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The Glorious Revolution and Australia

The principles of the Glorious Revolution are central to the Australian constitutional system for at least three reasons, First the settlers brought with them the laws of England Second, the British soon introduced the Westminster system to Australia, and it became one of the pillars of our nation. This process began before the Eureka Stockade, sometimes incorrectly presented as its cause. By the middle of the nineteenth century, most of the Australian colonies were self governing under the Westminster system, in a way in which the colonies of other powers were not.

Third, it is a mistake to think of our Constitution only in terms of the Federal Constitution. As Bolingbroke said, the constitution is “that assemblage of laws, institutions and customs, derived from certain fixed principles of reason, directed to certain fixed objects of public good that compose the general system, according to which the community hath agreed to be governed.”

Our constitutional system includes the principles in the Bill of rights, the Act of Settlement as well as our Federal and State Constitutions. I should make one caveat, not all parts are entrenched. Some significant parts of the constitutional system can be change by Act of Parliament. In any event, when Australians agreed, as the preamble to the Constitution Act records, humbly relying on the blessings of Almighty God, to unite in one indissoluble Federal Commonwealth under the Crown, they did so knowing that golden thread from Magana Carta through the Bill of Rights and the Act of Settlement was fully comprehended in our constitutional settlement.

One of the facile critiques of our constitution is that it is silent on some matters which are assumed, for example the cabinet and the office of prime minister. This has no foundation, and may only be advanced to justify some ill thought out change. The Constitution was never intended as a “stand alone” constitutional primer. It was always intended to complement and not to replace the laws incorporating what were known as the e fundamental rights of Englishmen, and to import these fully into the Australian constitutional system. Australia is, as one noted American authority on global affairs writes, “one of the most democratic and egalitarian societies in the world.”

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