over several days.
The support of more than half the members of the House of Representatives for the government, which may be shown by voting on a particular major issue.
Preservation, protection, or restoration of the natural environment and of wildlife.
A set of rules on which a country, state or other organisation (such as a club) is governed. Usually, this takes the form of a legal document setting out specific powers for a government or governing of that entity.
1. Having the power of, or existing because of, the laws set out in the Constitution.
2. In agreement with, or depending on, the laws set out in the Constitution.
1. An unwritten rule or practice, or an established custom, relating to the operation of a constitution.
2. A meeting called to consider or draw up a constitution.
A form of monarchy in which a monarch acts according to law as required by the constitution and that in exercising his or her discretionary powers, the monarch, or their representative the Governor-General, acts on advice of responsible ministers, excluding exceptional circumstances.
A man or woman under sentence of the law. Many convicts were sentenced to deportation from England to Australia from 1788 until 1868.
Australia’s highest court.
The highest court in each of the Australian States.
A body of beliefs, attitudes, skills and tools by which communities structure their lives and interact with their environments.
A situation where the Senate fails for a second time, within a specified timeframe, to pass a bill as agreed to by the House of Representatives.
A person sent or authorised to represent others, in particular an elected representative sent to a conference or convention. They can be appointed or elected.
A system of government where power is vested in the people, who may exercise it directly or through elected representatives, and who may remove and replace their political leaders and government in free and fair regular elections. It is a system of government grounded in liberal democratic values and a belief in civic engagement. In Australia it includes a written constitution, a well-established representative parliamentary process based on the Westminster system, and a constitutional monarch. The key values of Australian democracy include freedom of election and being elected, freedom of assembly and political participation, freedom of belief; speech, expression and religious, rule of law and other basic human rights.
The making of statutory rules, regulations, legislative instruments and subordinate legislation by the Executive.
A system of government where one person makes all the rules and decisions without input from anyone else.
division of powers
Vesting of powers within different levels of government. Under the Australian Constitution, the Commonwealth Government was vested with specific powers while the states retained general powers. In practice, the distribution of powers has become increasingly centralised over time.
The dissolution by the Governor-General of the Senate and the House of Representatives simultaneously, resulting in the termination of all business before them, and the calling of an election to return members for all seats in both houses; this may occur only in circumstances of deadlock between the houses prescribed in section 57 of the Constitution.
A formal and organized choice by vote of a person for a political office or other position.
People who have the right to participate in an election and chose to do so.
An extensive group of states or countries ruled over by a single monarch, or a sovereign state, which exercises political, economic and cultural rule or control over the people within, such as the Roman Empire and the British Empire.
A European intellectual movement of the late 17th and 18th centuries emphasising reason and individualism rather than tradition. It was heavily influenced by 17th-century philosophers such as Descartes, Locke, and Newton, and its prominent figures included Kant, Goethe, Voltaire, Rousseau, and Adam Smith.
exclusive power (of the Constitution)
The sole right, given by the Constitution, of the federal Parliament, as opposed to state parliaments, to legislate on certain subjects; for example, the power to make laws for the whole country on customs and excise duties.
1. the branch of government which carries out or administers the laws. It comprises the Governor-General (or Governor at the state level), the ministry and the public service.
2. Ministers from the governing party who make policy and control government departments, and who are answerable to Parliament for the way they run the government. The Executive may make delegated legislation (a range of legal rules).
A constitutional mechanism for providing ministerial advice to the Governor-General. The Executive Council, which is comprised of ministers and presided over by the Governor-General(or Governor, at the state level) meets to advise the Governor-General or Governor to approve decisions that have been made by the Cabinet. Once approved, decisions are given effect by the public service.
A system of government that elevates nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralised autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.
A principle of government, which defines a relationship between the central government at the national level and its constituent units at the regional, state or local levels. In Australia, federalism is the division of powers between the federal government and the states and territories.
The forming of a nation by the union of a number of states, each of which retains some power to govern itself, while ceding some powers to a national government. In Australia, the creation of a single nation in 1901 by the joining together of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania to be known as the Commonwealth of Australia.
The federal government passes laws such as defence, trade, immigration, currency and marriage.
The dominant social system in medieval Europe, in which the nobility held lands from the Crown in exchange for military service, and vassals were in turn tenants of the nobles, while the peasants (villeins or serfs) were obliged to live on their lord's land and give him homage, labour, and a share of the produce, notionally in exchange for military protection.
A term of office with a defined beginning and end.
Denoting an underlying basis or principle.
Framer (of the Australian Constitution)
Key people who played a role in Australia's path to Federation and in the drafting and writing of the Australian Constitution.
