Theories of State – Its Role and Relationship with its Citizens.
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Theories of State – Its Role and Relationship with its CitizensIn most general terms, a state may be defined as an organized community living under a systemthat governs them. It is a territory where rules are followed and societies prosper and developbased on its policies(Carneiro, 1970). There are different theories regarding statecraftpropounded by different theorists:1)Evolutionary theory of state: according to this theory, a state is the product of gradualprocess of social development. It is developed from simple and basic social structuresthat take a long time to evolve.2)Force theory of state: according to this theory, state came into existence because ofaggression, war, invasion and subjugation. It says how one person or a group of personstook control of a population by force.3)Social contact theory: according to this theory, from the beginning humans have beenliving in the state of nature, with no government or law to control them. Subsequently,they came together and made arrangements for themselves and devised rules and laws.4)Theory of divine right: this theory talks about the doctrine that kings are bestowed byenormous power by god in order to rule the people. Any attempt to go against his willwas like going against the will of god.Apart from the above theories, Marxist theory attempts to define an ideal state that is mostclosely associated with what people feel a state ought to be. It challenges and tries to address theloopholes of a liberal state by emphasizing on the realization of collective aims(Jessop, 1990).He was of this view that without this approach the emancipation of common men would not bepossible.Australian Political SystemThe official name given to Australia is Commonwealth of Australia. The system of governmentin Australia is based on both liberal representative democracy and constitutional monarchy.Queen Elizabeth 2 is Constitutional head of the state. This democratic foundation is based onpillar of religious tolerance, freedom of speech and association(Marsh, 1983).The commonwealth of Australia was established on 1stJanuary 1901 with a conglomeration ofsix different self-governing parties that used to be the former British Colonies. They cametogether to form a union, which are now six states of Australia. The governing laws of this newunion of states, which was now a nation, were laid down in the Australian Constitution. Thesewere the first crucial laws that defined as to how the Commonwealth government would operate(MCALLISTER, 1998).The Australian federation and ConstitutionThe Australian federal system is primarily divided between Commonwealth and State andTerritory governments. The parliament of Australia consists of the Queen, which is representedby Governor-General, the Senate and House of Representatives. Having so many importantorgans of the government, Parliament is the place where laws are passed that are intended toaffect each and every citizen of the country. The State governments and Commonwealth do not
always converge on all matters but they do cooperate on education, transport, health and law-enforcement. The State governments constitute their own legislatures, bureaucracies, courts andpolice much the same way as the local government bodies are created by state and territorylegislation.The Constitution of Australia is the supreme body that lays down the roles, responsibilities andpowers of national parliament, the government as well as the courts. It is the guardian thatprotects the fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens. The Constitution also providesprovisions for the possible amendments(Hirst, 2000).One important principle being laid down in the constitution is “Separation of Powers”, which,from any point of view, as far as any healthy and working democracy is concerned, is veryimportant feature. So, the power of making laws rests with the federal legislature, while thepower of implementing the law solely rests on the executive (the government). Finally, thejudiciary is being solely given the power to interpret the laws. All these bodies will, therefore, beallowed to function independently without interfering in one another’s domains.Political Parties and ElectionsIn Australia, there are primarily three major political parties – The Labor Party, The LiberalParty and The National Party. Apart from these there are numerous smaller parties such asNationals and Greens. The Parliamentarians belonging to Commonwealth, States and Territoriesare directly elected by the people. The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), as per theCommonwealth Electoral Act 1918, is responsible for conducting the federal elections. The AECfor quite some time has been doing a commendable job by carrying out its roles andresponsibilities. As per the above mentioned Act of 1918, the AEC is obliged to determine theelectoral boundaries, maintaining electoral rolls, registration of political parties, and security ofvotes as well as keeping track of public funding(Bean and Mughan, 1989). So, all of these dutieshave been well dispensed by AEC on its part as the people of the country have been seeing fulland fair elections.So, it will not be an overstatement to make