Winning Entries to the 2010 Regional Essay Competition
2010 Division 1 (15-18 years) Winner
Adam Little (Centenary Heights S.H.S., Toowoomba)
"Why did the Australian people develop a Federal Constitution with a division of Power between a Senate and a House of Representatives? Describe the role of the Senate and give recent examples of its activities."
Despite the passage of 100 years since its inception, the Australian Constitution continues to remain a testament to the insight and vision of our Constitutional forefathers. The provisions contained in it have enabled Australia to excel on the world stage as a paradigm of democratic integrity. Undoubtedly the most significant provision of the constitution is the equal division of power between the House of Representatives and the Senate.
It has been said by many that our constitution was written 'by the people, for the people.' It is vital that this be recognized when considering the role of the Constitution in its bestowal of power to the Parliament. This matter was deemed so significant, that in section one of the first chapter, our constitution states: ''The legislative power of the Commonwealth shall be vested in a Federal Parliament, which shall consist of the Queen, a Senate, and a House of Representatives ...'' Without having to read any further, one can easily discern that the resolute intention of the Australian people, was to ensure that the Australian Commonwealth would never be subject to one, centralized authority. There is no doubt that without any one of the above three legislative bodies, Australia would suffer. Thankfully, this division of power is safeguarded under our constitution, and is not subject to change in the same way as an Act of Parliament.
Although this may seem a deceptively simple concept, the founders of our constitution used it to build the thriving nation that we are today. Much of our prosperity can also be attributed to the Senate's role as a legislative power. Possibly the most important of its roles, is regulation of the power held by the lower house and its executive.
It achieves this through various devices; including its scrutiny of legislation -- whereby the senate debates all bills that are passed from the lower house; a house often dominated by the Government. However, the reason that the Senate is such an effective check on Government, is that the ruling party rarely holds a firm majority in the Senate -- as is currently the case. Therefore the Senate is able to maintain the balance of power in Parliament. Samuel Griffin elaborated on this at the Australasian Federal Convention of 1897, where he said -- ''It is accepted as a fundamental rule of the Federation that the law shall not be altered without the consent of the majority of the people, and also of a majority of the States, both speaking by their representatives.''
Furthermore, our constitutional framers insisted on establishing a Senate to ensure that the people were represented according to their own interests. This idea was championed by Sir John Cockburn - also present at the Australasian Federal Convention of 1897. He stated, ''The great principle which is an essential, I think, to Federation is that the two Houses should represent the people truly, and should have co-ordinate powers. They should represent the people in two groups. One should represent the people grouped as a whole, and the other should represent them as grouped in the states.'' This idea is essential to guarantee that the more populated states are not able to cast aside the interests of people living in the less populous states. The constitutional framers were indeed successful in their endeavour to ensure that Australia as a whole is 'truly' represented.
It is no doubt that in fulfilling all these roles, the Senate plays a dynamic part in tackling the major issues currently facing Australian society. Given equal legislative power, the Senate ensures that the interests of the people are not only protected, but given voice. This was evidenced with the recent passing of the Youth Allowance Bill, where the current Government caused controversy by proposing severely restricted eligibility for those seeking Government support for their education. This bill however, did not gain the approval of the Senate until appropriate amendments were made. Thus the senate used its power to take protective action on behalf of the interests of its constituents.
In addition, the Senate serves as a direct line of communication from the people to the Parliament -- giving a voice to the individual. This is achieved by means of Senate Committees, which investigate issues of public concern. A particularly relevant example of this was the Senate Inquiry into Senator Bob Brown's Euthanasia Laws Repeal Bill, 2008. A highly emotive topic, the Senate nevertheless pursued both sides of the argument -- through submissions tendered by many members of the public, and thorough investigations made by the ''Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee''. This example clearly demonstrates that the Senate is adequately equipped to deal with such matters in a way that will not only maintain an ordered society, but also allow the voice of the people to be heard.
The time since federation has brought about remarkable change for Australia -- yet nothing that our constitution hasn't prepared us for. This success is due to the foresight of the Australian people, who designed a constitution committed to ensuring that power was shared equitably between the Lower and Upper Houses. Despite undergoing a great deal of change itself, the Upper House, or Senate, continues to carry out the role envisaged by our constitutional forefathers. It remains as the conscience of the Parliament, guaranteeing there is a balance of power, and that all people and states of Australia are truly represented. As such, the Senate continues to be an integral component of our modern Australian society -- enabling us to embrace change, in a time when change is the only constant.
