A Guide to the Australian Government

So, there’s a federal election campaign taking place at the moment. While many people know the structure of the Australian Government and how it works, there are others who don’t.
If you’re one of those who don’t know, read on, because I’m going to explain it to you. It will be useful for you to know for when you vote.

The Constitution

The Australian Constitution, written during the 1890s and passed in 1900, is the most fundamental law in the country. Like all other constitutions, it sets out the basic rules for the government.
Chapter One of the Constitution confers legislative power (the power to make laws) onto the Parliament, Chapter Two confers executive power (the power to administer laws and conduct the government’s business) onto the Executive Government, and Chapter Three confers judicial power (the power to determine legal disputes conclusively) onto the Judicature (otherwise called the ‘judiciary’).

The Executive Government

Head of State

Because Australia is a constitutional monarchy, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is our head of state. But because she lives in the UK, her powers and duties are exercised by a “representative” here, known as the Governor-General.
Governors-General are appointed by the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister. The Constitution does not impose any term limits on Governors-General, though the unofficial length of a single term is five years. So far, no Governor-General has served more than one five-year term.
Governors-General open new sessions of federal Parliament; give new laws Royal Assent (the method used by a monarch to officially approve new laws); swear in government officials; represent Australia at big events; appoint new federal judges; and are the Commanders-in-Chief of the Australian Defence Force. He/she also has the power to fire government ministers (so far, this has only happened once, when Governor-General Sir John Kerr gave 21st Prime Minister Gough Whitlam the flick in 1975). They also have to receive foreign leaders, Ambassadors, and High Commissioners who visit Australia.
Because the Governor-General is an important role, it comes with a few perks. Governors-General have their own jet and fleet of cars to travel in, a mansion to live in, and even a holiday house. They also get a decent salary ($425,000), which can’t be changed during their time in office.

The Prime Minister

The role of Prime Minister isn’t mentioned in the Constitution. Therefore, according to Kevin Rudd, “it is as large an office, or as small an office, as you choose to make it”.
Despite this, the Prime Minister is the official head of government. He or she appoints members of their political party to ministerial positions. They also decide when elections are to take place, and is also the public face of the government. Prime Ministers earn a very attractive salary as well ($527,852 a year).
But there are also restraints on Prime Ministers. For example, they need to maintain support from their colleagues. Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, Tony Abbott, and Malcolm Turnbull all lost the support of their colleagues, and so were ousted as Prime Minister.
No-one actually votes for Prime Ministers during elections. We vote for political parties instead. A party becomes the ruling party when they gain a majority in the House of Representatives, and the leader of the party then becomes Prime Minister. A person can only become the leader of a party by being elected by party members.

The Federal Executive Council

The Federal Executive Council meets every two weeks. Its official purpose is to “advise the Governor-General in the government of the Commonwealth”. The Council consists of all senior federal government ministers. The Governor-General is President of the Council and presides at meetings. According to the Parliament of Australia website, ‘the matters dealt with at each meeting are recommendations by Ministers, for the approval of the Governor-General in Council, that something be done – for example, that a regulation be made, a treaty be ratified, or a person be appointed to a position’.

The Cabinet

The Cabinet, made up of senior government ministers, makes all the important decisions of the government. The Cabinet is chaired by the Prime Minister, who is also responsible for appointing ministers to serve on it.
The Cabinet isn’t mentioned in the Constitution, but it has been ratified by the Executive Council, therefore granting it legal effect.
Cabinet ministers earn $350,000 a year.

Ministers and Members of Parliament

The Prime Minister selects all government ministers. There can only be up to 30 ministers at a time under current legislation. Some senior ministers are in charge of major departments, while others administer specific areas within each department.
Members of Parliament (MPs) are the official representatives of the Australian people, all elected to office. The income of a backbench MP is currently $203,020 a year.

 

Parliament

The Parliament of Australia is bicameral (which means it consists of two chambers), and is modelled on the United States Congress. It consists of the House of Representatives and the Senate. All bills of law have to pass both the House and the Senate, and be signed by the Governor-General on the Queen’s behalf, in order to take effect.

The House of Representatives

The House of Representatives currently consists of 150 members, each of whom represents an electoral division. There will be 151 divisions at this year’s election.
They’re elected by preferential voting (people vote for candidates in order of preference), and serve three-year terms.

The Senate

The Constitution states that each state shall have an equal number of Senators, regardless of population. This is different to the allocation system in the House of Representatives.
There currently 76 Senators. Each state has twelve senators, and the territories only have two. The twelve Senators are elected to six-year terms, while the remaining Senators have to retire after three years due to a system of rotation.

The Judicature

The Constitution states that judicial power is to be vested in the High Court of Australia. Its roles include, but are not limited to: interpreting the Constitution; and reviewing laws passed by Parliament (this is called judicial review).
The High Court is headed by a Chief Justice. The current Chief Justice is the Honourable Susan Kiefal. She’s the first woman to hold the position.
There can be no less than two justices on the High Court at a time.
There’s no set term length for justices, though it’s compulsory for them to retire at seventy years of age.

