quick links in this article
What Will I Learn
- What is the Government
- How the Government is different from the Parliament
What is Government?
Government is the group of people who have been given the authority or power to run a nation or state. They are the group that put the laws that parliament makes into action.
In Australia, the Government is formed by the political party that wins the majority of seats in the lower house after an election. For example in NSW the Government and its leader (the Premier) are also elected members of the Legislative Assembly.
This is not the case in all democratic systems of government. For example, in some countries, such as the USA, the people elect a parliament and a Head of State, such as a President, who then chooses the people who will be the Government. So the Government is not made up of elected members of parliament in these countries but it is in Australia.
Forming Government in NSW - Quick Facts
- In NSW elections are held every four years for the two Houses of Parliament.
- 93 members of Parliament are elected to the NSW Legislative Assembly (the Lower House). They are elected for four years.
- The political party, or group of political parties (called a coalition), that has the most members of Parliament (47 members) in the Legislative Assembly can become the Government and pass bills.
- At the 2019 election the Liberal and National parties formed a coalition. This means they work together and between them they won 48 seats at the election. Those 48 members were able to become the Government.
- There are 42 members of the Legislative Council who are elected for 8 year terms. At each election citizens vote for only half of these members (21).
- Legislative Council members can be Ministers even though the Government is not formed in this House. The Government has not had a majority in the Legislative Council since 1988.
What is the difference between Parliament and the Government?
Because in Australia members of government are also members of parliament, this is a question that a lot of people find confusing.
One way to answer it is to compare it to a sporting competition. Let’s use netball or soccer as an example. Think of parliament as the whole competition. Each of the political parties that have been elected are the teams that play against each other. The Government is the team with the most players in the Legislative Assembly.
Another way to answer it is to look at what parliament does and what government does.
The Parliament is made up of all of the members that have been elected to the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council. The Parliament has three main roles:
• representing the people – elected members speak about issues in Parliament
• making laws – a law is made when both Houses of Parliament pass a bill. It is then approved by the Governor and is called an Act of Parliament
• checking up on what the Government is doing – this is called keeping the Government accountable to the people
The role of Government is to come up with ideas that become laws if the Parliament votes for them. They are then responsible for putting these laws into action and making sure they work properly.
The Government is formed by the political party that wins the most seats in the Legislative Assembly after an election. The leader of that political party becomes the Premier. That party chooses some of their members to become Ministers.
What do Ministers do?
The job of each minister is to look after a government department. They also introduce bills and make speeches about the laws to do with the department that they are in charge of. Their job is to make sure that all of the State’s services are working properly and they must answer questions about this from other members of Parliament. This happens in Parliament and is called Question Time. This is also what we call responsible government.
The leader of the Government is called the Premier and the Minister in charge of the budget for the state is called the Treasurer. The Attorney General is the minister that represents the Government in legal matters. All other ministers are named after the government department of which they are in charge. For example, the Minister for Transport is in charge of transport in NSW.
All ministers are also members of Parliament so being a minister is an extra job. Like all members of Parliament, ministers help the people in their electorates with any problems to do with the government. A minister can be a member of the Legislative Assembly or the Legislative Council but most of them are in the Legislative Assembly.