Brainstorm for secondary students

Updated 6 Jan 2015

A citizen of Australia is a person who is born in Australia, of Australian parents. Children born in Australia with at least one parent who is an Australian citizen or a permanent resident will automatically acquire Australian citizenship at birth. A person born overseas needs to apply for citizenship. See www.citizenship.gov.au and www.immi.gov.au

Australians are free, within the bounds of the law, to say or write what we think privately or publicly, about the government, or about any topic. We do not censor the media and may criticise the government without fear of arrest. Free speech comes from facts, not rumours, and the intention must be constructive, not to do harm. There are laws to protect a person's good name and integrity against false information. There are laws against saying or writing things to incite hatred against others because of their culture, ethnicity or background. Freedom of speech is not an excuse to harm others.

Freedom of the press (or freedom of the media) is the guarantee by a government of free public speech extended to members of news gathering organisations, and their published reporting. It extends to news gathering and processes involved in obtaining information for the public consumption. It is the freedom to print or publish without governmental interference.

Civilian control of the military means that the decision to go to war and make peace rest in the hands of our democratically elected officials, not the military generals.

A legal system is the mechanism for creating, interpreting and enforcing the laws in a given jurisdiction. In Australia there are two levels of judicial courts:

The Federal Judicature

Chapter III of the Constitution (sections 71-80), called 'The Judicature', provides for the judicial branch of the Commonwealth. It establishes the High Court of Australia and empowers the Commonwealth Parliament to create other federal courts and to vest federal judicial power in State and Territory courts.

There are four principal federal courts:

1. The High Court

2. The Federal Court of Australia

3. The Family Court of Austalia

4. The Federal Magistrates Court of Australia

State and Territory Courts

Australian State and Territory courts decide cases brought under State or Territory laws and, where jurisdiction is conferred on these courts by the Commonwealth Parliament, they also decide cases arising under federal laws. Most criminal matters, whether arising under Commonwealth, State or Territory law, are dealt with by State or Territory courts.

The State and Territory courts are:

1. The Supreme Courts

2. State intermediate courts

3. State and Territory courts of summary jurisdiction

A political system is a complete set of institutions, political organisations, interest groups (such as political parties, trade unions, lobby groups), the relationships between those institutions and the political rules that govern their functions (constitution, election law).

The Australian Constitution of 1901 established a federal system of government. Under this system, powers are distributed between a national government (the Commonwealth) and the six States (three Territories - the Australian Capital Territory, the Northern Territory, and Norfolk Island have self-government arrangements). The Constitution defines the boundaries of law-making powers between the Commonwealth and the States/Territories.

To promote the common good means to benefit members of society. Helping the common good equates to helping all people, or at least the vast majority of them. It has been defined as "the sum of those conditions of social life which allow social groups and their individual members relatively thorough and ready access to their own fulfilment." The common good, then, consists primarily of having the social systems, institutions, and environments on which we all depend, work in a manner that benefits all people. See www.scu.edu

Transparent government refers to open and accountable political systems. It is a means of holding public officials and members of parliament accountable and free from corruption.

It encompasses freedom of the press and freedom of speech. It means that government meetings, such as when parliament sits, are open to the press and the public. Official documents such as the budget are free to be reviewed by anyone. Laws and policy decisions are able to be viewed and discussed without fear of recrimination. Transparent government ensures that there is less opportunity for the people in power to abuse the system in their own interest.

Accountable government, also known as responsible government, is essentially government that governs with the consent of the people. The government is held accountable at election time and can be replaced if the public sees fit.

However, at another level accountable government also means that the Ministers (members of parliament with a specific portfolio) must firstly account to Parliament for their policy decisions and for the performance of their departments.

Privileges of Australian citizens

It entitles you to privileges of Australian citizenship giving you the right to:

  • live in Australia;
  • apply for an Australian passport and to leave and re-enter Australia without applying for a resident return visa;
  • seek assistance from Australian diplomatic representatives while overseas; 
  • stand for parliament;
  • work in the public service;
  • serve in the armed forces;
  • register any of your children born overseas as Australian citizens by descent, once you become an Australian citizen;

Responsibilities of Australian Citizens

  • obey Australian laws
  • enrol on the electoral register
  • vote in elections
  • defend Australia should the need arise
  • serve on a jury if called to do so

Australia’s democratic beliefs, rights and liberties

  • freedom of speech and expression;
  • freedom of religion and secular government;
  • equality of men and women;
  • equal opportunity;
  • parliamentary democracy;
  • the rule of law;
  • living peacefully;
  • respect for all individuals regardless of background;
  • compassion for those in need.

See: www.citizenship.gov.au