Evans, H 1997, Federalism: An idea whose time has come?, viewed 24th March 2010.
Open Australia -- Senate Debates 2008, Euthanasia Repeal Bill, viewed 26th March 2010.
Palisi, P 1994, The Role of the Senate, viewed 22nd March 2010.
Parliament of Australia, 2010, Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act, viewed 28th March 2010.
Parliament of Australia, 2010, The Senate, viewed 22nd March 2010.
Sydney Morning Herald, 2010, Youth Allowance Reforms all but Passed, viewed 28th March 2010.
The Australian Senate, 2008, Rights of the Terminally Ill (Euthanasia Laws Repeal) Bill 2008, viewed 2nd April 2010.
2010 Division 2 (11-14 years) Winner
Caitlin Sorour (Fairholme College, Toowoomba)
"Prince William and Prince Harry are promoting many projects, including some for the disadvantaged and for the environment. Describe the projects you like best and others that you would recommend for the Princes' involvement."
There are many ways to live a life. It's an opportunity to enjoy and experience. To live life to the full means you have accomplished this, but not everyone can achieve this goal. Together we can change this. This is what Prince William and Prince Harry have been striving to achieve for years now.
Prince William and Prince Harry are very charitable brothers. In total they are the Patron or the President of 17 different charities and organizations. I found many of these charities deserving but two charities in particular stood out for me.
My first one is the Royal Marsden Hospital which is a hospital dedicated to cancer treatment and research into the causes of cancer. Many, many people die of cancer every year and even more get treated with it. My mum works in the cancer care unit in Toowoomba and she hears so many sad stories every day. But the worst thing for me was when a family friend, with two children my age, went through the same heart-breaking experience and died. Cancer affects so many people's lives, and this is where the Royal Marsden Hospital can help.
Prince William is the president of the Royal Marsden Hospital. A position previously held by his mother, Princess Diana.
The Prince has visited the hospital a number of times and has even done some work experience.
This hospital has changed people's lives forever and many people who leave that hospital are eternally grateful.
My other favourite charity/organization is The Henry Van Straubenzee Memorial Fund which both Princes' are Patrons. This charity was founded by Alex and Claire van Straubenzee in honour of their son Henry who died at age 18 in a car crash.Henry was due to go and teach at a school in Uganda before his tragic death. This charity is about sustaining the memory of a special boy, and helping other less fortunate children in Uganda have a fun, safe education.
The goal is to open doors for them and to teach them how to make lemonade out of lemons.
Prince William and Prince Harry have done many fundraisers over the years for The Henry Van Straubenzee Memorial Fund. With that money, the charity has been able to help 12 different schools in Uganda by making new classrooms, halls and the like and supplying the pupils with necessary equipment.
These actions have changed many children's lives for the better. The smile on each child's face proves it.
The Princes achieve much with their charity work but I have another organization which I think is worthwhile.
I have chosen a organization called the Tokyo Holocaust Education Resource Center (THERC). I chose this organization after I read a book about their organization and the driving urge that they had to find out about a young Jewish girl suffering through World War II. This was an eye opening story and I believe this organization has a worthy mission; to help educate young people against racism and all kinds of prejudice through the history of the Holocaust.
The aim being to teach people to respect and understand each others differences to make a safer, happier world.
If we teach my generation how to be more tolerant of differences, and respect and desire peace, we could try to avoid the wars that have killed so many. A world without war is hard to achieve, but is a worthy goal.
I hope I have shown you how generous these brothers are, and how deserving these charities are. Please help them with their mission to make life better for so many people.
Levine, K 2002, Hana's Suitcase a true story, Allen and Unwin, Crows Nest, N.S.W.
The Henry van Straubenzee Memorial Fund, present projects, Bupadhengo Primary School viewed 20th April 2010.
The Royal Marsden Hospital, about the Royal Marsden, viewed 20th April 2010.
The official website of The British Monarachy, Prince William, Prince Harry, viewed 20th April 2010.
Tokyo Holocaust Education Resource Center, about THERC, viewed 20th April 2010.
The Prince of Wales, personal profiles, Prince William and Prince Harry, viewed 20th April 2010.