Australia became a nation on 1 January 1901 when the six English colonies – New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia and Tasmania – decided to federate, or unite. The Australian Constitution, which outlines our form of government, was drafted at a series of conventions (meetings) attended by representatives of the colonies. In deciding Australia’s system of government, the drafters of the Constitution were influenced by the Westminster tradition of the British Parliament. A detailed look at federation and the drafting of the Constitution can be found in this paper.
In the Westminster tradition the government is scrutinised (closely examined) by the opposition. In the Australian Parliament the party or coalition of parties with the support of the majority of members elected to the House of Representatives becomes the government. The opposition is the largest party or coalition of parties that does not have the support of the majority of members in the House of Representatives. There are also independent and minor party members in the Australian Parliament.
The opposition has many roles including:
Whilst the opposition scrutinies the government, they do not always disagree with the government. The opposition can decide whether to support, oppose or suggest changes to the government’s ideas and bills. The majority of bills that the government brings to the parliament are supported by the opposition.