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Commonwealth of Australia was passed by the British Parliament, and the Commonwealth of Australia, by proclamation of 17th September 1900, came into existence on 1st January 1901.

Many of the bases of modern Australian social policy were established between Federation and the First World War. The social and industrial legislation which had begun in Victoria in the 1870s, with the introduction of free, secular and compulsory education and the passing of the first Factory Act, and which had gathered momentum during the eighties and nineties, was now continued in the Federal sphere. With the steady increase in the number of wage-earners, trade unionism had spread rapidly. Arbitration in industrial disputes had been introduced in Victoria and New South Wales after a general strike in 1890. In 1903 the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration was created to cover disputes extending outside the borders of a single State; in 1906 Chief Justice Higgins declared that it was for the Court to determine the minimum wage necessary for 'the normal needs of an average employee regarded as a human being in a civilized country'. Invalid and old-age pensions were introduced two years later, followed by maternity allowances.

While the foundations of a welfare state were being laid, a policy of protection was adopted to further national development and maintain full employment. By this and other means Federal and State Governments helped to reduce the dependence of the economy on primary production. Although iron and steel were manufactured as early as 1848, the modern industry in Australia dates from 1915, when the Broken Hill Proprietary, a Company formed originally to develop the Broken Hill silver mines, 'blew in' its first blast furnace at Newcastle. By 1939 the Company was producing the world's cheapest iron and steel. This helped to develop other industries, as well as mining. The older industries expanded and new industries such as the manufacture of glass, chemicals and electrical goods, were added. Industry, which in 1911 had accounted for only one fifth of the value of total production, by 1939 accounted for two fifths.

After the Second World War expansion and diversification accelerated. Australia became virtually self-sufficient in iron and steel in 1958. The car manufacturing industry developed and this in turn encouraged the development of oil refining. The mining of uranium and bauxite was developed as well as the mining of coal. Commercial oil fields were discovered. A rocket-launching site was constructed at Woomera.

Nevertheless, agriculture, and particularly sheep rearing, remained the mainstay of the country. From 1890 the expansion of Australian agriculture depended on improvements in method, in particular on the discovery of means of farming areas of low rainfall. The extended use of dry-farming techniques and the production in 1902 by William Farrer of a wheat resistant to both drought and rust made possible the rapid expansion of the wheat export trade. In 1886 the first major irrigation scheme was begun in Victoria, and, after Federation, major schemes were developed elsewhere. The Snowy Mountains scheme, although better known as a scheme for generating hydro-electricity, was primarily intended to divert easterly flowing rivers to irrigate areas to the west of the Blue Mountains. Elsewhere the discovery of artesian wells, particularly in the Great Artesian Basin of Queensland, made possible a further advance inland for the sheep and cattle rearing industries. In the north the increase in the area under sugar cane led to the temporary immigration of Chinese and Pacific Island labour.

The achievements of Australian troops in the 1914–18 War, particularly in the Gallipoli campaign (still commemorated on the public holiday of ‘Anzac Day'), fostered a sense of nationhood. At the Peace Conference at Versailles, the Australian Prime Minister, W. M. Hughes, played a prominent part. By the Peace Treaty Australia was entrusted with the administration of the former German Pacific colonies south of the Equator, and German New Guinea (renamed New Guinea) was later joined with Papua, which had become a Commonwealth territory in 1906, in an administrative union known as the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. In domestic politics, the war had stimulated the growth of sectional organisations outside the towns, and this led to the formation of the Country Party, which has remained one of the three major Federal political parties.

The depression of 1929 severely checked the pace of Australian development, which did not pick up again until shortly before the 1939 War, and reduced the inflow of immigrants. The Second World War and the Japanese advances in 1941 and 1942 made the Australians acutely aware of the inadequacy of their resources and manpower to fill the whole continent. The Australian Government therefore instituted a vigorous migration programme aimed at maintaining a high level of settler movement from the United Kingdom and other countries. By 31st December 1967 an estimated 2,260,000 settlers had entered Australia, of whom 1,140,000 were of British nationality.



The Commonwealth of Australia Constitution, which was enacted by the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900 (U.K.), established a Federal Parliament called the Parliament of the Commonwealth, consisting of the Queen, the Senate and the House of Representatives. A Governor-General appointed by the Queen is Her Majesty's representative in the Commonwealth. The Constitution requires that a session of the Parliament be held once at least in every year.


