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Overview of Double Dissolution Procedure in Australia

Question:

Write an essay on "Australian federal election system and doubled solution".
 

The procedure of double dissolution has been permitted under the Constitution of Australia in the territory of Australia. The procedure aims in resolving the deadlocks in the Parliament of Australia that is bicameral in nature. The procedure of resolution of deadlock occurs between the lower house of the Parliament that is the House of Representatives and the upper house of the Parliament that is the Senate House (Salvador & Sinnott 2014).

In case the conditions that are known as the trigger are satisfied, then the Government of Australia can make the request to the Governor-General of Australia to indulge himself in order to dissolve the two Houses of the Parliament and can make the call of a full and fresh election. Now, subsequent to the election if the legislation that leads to triggering of the double dissolution is not passed in the two houses by then, there has to be the joint sitting of both the Houses of the Parliament may be called to cast their vote on that particular legislation. The joint sitting that took place in the year of 1974, still remains the sole occurrence in the federal history of Australia (Barber & Johnson 2014).

In case if the legislation gets passed in the joint sitting of the two houses, then the legislation shall be deemed to have been passed by the both houses of the Parliament, that is the Senate House and the House of Representatives. The double dissolution stands as the only scenario where the entire house of Senate may be dissolved (Bean & McAllister 2012).

In the historical perspective, an election based on the procedure of double dissolution had been called in the lieu of election that has been held earlier. Such election has been held with the bill of trigger not rendering a primary role during the election campaign that is held subsequent to that.

The Australian Parliamentary system is similar to the Congress of United States but not similar to the parliamentary system of Britain. The two houses of the Parliament of Australia in the general terms possess the equal and same legislative powers. The Senate House cannot make the amendment but can make the rejection of the appropriation and outright bills that have the origination in the House of Representatives. The Governments that are formed in the lower house of the Parliament of Australia may get frustrated by the Senate that is determined to make the rejection of any legislation that originates in the lower house (Bruns & Highfield 2013).

A certain part of Section 57 of the Australia Constitution states that procedure is taken when the lower house of the Parliament of Australia passes any law that is proposed and the Senate or the upper house makes the rejection of the same or fails to pass it or passes it with certain amendments. Such amendments may not be agreed by the lower house in the same or subsequent session. The lower house again can pass the law that is proposed without or with amendments that have been made by the Senate and again the Senate makes the rejection of the same or fail to pass it or pass it with amendments that shall not be agreed by the lower house. In this situation, the Governor-General dissolves both the houses of the Parliament of Australia simultaneously. But there has been the express stipulation in the Constitution of Australia in Section 57 that such dissolution shall not emerge or take place within the passage of six months prior to the date of expiry of the lower house by the efflux of time (Bruns et al., 2013).

Trigger Event and Conditions for Double Dissolution

The Said Section 57 also makes the provision after the election, if again the Senate rejects any bill that is subject to double dissolution for the third time, the Governor-General may arrange or convene a joint sitting of both the houses in order to make the consideration of the bill that includes the amendments that are to be made. Such amendments include the amendments that either has been proposed by the house or may be any new amendment. In case, any bill that is passed by the absolute majority of the total members of the joint sitting, then the bill is treated to be passed by both the houses and then is presented for the royal assent (Chen, 2013). 

In making the discussion of the double dissolution procedure, the discussion of the trigger event is needed to take into consideration. The procedure of double dissolution method comes into picture if the Lower House or the Senate fails to agree on any legislation twice. Such legislation is referred to as the proposed in Section 57 of the Australian Constitution that is commonly known as the trigger. During the existence of such a trigger, the Governor-General possess the power to make the dissolution of the two houses that is pursuant to Section 57 of the Australian Constitution. The Governor-General in such situation can also make the issue of the writs for any election in which every seat is subject to contest in the Parliament (Copeland & Römmele 2014).

There are several conditions that are stipulated by the Section 57 of the Constitution of Australia. Those conditions are as follows:

  • The trigger must have originated in the House of Representatives or the lower house.
  • There has been the elapse of three months between the two rejections of any bill by the Senate. The term rejection may mean the failure of the Senate to pass the bill or the passing of any bill with any amendments, which shall not be agreed, by the lower house of the Parliament.
  • The rejection that emerged for the second time must have occurred in the same session as to the first session or the subsequent session (Crocombe et al., 2014).

In the Constitution of Australia, there has been no such provision for making the resolution of deadlocks in relation to those bills that originates in the Senate and are blocked or rejected by the House of Representatives or the lower house. Thought the Constitution of Australia makes the reference to the actions that are possible by the Governor-General, but it had been taken long to make the presumption by the Constitution that the Governor-General acts only on the advice of the Prime Minister and the Ministers of the Cabinet. However, in the constitutional crisis that was demonstrated in the year of 1975, the then Governor-General was under compulsion to follow the advice of the Prime Minister. In the majority of the cases, the Governor-General must be satisfied individually that those conditions that are specified in the Australian Constitution are applied properly. The Governor-General is also entitled to seek such additional advice or information from any person of the Government before making any decision (da Cruz, 2013). 

In the case of Cormack v Cope in the year of 1974, the Chief Justice of the High Court Barwick made a unanimous decision. In delivering the decision, the Justice made the point that when there exists the disagreement regarding the any proposed law that has been subject to rejection by the Senate for twice, the Governor General has the power to dissolve the two Houses of the Parliament (Waugh et al., 2013). The Court also said that such dissolution must be done after the elapse of an appropriate time period between the rejection for the first time and the passing of the proposed law for the second time. There is the power given by the Australian Constitution in Section 5 to make the dissolution of the House of Representatives. The dissolution of the Senate or the upper house can only be done under Section 57 of the Constitution of Australia. The basis of such dissolution is has been laid down in details in the beginning of Section 57 of the Australian Constitution. The Court in delivering the decision in the said case while exercising the power of dissolution of both the houses of the Parliament for disagreement of passing any proposed law, there can be a misconception. The misconception relates to a fact that while making the dissolution, the Governor-General does not dissolve the Houses in relation to any particular law. He or she makes such dissolution merely (Griffin, 2014).

