Presidentialism with focus on prime minister

Presidentialism with focus on prime minister


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Presidentialism with focus on prime minister

A Prime Minister in Australia is the most superior minister in the crown. He or she heads the cabinet and the government. The prime minister is second in ranking after the governor general. In spite of being the most powerful office, it is not discussed in the constitution of this country. It is governed by the existence of a political convention, which is unwritten. The prime minister leads the party, which has the greatest support in the house. However, there could be certain circumstances, which could make the prime minister not head this political party[1].

There is only one case when a senator was prime minister. John Gorton resigned from being senator but became a member of the house. Julia Gillard is the present Australian prime minister. She leads the Australian Labor Party and she is the first lady prime minister. Australian prime ministers are given authority by the governor general of Australia. This is mentioned in section sixty-four of the constitution. It does not mention about prime minister but refers to him or her as one of the ministers of the crown. A prime minister is the head of the crown so he or she has to be appointed b the governor-general[2].

Julia Gillard was elected in 1998 and became Member of Parliament. She represented Lalor. She was then in the Australian Labor Party, which she still heads eve today. N 2001 federal elections, she was elected in the shadow cabinet. Her position was in population and immigration[3]. Later in 2003, portfolios of indigenous affairs and health were included. In 2006, she became deputy to Kevin Rudd who was opposition leader and still headed Labor Party. After elections were done in the following year, Gillard became the deputy prime minister while Kevin Rudd became the prime minister. In 2010, Rudd lost the seat and Gillard won the elections.

For a candidate to be appointed prime minister, he or she has to be a member of the house of senate. Alternatively, he or she should be a member for three months, before being appointed. Every prime minister has the title “the honorable”. This title is achieved after being part of the Federal Executive Council[4]. This has to be preceded by appointment of prime minister Position. This title will remain to the individual for the rest of his or her life. The senior members in the executive council form the cabinet of this country.

The position of the prime minister has changed over the years. Currently, a prime minister has the role of advising the governor general. Many actions from the governor general are done after receiving counsel from the prime minister. Only in rare circumstances will the governor general hesitate. For example, when the Whitlam was dismissed, it was the governor-general’s decisions. This was a special circumstance where Sir John Kerr took necessary measures in favor of the country. Initially, the most recognized advisor to the governor general was the Executive council.

Since prime minister heads the crown, he or she advises the governor-general who to appoint as ministers. This is done by evaluating several things about potential candidates. The most important is their capability and competence. Other factors are considered depending on what are the requirements[5]. Australian ministers are appointed after a detailed scrutiny. This is because the government must be capable and serve the people competently.

Australia has one former prime minister who left Parliament but found his way back. Stanley Bruce lost his prime minister seat in 1929. During 1931 elections, he was re-elected back to Parliament. Other lucky members are Sir George Reid who was re-elected to UK House of Commons. Frank Forde was elected back to Queenslands Parliament. He attempted to get back to Federal Government but failed. He was a former High Commissioner to Canada. Former prime ministers are important people in Australia because they have set pace for the current and future leaders. Some of them are Edmund Barton, George Reid and Andrew Fisher among others.

Most Australian citizens do not understand the roles of the prime minister. They do not know why they have those roles. These are important things to know. There is need for civic education among people. They just know superficial information, as they have to deal with difficult issues. Their working environment could be challenging especially when they are dealing with dilemmas facing the country. The people also know they have great powers but not the specific powers and their limits[6].

Power from the prime minister is derived from several factors and executive duties. They have the power to make their work be what they want. Most of them made a wise decision and made their position a chance to serve the people. Only a few prime ministers became irresponsible with leadership and were incompetent. People do not understand there is a distinction between what the prime minister should do and what she actually does. Some of the roles may appear theoretically but in reality, the prime minister acts differently. There is no document with the written powers of prime minister. This is why it is difficult to learn them.

Writing down these powers and roles is called codification. Some countries like Germany have codified these powers in a statute. This codification tells apart the difference between leadership functions and executive functions. The roles of a prime minister have changes as time passes. This is one of the challenges facing codification. It is not possible to put them in writing since they keep changing from year to year. For example, the prime minister is a major advisor of the governor general. For many years, the top most advisors have been the Federal Executive Council[7].

