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Wikipedia/Superegz CC BY-SA 4.0 (Wikipedia/Superegz CC BY-SA 4.0)

We unpack hot topics about Australia's system of government with author of Beyond Federation Dr Klaas Woldring. Do you understand what is in the Australian Constitution? 

Anneke Boudewijn. Pamela Cook
Published on
Wednesday, August 30, 2017 - 11:08
File size
4.5 MB
9 min 47 sec

Part 2 - Does our Constitution need a rewrite?

Do you understand what is in the Australian Constitution? Dr Woldring says it's an "archaic" document that many people are unfamiliar with.

What missing from the Constitution?

Speaking to SBS Dutch, Dr Woldring lists many key areas he says are missing from the Constitution:

  • The Prime Minister isn't mentioned
  • When it comes to committing the country to war, there is no requirement for parliamentary approval or discussion or vote
  • Local government isn't mentioned
  • It scarcely mentions existence of political parties or the reality of the political system
  • No bill of rights 
  • No provision for reconciliation with or representation of indigenous peoples
  • No provision for protection for the environment
  • No provision for election of diversity of representatives in both houses of parliament
  • No provision for cabinet ministers from outside the legislature
  • Does not state that the government derives its authority from the people's sovereignty
  • Does not protect parliamentary democracy
  • Does not address the position of women


Changing the Constitution

Changing or removing the Constitution can only happen with a referendum. However, Dr Woldring says it's "almost impossible" to get referendums accepted in Australia.

There is a process for changing the Constitution:

  1. A proposed change must be approved by the Parliament and then be put to Australians in a referendum.

  2. All Australian citizens on the electoral roll vote 'yes' or 'no' to the proposed change.

The referendum passes if it's approved by a majority of voters in a majority of states and with an overall majority of voters across the country, what's called a' double majority'. Territory voters are only counted in the national majority.

Dr Woldring says our two-party system makes changing the Constitution even harder, if one party does not agree with the change.