Rethinking the Parliamentary System: Contributions from the Australian Debate


  • Cheryl Saunders



The author considers whether the parliamentary system is an effective institution by examining its capacity to handle its five traditional functions. Those Junctions are: maintaining the government, passing laws, controlling government expenses, monitoring the government of the day, and setting long range policies. She concludes that parliaments are incapable of performing these functions on a consistent basis. This incapacity stems from a variety of factors including party discipline, the passive nature of members of parliament, and the fact that there is no separation of powers in the parliamentary system. To remedy these shortcomings she calls for changes which are aimed at giving parliament greater independence from the executive branch. She notes that these changes may require a radical departure from traditional political theory in countries that have adopted parliamentary systems. However, the parliamentary system has not changed in over 300 years. If it is to serve its citizens effectively in the future, perhaps a radical departure from tradition is required.