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  • Writer's pictureBrian AJ Newman LLB

Australian Constitution, what is it really?

The Australian Constitution is the supreme law of Australia, which came into effect on January 1, 1901. It outlines the structure and powers of the federal government, including the legislative, executive, and judicial branches, and defines the relationship between the federal government and the six states and territories of Australia.

The Constitution was drafted by a convention of delegates from the colonies of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, Tasmania, and Western Australia in 1897-1898. It was then approved by the British Parliament and signed by Queen Victoria.

The Constitution is divided into eight chapters and 128 sections, covering a range of topics, including:

  • The powers of the Commonwealth Parliament and the limits on those powers

  • The roles and powers of the Governor-General, the Prime Minister, and other government officials

  • The distribution of powers between the Commonwealth and the states, including the power to levy taxes and the power to make laws

  • The establishment of the High Court of Australia and other federal courts

One of the notable features of the Australian Constitution is the provision for a referendum process to change the Constitution.

A referendum can only be held if proposed changes are approved by a two-thirds majority of both houses of Parliament, and then approved by a majority of voters in a national referendum.

Since its inception, the Constitution has been amended 8 times through referendums, with only 8 out of 44 proposals succeeding.

What are your thoughts on an Indigenous voice to parliament? Does it go far enough?

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