that in Australia, because of prevalent of properelectoral system and all the related electoral institutions in place, there is a profound publicparticipation as well as a fair degree of trust in the political system. If we try to make acomparison with other countries, Australia indicates a significant level of public satisfaction. So,as we rightly found out that these elections are a reflective mechanism for electing governmentwith adequate power to act and at the same time ensuring government accountability as well asits responsiveness.Critical View of Australian Federalism and ConstitutionalismHistorically, the founding of federation, in essence, was based on colonial concerns regardingdefense as well as efficiency, which were grossly accommodated while the Westminster wasinherited. So, in that sense, the federation became a helping hand in understanding the Australian
Constitutionalism as well. The founding of federation became revolutionary in a subtle yetfundamental way as it transformed orthodox Westminster Constitutionalism.It is an accepted fact that Australian founding of federation is an admixture of British andAmerican legal influences. This paved a way for influencing and shaping modern Australianconstitutionalism. The colonial constitutionalism was constituted by a number of traditions,which particularly include parliamentarianism and the common law(Orr, 2010).It is important to understand the innovation that made way for federalism was incorporated bythe newly formed Australian colonies. We still have insufficient knowledge as to whether thedifferent traditions and indigenous traditions had shaped the Australian Constitutionalism or not.However, what seems to be clear that the colonial founding was shaped by considerable dynamictensions within the orthodox constitutionalism. The Westminster inheritance for a new state andCommonwealth government largely relied on the conventions. These conventions of BritishConstitutionalism were for the responsible government, which gave way for the formal structuressuch as the system of the Crown, the House of the Commons and the House of Lords(Galliganand Wright, 2002). So, these concepts regarding parliamentary and responsible government werein the forefront for influencing the Australian founders’ understanding of political arrangement.The tradition of English Common Law has provided a profound understanding of the commonlaw that underlined the importance of exercising of personal discretion by the judges and thejudiciary. So, it essentially propounded that the judges duty was to discover, not invent, as towhat were the laws that governed the cases at their hands. Also, it tried to thwart away theambiguities as when the cases were genuine, the judges were to proceed with a reason bydrawing an analogy to an appropriate precedent. In this regard, Sir Owen Dixon, Chief Justice ofthe Australian High Court, once made a very profound remark. He said that Australia subscribesto a very different yet constructive notion. He espoused that Australians conceive a state asderiving from the law, not the law deriving from the state(Smullen, 2014). So, the common lawhas been a source of the authority of the parliament and the English constitution played a crucialrole in that Australia had its ultimate constitutional foundation – the common law.The democratic character of Australian federation becomes clearer when we analyze howAustralian Constitution was drafted. Two major conventions played a pivotal role in this as well- the National Australasian Convention of 1891 and the Australasian Federal Convention of1897. These conventions drafted the final version of the Constitution and after that it was put tothe people in the form of referendum on the Constitution Bill. After much consensus in statesand territories, the Constitution was adopted by the final endorsement by the people. So, thiswhole exercise of Australian founding revealed and confirmed its democratic credentials.Initially, the Australian federation had the profound difficulties in creating new institutions alongwith allocating powers and responsibilities while making states autonomous as much as possibleat the same time. It is interesting to observe that wherever the orthodox constitutionalism hadconfrontations with the new age federalism, the founders did not address them in abstract ortheoretical manner. But debates were conducted to reconcile different theoretical concerns in thespecific context of practical or institutional arrangements. One such issue was appeared in 1891
Convention that was concerning the Senate’s power regarding amendment and rejection ofmoney Bills. However, after tough negotiations, the Compromise of 1891 was adopted and thatrestricted the initiation of money Bills to the House of Representatives(Hollander and Patapan,2007).The success of Australian federalism can be clearly understood in terms of relations betweenstates and Commonwealth. The federalism can be viewed in terms of struggle among differentforces like coordinate, cooperative or coercive federalism. So, we can conclude that theinnovative nature of Australian federalism was the churning of ideas and their ingestion in theAustralian Constitution. Therefore, this constitutionalism has immediate and practicalconsequences for Australian political life.