Politics glossary – L to P

This politics glossary contains terms and concepts relevant to Australian government, parties, elections and political processes. This page contains words from ‘L’ to ‘P’. This glossary is written and maintained by lawgovpol.com authors:

Legislation is a law passed by an elected legislature, such as a parliament. It is also known as a statute or act of parliament.

Legislative Assembly
The Legislative Assembly is the name of the lower house of parliament in New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia. It is also the sole house in the State Parliament of Queensland and the legislatures of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory.

Legislative Council
The Legislative Council is the upper house in the State parliaments of New South Wales, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia.

lobby group
A lobby group is an organisation which aims and attempts to change or shape the law or government policy. Lobby groups can be non-profit groups, such as charities, or they can be for-profit firms employed by others.

A lobbyist is a person employed specifically to initiate or bring about a change in the law. They usually attempt this by communicating with government ministers and other influential figures.

Malapportionment is the unequal representation that occurs because of significant variation in the population of electorates. For example, a voter in an electorate containing 85,000 people may be considered ‘less represented’ than voters in an electorate containing 83,000 people.

In Westminster systems, a minister is a member of parliament responsible for managing and overseeing a particular portfolio or area of law-making, such as health, education, defence or transport. Most ministers are also members of the cabinet and thus the executive government.

ministerial responsibility
Ministerial responsibility is a convention that suggests ministers should be held accountable for any errors or misconduct by departments, agencies and people in their portfolio.

minor party
A minor party is a political party with very few parliamentary representatives. Recent minor parties in the Australian parliament have included the Greens, the Australian Democrats, One Nation and the Palmer United Party.

multi-member electoral system
A multi-member electoral system is any system where more than one person is elected in a particular seat or division. The Australian Senate uses a multi-member system because numerous members are elected from each State and Territory.

The Ombudsman is an office resourced by Federal and State governments but independent of them. The ombudsman hears and investigates complaints from the public, most commonly about government departments and subordinate authorities. If the matter warrants, the ombudsman may recommend a remedy to the relevant organisation and/or suggest legislative changes to the parliament.

In Westminster parliaments, the opposition is the largest party or party coalition not in government. The opposition’s main role is to present as an alternative government, holding the government to account, scrutinising their performance and developing alternative policies.

opposition leader
The opposition leader is the leader of the largest party or party coalition not in government. He or she takes a leading role in parliament and presents as an alternative prime minister or premier.

optional voting
Optional voting is an electoral practice where voting is entirely voluntary and participation is left up to individual voters.

A parliament is a sovereign body, usually elected by the people, that creates, reviews and passes legislation.

parliamentary committee
A parliamentary committee is a group formed by members of parliament, in order to oversee or review legislation and governance in a particular area.

parliamentary counsel
Parliamentary counsels are individuals, mostly lawyers, employed by parliament or political parties to draft legislation.

parliamentary privilege
Parliamentary privilege is a legal convention that protects politicians from prosecution and private legal action, based on things said in the parliament. Parliamentary privilege allows politicians to speak freely and to make allegations about individuals or organisations, without fear of recrimination.

A party is a political organisation containing individuals who share similar ideas, viewpoints and values. Political parties work to develop policies and ideas and win seats in parliament.

party room
The party room is a term used to describe meetings between parliamentarians from the same party. Party room meetings often debate and decide things like party leadership, policy or political strategy.

A petition is a document containing a number of signatures from citizens, who think similarly about a particular issue. Petitions are sometimes presented to a minister or the parliament, in an attempt to bring about a change in the law.

A plebiscite is a public vote on an issue or change to the law, that does not require a change to the Constitution (see referendum). For example, in Australia, there have been national plebiscites on conscription (1916, 1917), the selection of a national anthem (1977) and same-sex marriage (2017).

preference agreement
A preference agreement or deal is an agreement between two or more political parties, in which they agree to order preferences in a particular way on their how-to-vote cards. Preference deals are often organised to disadvantage or marginalise other parties.

preferential voting
Preferential voting is an electoral system where voters make their choice by indicating preferences for all candidates, rather than just one. They mark their most preferred candidate as “1”, the second as “2” and so forth. In the Australian Federal system, votes are counted by striking off the least-preferred candidate and distributing preferences, until one candidate has an absolute majority of votes.

The premier is the leader of a State political party with a majority in a lower house, making him or her the head of the State government.

Pre-selection is the process by which parties choose candidates to stand as candidates at an election. The process usually involves members of local branches voting on potential candidates, though the party executive sometimes overrides this process to appoint its own candidate.

Prime Minister
The prime minister is the leader of the political party with a majority in the Federal House of Representatives. This makes him or her the head of the national government.

private bill
A private bill is an item of proposed legislation with provisions that apply to a particular person, group or corporation, rather than the public at large.

private member’s bill
A private member’s bill is a bill introduced into parliament by an individual member, without the explicit support or instruction of the government or a party. Private member’s bills are rarely successful.

proportional voting
Proportional voting is an electoral system where seats are allocated based on the percentage of total votes received. Once candidates reach a specified quota or proportion of the votes, they are deemed to be elected. The Australian Senate is elected with a form of proportional voting.

Prorogation is the time between the end of one parliamentary session and the beginning of another, during which parliament is not sitting. To ‘prorogue parliament’ is to suspend its current session.

public service (see bureaucracy)

question time
Question time is a period in the daily parliamentary schedule where members can ask questions of the government and its ministers. Question time is intended to uphold responsible government, by ensuring ministers are accountable to the parliament.

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