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Some differences and similarities between the Australian and United States federal legislatures

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Introduction

Some differences and similarities between the Australian and United States federal legislatures. At first glance, both Australia and the United States of America appear to have similar political systems. They are both federations with an elected House of Representatives and elected Senate. However, Australia is a monarchy and the United States is a republic. Australia's political system is derived from Britain, while the United States was influenced by eighteenth century France. This table sets out some of the major differences and then lists a selection of similarities between the two systems. It is not an exhaustive list of characteristics. 1. Constitution Australia United States The Commonwealth of Australia was established by an Act of the British (Imperial) Parliament in 1900. The Australia Act came into operation on 16 May, 1901. The US Constitution was written in 1787 and the required number of states ratified it in the following year. The first Congress met in 1789. Executive power is vested in the Queen and is exercised by the Governor-General. There is no mention of the Prime Minister or the Cabinet which are traditional functions of the parliamentary system and follow rules of convention. Executive power is vested in the President.

Middle

The President can be removed if he is impeached* by the House of Representatives and convicted by a two-thirds vote in the Senate. The Governor-General is appointed by the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister. The appointment is for three years and can be extended. The President is elected for four years by the voters of the United States. No significant similarities. *Impeached means to charge a person with treason or with a very serious criminal offence. 4. Executive Australia United States The executive consists of ministers meeting as the Cabinet. Each minister is an elected MP or Senator. The executive is the President who is advised and assisted by the secretaries* of the Cabinet department. The Prime Minister selects ministers who are then commissioned by the Governor-General. Ministers lose their appointment when the Governor-General withdraws their commission on the advice of the Prime Minister or when they lose their seat in an election. The President selects and removes department secretaries. The Senate must confirm the appointment of each secretary and many other senior executive branch officials. Ministers are responsible to the Parliament. They must answer to the Parliament for the running of their department and the legislation they introduce into the Parliament. Secretaries are responsible to the President for their departments.

Conclusion

Voting is usually along party lines. Bills pass through stages. At each stage, a vote is taken to see whether the house supports the bill or not. Amendments can be made to bills at certain stages. Whips or party managers organise the hour by hour operations of debating and voting in each house. All legislative houses and all debates are open at all times to the public and to the media. 7. Party System Australia United States There are two major parties (Liberal and Labor) and four minor parties, National, Australian Democrats, Greens, One Nation). There are two major parties (Republicans and Democrats). There are no minor parties in Congress at the moment. Party discipline is very strong. Party members vote with the party. The Australian Democrats Party in the Senate allows greater voting freedom. Party discipline is not imposed. Party unity in voting is high, but all Representatives and Senators decide how they will vote. Both Houses contain independents. A few Independents are sometimes elected to Congress, but they become closely associated with one of the two parties. Some Similarities Parties tend to be conservative or progressive. The conservative parties include the Republicans (USA), the Liberal Party of Australia, and the National Party of Australia. The progressive parties include the Democrats in the USA and the Australian Labor Party, the Australian Democrats and Greens parties.

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