Skip to main content

Welcome to the

Houses of Parliament

The House of Representatives

The House of Representatives

The House of Representatives was modelled on the British, and even now, in any matter of procedure not provided for by its own rules and practices, the rules and practices of the British House of Commons are followed. The House of Representatives has 16 members: 15 elected for a five-year term in single-seat constituencies, and a speaker. The elections are by the first-past-the-post system.

The House of Representatives is the focal point of parliamentary activity and public attention, the grand forum of the nation, where major national and international issues are debated; where the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition may be seen in regular confrontation; where Cabinet Ministers defend the policies and conduct of their departments; where the nation’s business in freely and openly transacted, all that is said and done being faithfully recorded.

Parliament makes the laws and the House of Representatives plays the predominant part in making them. Any member can introduce bills, except bills involving expenditure or taxation, which can only be introduced by the government.  Since the responsibilities of government now extend into almost every sphere of activity, and since most government action involves spending money (and raising it by taxes, fees, loans, and so forth), most of the time of the House is spent on Government Bills.

Every bill must pass both Houses and receive the Royal Assent before it becomes law.  Assent is signified by the Governor General.

By law a general election must be held at least once every five years.  However, Parliament may be dissolved and an election called before the statutory period has elapsed, and this is what normally happens.  The power to dissolve Parliament is a royal prerogative exercised by the Governor General, normally on the advice of the Prime Minister.

THE GOVERNOR GENERAL

The Governor General personifies the State.  In law, he is the head of the Executive and an integral part of the legislature.  In practice, he exercises all these powers on the advice of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet.