Functions of Parliament

Representative Function

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Christian Bien Portrait_edited.jpg

Max Brampton

Learning Objectives

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Representation
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The representative function or parliament relates to its maintenance of a link between the electors and their delegates in parliament, ensuring that the views and legislation of parliament are an accurate reflecton of the people.

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Representation Function in Theory
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Theoretically, political parties were weaker links between like-minded politicians, and representatives of parliament acted in the interests of their constituents as either:

  • Delegate Representation: a member of parliament who is the mouthpiece of the people who elected them. They simply voice their constituents’ values and concerns in parliament.

  • Trustee Representation: members of parliament who make judgements about their constituents’ best interests – not in continuous communication with their electorate.

Represenatives in the senate also incorporated;

  • State Representation: representing the state’s best interest in the senate upper house

The theory behind parliamentary representation was that the people elected individuals that they thought would best represent them in the drafting of legislation and running of government.

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Representation Function in Practice
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In practice, most Australians vote according to a political party preference, enhanced with the recent 'prime ministerialisation' of politics, where the indiviudal candidate has become less important over the leader of the political parties. This leads to an overwhelming partisan representation in parliament:

  • Partisan Representation: due to parties’ organizational and financial resources to help boost a chance of election, members of parliament overwhelmingly belong to political parties. They act on behalf of their party rather than their electorate – this is in both houses, mainly HoR.

Due to the Senate's proportional voting system, the Senate is more likely to mirror the diversities and views of the population, often called mirror representation.

  • Mirror Representation: in the senate using a proportional electoral system, the diversity of viewpoints and ideas is roughly representative of the Australian population. Longer terms decrease party discipline in the senate, and less major party dominance enhances mirror representation more so than the HoR does.

This is not to say that partisan representation does not exist in the Senate, but rather that is plays a smaller role due to the larger presence of independents and minor parties. 


Interestingly, in the 2022 federal election, a record number of independants were introduced to the House of Representatives, potentially due to the discontent towards the representation people saw at the hands of the major parties. 


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