The Cambridge Handbook of the Social Sciences in Australia

By Ian McAllister; Steve Dowrick et al. | Go to book overview
Save to active project

1996 showed Labor's new commitment to improving the efficiency of federalism and streamlining intergovernmental relations. The same has been true of state Labor governments, even in reforming state upper houses. Labor's federal conversion was part of a broader transformation of the party from a trade-union-based workers' party, pledged to centralise power for purposes of statist intervention and economic control, to a party of public managers committed to neoliberal economics, market solutions and targeting of welfare policies.

The transformation of the Labor party has helped stabilise institutional harmony between federalism and responsible parliamentary government, which some see as an unworkable combination. Australia's constitution accommodates responsible government within a federal democratic structure. Australia's system cannot be classified strictly as 'constrained parliamentarianism', as Ackerman (2000) defines it, because the executive is fully integrated within the House of Representatives. Nevertheless, the Senate has virtually coequal formal powers with the House of Representatives and is typically controlled by minor parties. Hence, Australia does have a modified system of constrained parliamentarianism in which the executive controls one dominant part of the legislature but has to deal with a second, independent legislative chamber to have its legislation passed. Except for the 1975 constitutional crisis, which was the exception rather than the rule (that Ackerman mainly relies upon), Australian parliamentary government is constrained without being gridlocked.

Australia's success with federal constitutional government is one notable case among a handful of countries dominated by the US, whose constitution the Australians copied, and including Canada and Switzerland, which were also well-established models in the late nineteenth century. Despite criticism by proponents of unitary government and majoritarian democracy, federalism has become the dominant model for large and pluralist nations, including postwar Germany. It is increasingly an institutional means for achieving devolution of national government, as in Belgium and Spain, and for transnational association, as in the European Union. Given British devolution and membership of the European Union, New Zealand has become the precarious exemplar of unitary government and parliamentary sovereignty in recent times (Catley 2001). With the world becoming more federalised and federalism being an appropriate system for dealing with globalisation, Australia's federal constitution that has served it well for a century is likely to continue to do so into the twenty-first century.


References

Ackerman, B. 2000. The new separation of powers. Harvard Law Review 113:634–729.

Alston, P., and M. Chiam. 1995. Treaty-Making and Australia: Globalization versus Sovereignty? Sydney: Federation Press.

Blackshield, T., M. Coper and G. Williams (eds). 2001. The Oxford Companion to the High Court. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Brown, D. 2002. Market Rules: Economic Union Reform and Intergovernmental Policy-Making in Australia and Canada. Kingston, Ontario: McGill/Queens University Press.

-246-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
The Cambridge Handbook of the Social Sciences in Australia
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 705

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?