Australia

Oversight

Data on parliament’s oversight role and activities

Oversight tools

Parliament has the power to summon members of the government
Source Legal documents that stipulate parliament's role.
Australian Constitution, section 49 and 50
Parliament has the power to summon senior government officials
Source Legal documents that stipulate parliament's role.
Australian Constitution, section 49 and 50
Parliament has the power to approve key government appointments Key government appointments include, for example, ambassadors or the head of the central bank.
Source Legal documents that stipulate parliament's role.
The Governor-General acts on the advice of Ministers through the Executive Council to appoint Federal Judges, to appoint Australian Ambassadors and High Commissioners to foreign countries, and to appoint other senior Government officials.
Section 67 of the Constitution provides that ‘Until the Parliament otherwise provides, the appointment and removal of all other offices of the Executive Government of the Commonwealth shall be vested in the Governor-General in Council, unless the appointment is delegated by the Governor-General in Council or by a law of the Commonwealth to some other authority’.
The Auditor-General Act 1997 and Public Accounts and Audit Committee Act 1951 jointly provide that the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit must approve or reject any nomination to fill the positions of Auditor-General and Independent Auditor (a person appointed on a part-time basis from the private sector to serve as external auditor to the ANAO). This power, and the Auditor-General’s status under the Auditor-General Act as an Independent Officer of the Parliament, reflect the fact that the Auditor-General’s primary client is the Parliament rather than the Executive.
Number of written questions asked, per year
1,292 (2022)
See historical data for this field.
Number of written questions answered by the government, per year
1,241 (2022)
See historical data for this field.
Parliament has power to carry out inquiries
Yes
Source Legal documents that stipulate parliament's role.
Australian Constitution, section 49 and 50
Senate Journals
Number of parliamentary inquiries, per year
64 (2022)
See historical data for this field.
Notes
Figures show the number of final committee reports on inquiries presented. Joint committees also conduct parliamentary inquiries and presented 53 final reports on inquiries in 2022. Totals represent inquiries tabled by the Senate.

Head of State and/or Government

Head of State and/or Government
Parliament’s role in the designation of the Head of Government Some parliaments elect the Head of Government or approve the nomination for the Head of Government. Others do not play a role.
Parliament does not play a role
Notes
The leader of the Australian Government is the Prime Minister, who is a member of the House of Representatives. They are elected by their party (or in the case of a coalition government, the major party).

The office of Prime Minister is not mentioned in the Constitution. The party or parties that command the control of the House of Representatives forms government.
Source Legal documents that stipulate parliament's role.
House of Representatives Practice, Seventh Edn, pp. 61-63
Parliamentary Education Office
The Head of Government is also the Head of State
No
Parliament’s role
Parliament’s role in the designation of the Head of State Some parliaments designate the Head of State or approve the nomination for the Head of Government. Others do not play a role.
Parliament does not play a role
Notes
Australia is a constitutional monarchy.

Under section 2 of the Australian Constitution, a Governor-General is appointed by the King to be His Majesty's representative in Australia. They are appointed on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, usually for a term of 5 years. In practice, executive power in Australia is exercised by the Governor-General as the King's representative.
Source Legal documents that stipulate parliament's role.
Parliamentary Education Office

Impeachment and confidence motions

Procedure for parliament
There is a procedure for parliament to dismiss or impeach the following persons/institution There is a procedure to dismiss or impeach the following persons/institution: Not applicable (there is no procedure); The whole Government; The Head of Government; The Head of State; Individual members of the Executive; Other (please specify)
Not applicable (there is no procedure)
Source Legal documents that stipulate parliament's role.
House of Representatives Practice, Seventh Edn, p. 62

The formal appointment and removal of the Prime Minister rests with the Governor-General. The appointment and removal of Ministers, changes in the ministry and the allocation of portfolios are made by the Governor-General on the advice of the Prime Minister. See Chapter II of the Constitution.

The constitutional convention is that the Prime Minister remains in office while maintaining the support (leadership) of the majority party (or coalition) and the support of a majority of the Members of the House of Representatives. House of Representatives Practice, Seventh Edn, notes (on p. 62) that apart from dismissal, Prime Ministers have ceased to hold office as a result of death, failure to be re-elected as a Member of the House, removal as leader of the majority party, failure to maintain majority support in the House of Representatives, and retirement.
Chambers that play a role in the dismissal or impeachment In bicameral parliaments: Chambers that play a role in the dismissal or impeachment: Lower chamber; Upper chamber; Not applicable
Not applicable
Impeachment Role
There is a procedure for parliament to express no confidence in the following persons/institution There is a procedure for parliament to express no confidence in the following persons/institution: Not applicable (there is no procedure); The whole Government; The Head of Government; Individual members of the Executive; Other (please specify)
The whole Government
The Head of Government
Individual members of the Executive
Source Legal documents that stipulate parliament's role.
Odgers’ Australian Senate Practice
House of Representatives Standing Order 48
House of Representatives Practice, Seventh Edn, pp. 319-326

In the House, any member may, on notice, move a motion of censure or no confidence in the government (the standing orders have specific provisions for a motion which is accepted by a minister as a motion or amendment of censure or no confidence).

A government’s continuation in office is dependent on it surviving a motion of no confidence. Such a motion has priority over all other business until disposed of. By convention, a loss of confidence in the House of Representatives normally requires the government to resign in favour of an alternate government or to advise a dissolution of the House.

The withdrawal of the House’s confidence in the government may also be shown by defeat on an issue central to government policy or by rejecting a legislation measure that the government has proposed and declared to be of vital importance.

The Senate does not play a role in motions of no confidence. But a censure motion can be moved to express disapproval of individual ministers or the government or can be directed at private Senators.

Although a resolution of the Senate censuring the government, Minister or Senator has no direct constitutional or legal consequences, as an expression of the Senate's disapproval of the actions or policies of particular ministers, or of the government as a whole, censure resolutions may have a significant political impact and for this reason they have frequently been moved and carried in the Senate.

Chambers that play a role in motions of no confidence In bicameral parliaments: Chambers that play a role in motions of no confidence: Lower chamber; Upper chamber; Not applicable
Lower chamber
Parliament is automatically dissolved when a motion of no confidence is adopted In some countries, the adoption of a motion of no confidence in the Government automatically leads to the dissolution of Parliament in certain countries. In other cases, a new government can be formed.
No
Dissolving chambers
Chambers that can be dissolved when a motion of no confidence is adopted In bicameral parliaments: Chambers that can be dissolved when a motion of no confidence is adopted: Lower chamber; Upper chamber; Not applicable
Lower chamber
Upper chamber
Notes
Australian Constitution, Section 5 provides that the Governor-General may dissolve the House of Representatives.

Australian Constitution, Section 57 provides a way for both the Senate and the House of Representatives to be dissolved where there is disagreement between the Houses in relation to proposed laws.