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In many important areas of Australia’s system of government, much is determined by unwritten rules – or what we call ‘constitutional conventions’. Archives New Zealand

How unwritten rules shape ministerial accountability

Australia’s Constitution sets the ground rules for its system of government. But many things one might expect to be in the Constitution are simply not there.
Australia’s current military involvement in the Middle East has not been properly scrutinised by parliament. AAP/Australian Defence

What say do our elected representatives have in going to war?

Across the world, debates have emerged around the extent to which the legislative branch should be involved in – and even have the final say on – authorisation of military deployment.
Australia still follows Westminster in allowing key principles of democratic accountability to operate according to convention. Brad Hammonds

Following suit: why political conventions matter

Political conventions may be challenged and redefined by every new government, but it is their role in promoting political accountability that ensures the health of our democracy.
Barnaby Joyce has been outspoken in opposition to a government decision to build a coal mine in his electorate of New England. AAP/Lukas Coch

Joyce breaks cabinet rules, but his fate is PM’s call

Collective responsibility – or cabinet solidarity – is an axiom of political prudence that has mutated into a constitutional convention of how ministers should behave.
The voluntary release of the former Rudd government’s cabinet documents in relation to the home insulation scheme risks undermining cabinet confidentiality, and is a dangerous precedent. AAP/Alan Porritt

Cabinet confidentiality: privilege, accountability and public interest

It was revealed last week that prime minister Tony Abbott personally authorised the disclosure of the former Labor government’s cabinet papers in response to a summons by the royal commission into the…
By releasing the previous government’s cabinet proceedings for examination, Tony Abbott has exposed his cabinet to the risk that their successors will do the same to them. AAP/Alan Porritt

Releasing cabinet papers sets up paybacks that hurt our democracy

A long-standing principle in Australian politics, one derived from Westminster and British experience over hundreds of years, is that incoming governments do not use the confidential discussions of cabinet…
Do Kevin Rudd’s proposed reforms to the ALP expose the failings of Australia’s Westminster system of government? AAP

Rudd’s party reforms highlight Westminster woes

Prime minister Kevin Rudd’s proposal to prevent the ALP caucus from deposing a sitting prime minister has raised the hoary issue of the Westminster system. The dominant view among pundits is that under…

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