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Apr 272013

Sharing A Common Heritage America & Australia


Common HeritageThe United Sates of America and Australia have been friends and allies for many
years, and the ties born of shared hardships in war and shared cultural history
are strong indeed. An interesting but perhaps not well known fact is that are
some features of the two systems of government which are surprisingly similar.

I am not referring to the democratic nature of our two systems, which is
none-the-less true and something in which we both peoples can take pride.
I have in mind the structure of our elective legislatures, and in particular the
influence that one (the U.S.) had on the other (Australia).

Both our nations had their origin as British colonies, or more correctly, groups
of British colonies. In each case the groups of colonies came together to form a
new nation based on a federal union of those colonies into a group of states
making up one independent country.

The United States was formed toward the end of the eighteenth century after the
American Revolution. Australia was formed at the end of the nineteenth century
by a more peaceful federation movement. By then the British had learned that we
pesky colonials are best not messed with.

A major influence on Australian thinking during the federation debates in the late
nineteenth century was the obvious success of the American Federal Republic.
Many Australians at the time saw the American model as the one to follow.

More conservative thinking prevailed, and the final structure of our parliamentary
system of government largely copied that of the British parliament in Westminster.
Australia does, however, have a House of Representatives and a Senate as the
houses of its parliament.

The Senate was originally planned as a states house, and has a fixed number of
Senators elected from each state. The Senate, elected as a States House,
was modeled on the American example.

The role of the Australian Senate as a states house was taken so seriously that
for the first sittings of the Australian Parliament, the Senators from Western
Australia ignored their party allegiances and sat as a group representing their

Today, the party allegiances do tend to prevail.Some commentators in Australia
have described the Australian system as the ‘Washminster’ system, so clearly
can the influences of both The United States and Great Britain be seen.

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