Republic? More Power For Politicians (p3 of 11)
AUSTRALIA'S HISTORIC HERITAGE
In ancient times the power of government in England rested in the King. The King was regarded as God's representative for ruling the nation. He was not unfettered in this responsibility but was required to govern lawfully, justly and mercifully, to maintain God's law and to regard the Bible as the rule for the whole of life and government. These requirements, though often forgotten or disregarded, were incorporated into the 'coronation oath' at least by 973 AD and have remained as part of the coronation oath ever since. In 1688 these requirements were 'entrenched' in the law by statute (Coronation Oath Act, 1 Will. and Mar. c. 6). These promises were (of course) incorporated into the undertakings given on oath by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II as part of her coronation ceremony.
In addition to the King, in the historical structure there was also a parliament and a judicial system. The duty of parliament was to advise the King but he did not have to act on the advice if he believed it was contrary to his responsibilities. The judicial system had a responsibility to adjudicate disputes about whether the King had acted within or outside his responsibilities. The idea was that the King was subject to "the law" (i.e. God's measure of right and wrong) rather than to the parliament. The parliament, too, was subject to the same law and was required to tender advice on the basis of the Bible being the rule for the whole of life and government. The courts, also, administered (and were themselves subject to) the same law. Within the governmental structure each of the three arms of government (the king, known as the executive arm; the parliament, known as the legislative arm; and the courts, known as the judicial arm) had powers and responsibilities to apply the same law but were separate from and independent of each other. This principle is known as the 'doctrine' of separation of powers. Each arm of government was able to monitor and correct "unlawful" actions by the other arms. This is commonly referred to as the system of checks and balances. It is this system of checks and balances that is meant when we speak of "the Westminster system".
Written and authorised by Dr David Mitchell,
18 Proctors Rd. Dynnyrne, Tasmania 7005
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