While the Philippines is slowly being drowned by advertisements of politicians vying for a position in the 2016 national election, Australia successfully ousted and replaced its now former Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, in 30 minutes.
Last night a 54-44 vote made Malcolm Turnbull, Australia’s 29th Prime Minister.
This is not the first time a canning by election happened. Elected 2007 PM Kevin Rudd was ousted by his deputy Julia Gillard in 2010 and then a few months before the 2013 election Rudd was back and Gillard was out.
Is this constitutional?
Apparently, yes. The Commonwealth of Australia is a democracy and a constitutional monarchy. It follows the model of the United Kingdom, with a slight variance.
As a constitutional monarchy, Queen Elizabeth is the head of the state but the Governor-General is the head of the government. The queen’s role is more of a formal, symbolic and ceremonial inherited position.
Her only necessary function is to appoint a Governor-General. She may also open a session of parliament, assent an Act or act as advised by the Prime Minister.
The Governor-General, as mentioned, is the head of the Government representing the Queen. He normally acts on matters as advised by the Prime Minister except on emergencies where he has reserve powers to act independently. The position is given to an individual selected by the Prime Minister and made formal by the Queen.
So, Australia is a parliamentary government:
Like most governments, Australia has the three arms of the government namely Legislative, Executive, and Judiciary.
The Legislative mulls, debates, and votes on new laws.
The Executive enacts and upholds the law.
The Judiciary is the legal arm of the government. Its main task is to reinforce the law. It is also independent of the other two and so it is able to decide if the two arms of government are acting within their power.
However, since it is a parliamentary government, the legislative and executive functions overlap. The members of the Executive, called ministers, actually came from the Legislative.
But do not worry:
Checks and balance are still in place as ministers are always scrutinized by other members of the Parliament led by an officially recognized Opposition.
In addition, there are two houses in the Legislative (also called the Parliament), the House of Representatives and the Senate. Both houses have equal powers, (except that the Senate cannot introduce or amend financial legislation) and so, any proposed law should be approved by both houses to effectively become a law.
So who elects the Prime Minister?
We did. During the general election, the leader of the winning party in the House of Representatives automatically becomes the Prime Minister.
The composition of the house also defines the next opposition leader.
How important is the Prime Minister?
The Prime Minister is quite influential even if the constitution does not recognize such position. Nevertheless, he/she selects and advices the Governor-General and the ministers for the executive government.
He/she may even advice the Queen. The PM is also the leader of the winning party – meaning it is likely that he/she has full support of the parliament.
Also, as a federation, although each state and territory has its own constitution and government to pass laws, it can only do so in matters not controlled by the commonwealth. If there are two conflicting laws, the law of the commonwealth prevails and the state law becomes null.
What do we know of our new PM?
Malcolm Turnbull is a 60 year old former journalist, lawyer and merchant banker. He was ousted by now, former Prime Minister Tony Abbott in 2009 after being party leader for 2 years.
Unlike the very conservative Abbott, he is known for his moderate views. He also supports making polluters pay for carbon gas emissions and legalizing gay marriages. Although, the liberal party maintained that changes in existing policies will only happen after consultation.
Turnbull lead the popularity polls although the vote is mainly from center-left Labor Party.
Hopefully, the new PM has better plans for the country and that the change in leadership will not divide the party and cause more problems to the slowing economy.
Special thanks to News.com.au for the main image.