The Senate is composed of an equal number of senators for each of the six States of the Commonwealth, it having been the intention of the framers of the Constitution that the Senate should be both a States' House and a House of Review. Although originally there were thirty-six senators, this number has been increased to the present number of sixty (ten from each State) in pursuance of the Parliament's power under the Constitution to increase or diminish the number of senators for each State, but so that equal representation of the original States is maintained and no original State has less than six senators. The Senate is presided over by the President who is chosen by the senators from their own members. Senators are chosen for a term of six years. The places of one half of the Senators become vacant every three years. Immediately prior to the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1948 the method of electing senators was in general the 'preferential block majority system' under which as a general rule all seats in any one State went to the party or combination of parties favoured at the time by a simple majority of the electors, leaving the minority

without any representation at all in the Senate. The 1948 Act altered the system of Senate elections to one of proportional representation. The franchise for the election of senators is on the basis of adult suffrage, subject to electors being British subjects and having lived in Australia continuously for six months.

Where the place of a senator becomes vacant before the expiration of his term of office, the House or Houses of Parliament for the State for which he was chosen, sitting and voting together may choose a person to hold the place until either the expiration of the term, the next general election of the House of Representatives or the next election of senators of the State, whichever event first happens, at which time a senator is elected to hold the senate place until the expiration of the term. THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

The House of Representatives is presently composed of 124 members, and, although the number of members may be increased or decreased by the Parliament, such changes must comply with the requirement that the number of members shall, as nearly as practicable, be twice the number of senators. Unlike the Senate, which has equal representation for each State, the number of members of the House of Representatives chosen in the respective States is required to be in proportion to the respective numbers of their people, subject to certain guaranteed numbers of members from original States. The House of Representatives is presided over by the Speaker who is chosen by the members from their own numbers. Every House of Representatives continues for three years from the first meeting of the House, and no longer, but may be sooner dissolved by the Governor-General. Members of the House of Representatives are elected for electoral Divisions on a preferential voting system by adult British subjects who have lived in Australia for at least six months.

A casual vacancy occurring in the House of Representatives is filled by by-election, the member so returned holding his place until the expiration or prior dissolution of that House of Representatives. Voting is compulsory in elections for both Houses of Parliament.


To qualify for election as a member of the Senate or House of Representatives a person must be a British subject of the full age of twenty-one years, be an elector entitled to vote at the election of members of the House of Representatives, or a person qualified to become such an elector, and have been for three years at least a resident within the limits of the Commonwealth of Australia as existing at the time he is chosen. A member of either House of Parliament is incapable of being chosen or of sitting as a member of the other House. POWERS OF THE PARLIAMENT

The Constitution confers on the Parliament two classes of powers; those in respect of which the Parliament alone has power to legislate, i.e. exclusive powers, and those in respect of which the States retain power to legislate concurrently, i.e. concurrent powers. When a concurrent State law is inconsistent with a Commonwealth law, the Commonwealth law prevails and the State law is, to the extent of the inconsistency, invalid.

The matters in respect of which the Constitution expressly provides that the Parliament has exclusive power include the seat of Government of the Commonwealth and all places acquired by the Commonwealth for public purposes, the departments of the Commonwealth Public Service, the imposition of duties of customs and excise and, subject to limited exceptions, the granting of bounties on the production or export of goods.

The concurrent powers given to the Parliament include the power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth with respect of international and inter-State trade and commerce, taxation, defence, banking and insurance (other than State banking and State insurance), industrial property, immigration and emigration, aliens and naturalisation, marriage, divorce and matrimonial causes, social services, external affairs and conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State.

With certain exceptions, proposed laws may originate in either House which, for most purposes, have equal power in respect of all proposed laws. Proposed laws appropriating revenue or money or imposing taxation, however, may originate only in the House of Representatives and the Senate may not amend proposed laws imposing taxation or appropriating revenue or moneys for the ordinary annual services of the Government. Such proposed laws may deal only with appropriation of revenue or with the imposition of taxation as the case may be and laws imposing taxation, except those imposing duties of customs or of excise, may deal with one subject of taxation only. The Senate may not amend any proposed law so as to increase any proposed charge or burden on the people but may, at any stage, return to the House of Representatives a proposed law that the Senate is not permitted to amend, requesting the omission or amendment of any item or provision therein. In such event the House of Representatives may, if it thinks fit, make any such omission or amendments, with or without modifications.