Roles and Powers of House of Representatives

Hence, from the above discussion it can be said that the Governor-General performs the act of dissolution of the houses on his own by way of proclamation. It also seems that such proclamation include any recital to that effect that is possessed by any specific law that is proposed. Justice Barwick also mentioned that such recital that is referred to any proposed law is not necessary (McCrea et al., 2015). That may act as misleading. In the first instance, it is not in the hands of the Governor-General to make the decision regarding the fact whether the occasion of taking the decision of double dissolution has arisen. Justice Barwick also made the point that it shall be given to discretion of the Court to decide if such situation of taking the decision of double dissolute has arisen. But Justice Barwick also held that the Governor-General should also possess the option of deciding the situation whether the situation of taking the decision of double dissolution has arisen. In case he fails to decide, he can make the approach to the Court (McCabe, 2014). 

In any election that is following any double dissolution, every State makes the election of their 12-seat delegation of Senate, while two territories make the representation in the Senate, each make the election of two senators as in an ordinary federal election. As all the seats are contested in the same election, it becomes easier for the parties who are smaller to win the seats under the proportional voting system in the Senate. The quota for the purpose of election of every senator in each State of Australia in a full election of Senate is 7.69% (Phillips & Spinks 2013). While in any normal election of half-Senate, the quota is 14.28%. The threshold is low for the small parties. The threshold for the significant parties is more, and there is rounding effect in the distribution of the votes of the candidates. The procedure of double dissolution favors that have a vote that is significantly greater or larger than the multiple that is required in the double dissolution vote and also greater than the normal quota multiple (Newman & Head 2015).

It is unlike in the case of a normal half election of the senate, the new elected Senate like that of the House, takes the office immediately. There is the alteration in the Senate cycle with the results of the election of the double dissolution. From the history of political perspective, there have been seven double dissolutions in Australia. Such dissolutions occurred in the year of 1914, 1951, 1974, 1975, 1983, 1987 and in the year of 2016. But, the joint sitting that is under the Section 57 of the Constitution has only taken place in the Year of 1974 (Phillips & Spinks 2013). 

In the year of 1974, the Labor Government was unable to pass a large amount of bills through the Senate that was hostile. The Government then announced an election of half-Senate is going to be conducted. That announcement took the matter to the High Court of Australia. The High Court made the decision regarding the fact that the question of validity of the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Act 1973, has no effective cause to make the double dissolution of the  houses of the Parliament. The Court also held the fact that the there is no sufficient time for the Senate either to pass the said legislation (Robertson, 2014).    

Reference List

Barber, S., & Johnson, S. (2014). Federal election results 1901–2014.Research Paper Series 2014, 15.

Bean, C., & McAllister, I. (2012). 27. Electoral Behaviour in the 2010 Australian Federal Election. Julia 2010: The caretaker election, 341.

Bruns, A., & Highfield, T. (2013). Political networks on Twitter: Tweeting the Queensland state election. Information, Communication & Society, 16(5), 667-691.

Bruns, A., Highfield, T., & Sauter, T. (2013). # ausvotes Mark Two: Twitter in the 2013 Australian Federal Election. Selected Papers of Internet Research.

Chen, P. J. (2013). Australian politics in a digital age. ANU Press.

Copeland, L., & Römmele, A. (2014). Beyond the Base? Political Parties, Citizen Activists, and Digital Media Use in the 2009 German Federal Election Campaign. Journal of Information Technology & Politics, 11(2), 169-185.

Crocombe, L. A., Slack-Smith, L., Bell, E., & Barnett, T. (2014). The changing oral health situation in Australia and moving towards primary oral health care.

da Cruz, M. (2013). Annandale on the Web-2013 Federal Election.

Griffin, D. (2014). Postscript: Australian Educational Futures After the 2013 Federal Election. In Education Reform: The Unwinding of Intelligence and Creativity (pp. 307-315). Springer International Publishing.

McCabe, K. (2014). Policy, politics, and personalities: Tony Abbott’s and Kevin Rudd’s use of social media during the 2013 Australian federal election. In Australian and New Zealand Communication Association Annual Conference (pp. 1-22). ANZCA.

McCrea, R., Leviston, Z., Walker, I., & Shyy, T. K. (2015). Climate Change Beliefs Count: Relationships With Voting Outcomes at the 2010 Australian Federal Election. Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 3(1), 124-141.

Newman, J., & Head, B. W. (2015). Categories of failure in climate change mitigation policy in Australia. Public Policy and Administration, 0952076714565832.

Phillips, J., & Spinks, H. (2013). Boat arrivals in Australia since 1976.Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Parliamentary Library: Australian Government.

Robertson, J. (2014). The Sept. 2013 Australian Federal Election One era ends, and another begins…. ì„ ê±°ì—°êµ¬, 4(1), 189-203.

Salvador, E., & Sinnott, R. O. (2014). A Cloud-based Exploration of Open Data: Promoting Transparency and Accountability of the Federal Government of Australia. In SIMBig (pp. 22-32).

Waugh, B., Abdipanah, M., Hashemi, O., Rahman, S. A., & Cook, D. M. (2013). The Influence and Deception of Twitter: the authenticity of the narrative and slacktivism in the Australian electoral process.

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