Powers of prime minister comes are derived from his or her position as head of cabinet. The Federal Executive Council consents all the decisions from cabinet. Prime minister must support these decisions since he or she is head of the cabinet. When the governor general wants to dissolve, prolong or order election to be done, he will have to seek advice from prime minister. Prime minister has enjoys support from the house since he or she is the leader of the party with majority members. Members from the same party will agree and support the same issues. It is easy to pass Acts or Bills with such a house. Powers of the prime minister are not constant. It depends with the circumstances at present. Time in office is also a determinant of these powers[8]. Other factors determining power is the discharge of resources, both formal and informal. Personal power also counts and it is influenced by the person’s reputation, capability and skills. People tend to recognize a leader who is knowledgeable and uses his wisdom in the right way. A popular person will tend to have more power than one who is not. Formal resources of power include being head of the crown and parliament. Heading the popular political party is also a formal source of power.

There are concerns that the prime minister has too many sources of formal powers in private office. These structures have been unstable since they change with time. A document exists which lays out a plan to develop a stronger support. This will develop after a length of time depending on the internal and external demands. It has been observed that there is need for a formal department, which is not just there by name, with responsibility over the functioning of the cabinet. Prime ministers need to be flexible but there should be recognition of the formal resources of power.

Other powers are dismissal or appointment of ministers. He or she can summon, dissolve or prolong parliament if need be. The prime minister should regulate appointment of civil service by allocation or shuffling portfolios. He or she is leader of government business therefore, the prime minister is supposed to preside[9]. Since the prime minister also heads the cabinet, he or she is required to organize cabinet committees. If the central government needs to be reorganized, the prime minister should carry out these activities. There are many other powers and duties of the prime minister.

In the coalition government, the powers of the prime minister may be limited. This mostly applies when appointing ministers. They have to be appointed according to the agreement. The prime minister has to honor the agreement. He has to make consultations and most of his or her decisions are made after discussing them with other parties like the deputy prime minister. The coalition is made of prime minister and deputy. The prime minister has more powers and status than the deputy does. The latter has one hundred and seventy five staff while the former’s office has twelve. During a coalition, the cabinet is collective and acts according to the coalition agreement[10].

Another group involved with the prime minister is ministers from the Liberal Democrat. The prime minister is support to control the relationship between the leading parties with other parties. Power of prime minister determines how the parties will conduct themselves. Evaluations of the other governments similar to Australia have also shown the same. The prime minister’s leadership sets the pace for parties and others who look up to him or her. A coalition government assists in molding the conduct of the prime minister. However, the position has the overall power. The prime minister can use his or her political skill to manage the relation of parties.

There are debates about electing a prime minister through direct elections. Currently, the prime minister is appointed by the governor general. In Israel, they tried this mode but it reverted in 2001. Italy has also discussed such elections Japan and Netherlands as well. Their main issue was the rate of turn over on the prime ministers. One shortcoming of this method is giving more power to the prime minister. Australia does not want it and it could bring other unnecessary changes. Some experts have concluded direct election will not add any efficiency in governing the country. Therefore, the current mode of appointing a prime minister should continue.

Just as the powers exist, there are restraints of the prime minister. He or she needs to be retaining support of his or her parliament members. Those who do, not fall at a chance of losing their position. For instance, Bob Hawke, Robert Menzies and John Gorton failed to do so and they lost their positions. The prime minister can maintain support by making consultation in the appropriate issues[11]. Consultation assists the members to understand the prime minister values and recognizes their contribution. Almost all the ministers who are appointed have their political ambitions. Some of them include being prime minister. This is a challenge for the prime minister. He has to use his management skills on the ministers.

The prime minister has a duty to the people. The parliament’s role ensures that prime minister with the rest of the ministers are there when enquires are done. These questions involve the welfare of the people. The prime minister with the cabinet have to attend this session and answer all the questions asked. The prime minister actions have to be transparent and he or she has to be accountable to his actions. Although this position is the most powerful, the prime minister has to be responsible. Discipline in parties is necessary because it ensure the prime minister does not have difficulties dealing with the lower house.