If a deadlock between the Senate and the House of Representatives occurs over a proposed law passed by the House of Representatives and if, after three months from the disagreement, the House of Representatives again passes the proposed law and the Houses again fail to agree, the Governor-General may dissolve both Houses immediately. If, after the double dissolution, the House of Representatives again passes the proposed law and a deadlock again occurs, the Governor-General may convene a joint sitting of Members and Senators and if the proposed law is passed by an absolute majority of Members and Senators sitting together it shall be taken to have been duly passed by both Houses.

When a proposed law has been passed by both Houses, it is presented to the Governor-General who is empowered to assent to the bill in the Queen's name, withhold assent or reserve the law for the Queen's pleasure. Additionally, the Queen is empowered to disallow any law within one year from the GovernorGeneral's assent.


The executive power of the Commonwealth is vested in the Queen and is exercised by the Governor-General as the Queen's representative. In the Government of the Commonwealth, the Governor-General is advised by the Federal Executive Council, the members of which are appointed by him. By constitutional convention the Governor-General summons to meetings of the Executive Council only such members of the Council as are Ministers of State of the Government of the day. All Ministers of State, of which there are at present 26, are required to be members of the Executive Council.


The judicial power of the Commonwealth is vested in the federal courts, namely, the High Court of Australia, the Commonwealth Industrial Court, the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration and the Federal Court of Bankruptcy and in certain courts of the States and Territories when exercising federal jurisdiction conferred upon them by Commonwealth law.

The High Court of Australia, which is the federal supreme court, consists of the Chief Justice and six other justices all of whom are, in common with justices of the Commonwealth Industrial Court, the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration and the Federal Court of Bankruptcy, appointed by the Governor-General in Council and are removable by the GovernorGeneral in Council only on an address by both Houses of the Parliament on the ground of proved misbehaviour or incapacity.

The High Court has both original and appellate jurisdiction. The Constitution confers original jurisdiction on the High Court in respect of matters (1) arising under any treaty, (2) affecting consuls or other representatives of other countries, (3) in which the Commonwealth is a party, (4) between States, or between residents of different States, or between a State and a resident of another State and (5) in which a writ of Mandamus or prohibition or an injunction is sought

а against an officer of the Commonwealth. In addition, the Parliament is empowered to make laws conferring original jurisdiction on the High Court in any matter (1) arising under the Constitution, or involving its interpretation, (2) arising under any laws made by the Parliament, (3) of Admiralty and maritime jurisdiction and (4) relating to the same matter claimed under the laws of different States.

The Parliament may, with respect to matters in which the High Court has or may be invested with original jurisdiction, make laws defining the jurisdiction of any federal court other than the High Court and the extent to which the jurisdiction of any federal court shall be exclusive of that which belongs to or is invested in the courts of the States, and investing any court of a State with federal jurisdiction.

The appellate jurisdiction of the High Court is to hear and determine appeals from (1) any justice or justices exercising the original jurisdiction of the High Court, (2) any other federal court or court exercising federal jurisdiction, (3) the Supreme Court or any other Court of any State from which at the establishment of the Commonwealth an appeal lay to the Queen in Council and (4) the Inter-State Commission, but as to questions of law only.

In 1968 appeals from decisions of the High Court to the Queen in Council were abolished. It is now not possible to ask for special leave to appeal to Her Majesty in Council against decisions of the High Court except decisions on appeals from State Supreme Courts on matters that do not involve the exercise of federal jurisdiction, or on matters that do not involve the application or interpretation of (1) the Constitution, (2) a law made by the Commonwealth Parliament or (3) an instrument made under such a law. It is also not possible to appeal to Her Majesty in Council from any decisions of Federal Courts other than the High Court.

The Constitution guarantees that the trial on indictment of an offence against any law of the Commonwealth shall be by jury, and that every such trial shall be held in the State where the offence was committed, and that if the offence

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