The right to vote
The group of people with the authority to govern a country or state, a particular ministry in office.
A representative of the monarch at the federal level in Australia, the Governor-General exercises most of the monarch’s powers.
Other powers are conferred upon the Governor-General by the Constitution and statutes. In exercising his or her powers, the Governor-General is bound by convention to act on advice of his or her responsible ministers, except in relation to reserve powers.
A national day, held in Australia, which celebrates Australia’s cultural diversity and promotes intercultural understanding and peace.
House of Representatives
One of the two houses of the federal Parliament of Australia, whose Members are elected on a population basis.
Rights that come from being human. That is, the basic rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled, often held to include the right to life and liberty, freedom of thought and expression, and equality before the law.
The action of coming to live permanently in a foreign country.
Implied rights are not clearly outlined in the Constitution but are suggested or inferred in its text. Implied rights are found by the Justices of the High Court by 'reading between the lines' of the Constitution.
joint sitting (of the two houses)
A meeting of both houses of Parliament together to make a decision on a proposed law which the two houses, sitting separately, have been unable to agree on.
The judicial authorities of a country, judges collectively.
A body of people who are citizens (typically twelve in number) sworn to give a verdict in a legal case on the basis of evidence submitted to them in court.
A system of rules that a particular country or community recognises as regulating the actions of its members and which it may enforce by an imposition of penalties and sanctions.
In Australia, legislation is a written law, also known as an act of parliament or statute, which commences as a bill, is passed by the parliament and has received royal assent (by the Governor-General or a governor, or, in very rare cases, directly by the monarch). A statute may commence upon royal assent, or a specified date, or upon a date declared in a proclamation. Also see common law.
The lower house of Parliament in New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia and the sole house of Parliament in Queensland, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory.
The upper house of Parliament in all Australian states except Queensland.
The series of actions which result in a law being made.
The legislative body of a country or state.
An open document issued by a monarch or government conferring a patent or other right.
An approach to political arrangements that takes the view that the ideal political system should combine majority rule by the people with the protection of the political, legal and social rights of individuals and minority groups.
The six states and the Northern Territory have established one further level of government. Local governments (also known as local councils) handle community needs like waste collection, public recreation facilities and town planning. The state or territory government defines the powers of the local governments, and decides what geographical areas those governments are responsible for.
The exclusion of employees by their employer from their place of work until certain terms are agreed to.
The term magistrate is used in a variety of systems of governments and laws to refer to a civilian officer who administers the law. Magistrates have jurisdiction to try minor criminal cases and to conduct preliminary examinations of persons charged with serious crimes. In ancient Rome, a magistrate was one of the highest ranking government officers, and possessed both judicial and executive powers.
A written charter of liberties to which the English barons forced King John to give his assent in June 1215 at Runnymede.
Member of Parliament
A member of a house of Parliament, usually used to describe a member of a lower house and, in Australia, referring to Members of the House of Representatives, who may use the initials M.P. after their names.
minister (or minister of state)
A member of Parliament who is a member of the executive government, and who is usually in charge of a government department.
Members from both houses of the Federal Parliament chosen from the party or coalition of parties with a majority in the lower house to administer the country, who are formally appointed by the Governor-General as his or her ministers of state and together with the Governor-General form the executive government.
A government formed by a party or coalition of parties which does not have a majority in the House of Representatives in its own right.
A bill setting a tax or proposing the spending of money for a particular purpose.
The name given by the High Court of Australia to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples property rights recognised by the court in the Mabo judgement (3 June 1992). The Mabo judgment overthrew the concept of terra nullius – that the land of Australia had belonged to no one when the British arrived in 1788.
A large body of people united by common descent, history, culture, or language, inhabiting a particular state or territory.
The fact or status of being a nation, national identity and the evolution of a nation over time.
The second largest political party or coalition of parties after the government party in the House of Representatives which works to oppose what it believes to be wrong in government policies or actions, and which stands ready to form a government should the voters so decide at the next or a subsequent election.
A system of government in which power is vested in the people, who exercise their power through elected representatives in Parliament.
A system of government in which the executive government is answerable to the Parliament, in which the government is formed from members of the Parliament, and in which the Parliament is supreme.
An organisation which exists to achieve particular public policy objectives by having members elected to Parliament.
A preamble is an introductory statement at the beginning of a statute which usually explains its background, why it came into being and what are its purpose and aims. In a Constitution, it sometimes sets out the principles upon which a Constitution is based or the hopes of the new country.
A system of voting in which a voter shows an order of preference for candidates; if no candidate receives more than half of first preference votes (or in the case of voting for the Senate, candidates have not achieved a predetermined quota), the next preferences of voters for the least successful candidates are distributed until candidate or candidates are elected.