The high court’s role is to interpret the constitution. Since the prime minister’s position is not mentioned, it goals can easily be nullified by the high court. A good example is what happened to Robert Menzies[12]. The court nullified the legislation of dissolving Communist Party. During Paul Keating rule, high court invalidated the legislation on banning political adverts done electronically. The state representation in the senate is equal. It is not possible to demand majority support from the upper house. The senate limits some of the goals of prime minister.

Australia is made up of both state and federal governments. Although they are required to cooperate, sometimes there are disagreements. For instance, during the reign of John Gorton, the state premiers looked down upon his authority. The Federal government has dominated over financial issues and this is a problem to the prime minister. Governor-general is another contributing factor in limiting powers tothe prime minister. Since he has power over the prime minister, he or she can overrule the prime minister. It happened when Gough Whitlam was a prime minister. Sir John Kerr, who was the governor- general, dismissed the parliament.

Elections can partly restrain the powers of a prime minister. This happens when they are about to happen. The prime ministers receive more pressure from the opinion polls or other groups. If the prime minister is seeking re-elections, he has to use his powers wisely and not show any irresponsible or controversial actions[13]. This situation may hinder him or her from carrying out some of the powers. Seeking re-election makes prime ministers to have humility, minding public welfare and doing other activities that will assist in campaigning.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard is following the footsteps of her predecessor. She is united with her colleagues and they are working together. Her leadership model is said to be that of president style. This will have a negative consequence in future. This model tends to ignore things that look minor. For example, there are policies, ministers and departments, which are undermined. They are over shadowed by the people and other factors that seem to greater than them. This ignorance is harming the government.

Federal governments are bigger than other forms of governments that have been in Australia. This government does not look into policies and people equally. It is more concentrated to some more than others are. Right now, the concentration has grown more than before. This is a dangerous trend because it is ignoring people and paying less attention to their welfare. Citizens have a trend of being deceived during elections. Politicians deceive them by promising them and they do not fulfill after they get to parliament[14].

A good example, the prime minister should consider is health. There are changing happening in health policy. However, it is happening at low profile since less interest has been directed to it by the government. Individuals like Nicole Roxon are significant participants but they need government support to be successful. E-Health has been introduced in Australia and it is going to change positively the lives of people. Health is a basic public welfare issue. It deserves all the attention it requires from prime minister and the rest of the government.

One challenge of presidentialism in Australia is that it cannot work. This nation does not have a presidential system where there is democracy. Therefore, the factors applicable in president system cannot work in Australia. In a presidential system, a president has people who formulate policies and has his or her own powers[15]. A good example is the USA system, the president has his own agendas and advocating for reforms. The congress on the other hand, has its policies and other priorities. In the Australian setting, the prime minister disregards the issues of some members. This situation should change since it has a negative impact to the people.

The highest paid member in Australian Parliament is the prime minister. She has the authority to dictate salaries of employees in the public service. She also has the highest pay since she is the most superior person in the House. Her salary is almost five times that of an ordinary civilian. All ministers are members of parliament. They are paid for being both representatives and ministers[16]. This is why they earn a lot of money. In addition to basic salary, there are other benefits. The prime minister is given a jet for transport to far places. The jet is called Royal Australian Air Force No. 34 Squadron. It takes the current prime minister overseas.

Other benefits include luxurious apartment like her residence in Canberra. It is called “The Lodge,” in Australian Capital Territory. This is the official residence for prime ministers but not all of them lived there. Some opted to live in other private apartments. For example, Jim Scullin chose to live in Hotel Canberra. There are privileges given to prime ministers after they live office. They are given staff to help them in their work. They can also travel around Australia for non-business trips. All the expenses are paid by the government. The government offers them office space free[17].

These privileges are meant to signify appreciation for their service to the country. Most of them have served the country with honor and made good use of their powers and office. This is what has developed the country and made it a good place for the citizens to live. Australia does not see the need for a president because the prime minister is leading the country to have better life for the current and future generation. They resulted to leadership of prime minister after eleven years of bad ruling from former President Howard[18].


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[1] Lucy, Richard. 1985. The Australian form of government. South Melbourne: Macmillan.