The chief minister of a government of a state.
The head of the national government, the chief minister in some countries, including Australia.
A fundamental source or basis of something that serves as the foundation for it.
principles of law
Recognised in all kinds of legal relations, regardless of the legal system to which it belongs.
A person legally committed to prison as a punishment for a crime or while awaiting trial.
A body of advisers appointed by the Queen or King (now chiefly on an honorary basis and including present and former government ministers).
A public or official announcement dealing with a matter of great importance.
A voting system, such as that used in elections for the Senate, when a number of candidates, who have received a pre-determined proportion rather than a majority of the vote after the distribution of preferences, are elected to represent the people of each state, voting as one electorate.
prorogue (the Parliament)
To end a session of Parliament without dissolving either House and therefore without a subsequent election.
A Queen's Counsel (post nominal QC), or King's Counsel (post nominal KC) during the reign of a king, is an eminent lawyer (usually a barrister or advocate) who is appointed by the Monarch to be one of "Her Majesty's Counsel learned in the law.
A vote by all voters on a question. In Australia, it is a public vote on a proposed law to alter the Constitution that must be approved by a majority of all voters in Australia, and also by a majority of voters in a majority (four) in the six states.
A system of government in which electors choose representatives to a parliament to make laws on their behalf.
Powers accorded to the Governor-General by convention which are not written into the Constitution and which may be exercised without ministerial advice.
The political idea of representation is based on the idea that some person or institution acts on behalf of the people, by re-presenting their beliefs, attitudes and perspectives.
The Australian political system is one in which the people elect members of Parliament to represent them, hence we have a system of representative government.
A system where the government is answerable to elected representatives of the people for its actions, especially a system where the ministry is drawn from within the Parliament from members of the party or parties which has the support of a majority of the lower house (in Australia the House of Representatives), and must maintain the confidence of a majority of that house.
A forcible overthrow of a government or social order, in favour of a new system.
rights and responsibilities
Entitlements and obligations that are associated with living in Australia. Rights and responsibilities are a cornerstone of modern democracies. While all people in Australia enjoy certain rights (for example, freedom of speech), there are also responsibilities (for example, paying taxes, jury service). Citizens also have the right to vote and the responsibility of voting at elections.
The signing of a bill by the Governor-General, which is the last step in making a bill into an Act of Parliament, or law.
A requirement to behave in a particular way; a set of explicit or understood regulations or principles governing conduct or procedure within a particular area of activity, for example, school rules, rules of cricket. Rules are usually developed and set by people who have the power and authority to create and enforce them.
rule of law (the)
A legal principle that decisions by government are made according to established principles and that all citizens are subject to the law and equal before the law. Embedded within the rule of law is the idea that people accept and follow, but also change as needed, laws as agreed by a political process and upheld by independent courts.
A ballot in which votes are cast in secret.
One of the two houses of the federal Parliament of Australia, which has 76 Senators, 12 from each of the six states and two each from the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory, elected from each state and territory voting as one electorate.
A member of the Australian Senate.
Separation of Powers
A doctrine that the three arms of government - the executive, the legislature (parliament) and the judiciary - are separate and independent, with powers that act as a check and balance on each other. In Australia, the separation between the executive and the legislature is weak (blurred) because the executive is drawn from the legislature, but the separation between the judiciary and the other two arms of government is strong and is enforced by courts.
Prior top 1901 the six States were British colonies. After federation they maintained their own parliaments found in the capital cities of each State. They have their own Constitutions and make laws in areas such as housing, education, health, police and transport.
A law made by Parliament, the legislative branch of a government
Not in accordance with the Constitution.
A society or association formed by people with a common interest or purpose, e.g. a trade union.
Scandinavian seafaring pirates and traders who raided and settled in many parts of North Western Europe in the 8th–11th centuries.
A means of formally expressing opinion or choice on an issue or electing a representative. The term is frequently understood in relation to government as a formal expression of preference for a candidate for office or for a proposed resolution of an issue within a parliament.
A system of parliamentary government, also known as responsible government, which evolved in England and was adopted in its colonies, including Australia. It is based on the principle that the executive government is responsible to the people through the parliament. The executive government is formed by those who command the support of the lower House of Parliament. Ministers, including the Prime Minister, are members of a House of Parliament and are accountable to it. There is a separate, largely ceremonial, head of state, an independent public service and an independent judiciary that applies the rule of law.
writs (for an election)
Formal orders, issued by the Governor-General in the case of Members of the House of Representatives and state governors in the case of state Senators, requiring that an election be held.