 


Words by Callum J Jones

 

Stieg Larsson – A Biography

Everyone has either read or heard of the Millennium novel series.

If you haven’t, it’s about a journalist and computer hacker who work together to fight Sweden’s right-wing forces. The first three novels, including The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, were written by Swedish journalist and writer Stieg Larsson. After Larsson’s sudden death in 2004, the fourth and fifth novels were written by Swedish author and crime journalist David Lagercrantz.

But who was the man who wrote the first three books?

Stieg Larsson entered the world on 15th August 1954. He lived with his grandparents in the Swedish countryside until he was nine-years-old. He loved the small wooden house his grandparents owned, but didn’t like the city of Umeå, where he lived with his parents after the death of his grandfather.

Due to conscription law, Larsson served in the Swedish Army between 1974 and 1975. He was trained as a mortarman.

Larsson started writing at age twelve, using a typewriter his parents bought him for his birthday. He wrote science fiction stories, which were all published in magazines. He would later become editor or co-editor of some of these magazines. Between 1978-79, he was the president of Skandinavisk Förening för Science Fiction, Sweden’s largest science fiction fan club. He also wrote for, and edited, the Swedish section of the Fourth International.

Larsson started engaging heavily with far-left political activism during his writing career. He joined his local branch of the Communist Workers’ League, and researched right-wing extremism in Sweden in his spare time. He even published a book on the subject in 1991. In 1995, he established the Swedish Expo Foundation “with the aim of studying and mapping anti-democratic, right-wing extremist and racist tendencies in society”. He also wanted the Foundation to protect “democracy and freedom of speech [in Sweden] against racist, right-wing extremist, anti-Semitic and totalitarian tendencies”. He also became the editor of the foundation’s magazine, Expo. He spoke publicly about right-wing extremism, and fast became instrumental in exposing Swedish extreme right and racist organisations. He was subjected to heavy criticism and hate for this, and even received death threats.


The death threats, whether they were legitimate or not, naturally made him fear for his life. He replaced the front door of his home with a fireproof one. He also travelled to and from work at different times each day, and frequently changed the route he would take when going home
.

In 2002, he started writing The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. He then wrote the two sequels after finishing it and was working on the fourth book at the time of his death. He wanted the series to comprise ten books in total. He wrote the novels spare time, and often ended up working on them long into the night. But he didn’t make any attempt to get them published until just before his death, having decided that the royalties would serve as his retirement fund.


He submitted The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and its two sequels to a publishing company, but they turned them down. The second publishing company Larsson contacted, Norstedts Förlag, accepted the novels, and they’ve since sold millions of copies.


But Larsson didn’t live to see the phenomenon the Millennium series would become. Seven months after he signed the contract with Norstedts Förlag, he suffered a fatal heart attack after climbing the stairs to the Expo offices. He was fifty-years-old. The heart attack was caused by his unhealthy lifestyle: he was a fast food-eating, coffee-drinking, chain-smoking workaholic.


In his will, Larsson stated that he wanted his assets to be left to his local branch of the Communist Workers’ League upon his death. But the will wasn’t witnessed, so it was invalid under Swedish law. Larsson’s estate (including the royalties from book sales) instead went to his next of kin: his father and brother. This sparked controversy because Larsson’s long-term partner, Eva Gabrielsson, wants to control his work, but she has no legal right to do so because she and Larsson never married.


Despite this, the original three Millennium novels have remained popular to this day. Eighty million copies had been sold by March 2015, and Lagercrantz’s contributions to the series (The Girl in the Spider’s Web and The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye) have only boosted sales even more. The novels have been adapted into films. There’s no doubt in my mind that the series will continue to be popular.


Words by Callum J Jones

The History of Doctor Who

The eleventh season of Doctor Who premiered on 7th October with the episode, ‘The Woman Who Fell to Earth’. It featured the show’s first female incarnation of the Doctor.
No doubt there are some viewers out there who watch the revived version of the show. Some of them may not know the full history of it. If you’re one of them, stick around: I’m going to run through it all for you.
Sydney Newman, a fan of the science-fiction genre, became the new Head of Drama at the BBC in December 1962. When he was informed of a gap between programmes on Saturday evenings, he subsequently came up with the idea of having a science-fiction show fill the 25-minute slot. He co-wrote the show’s first formal document with two BBC staff writers, who heavily influenced the format of the show and the characters. But it was Newman who created the character of the Doctor, and who came up with the idea for the TARDIS. Producer Verity Lambert then took over production with a story editor named David Whitaker. The script for the very first episode, An Unearthly Child, was written by staff writer Anthony Coburn. Composer Ron Grainer created the show’s iconic theme music with the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Actor William Hartnell was persuaded to play the Doctor, and when the other actors were brought on board, production got underway.
‘An Unearthly Child’ was broadcast on 23rd November 1963, but was understandably overshadowed by news coverage of the JFK assassination (which happened the day before); so it was repeated the following Saturday before the second episode. The fifth episode was the first to feature the now iconic Daleks. The show quickly became a success, with large amounts of viewers tuning every Saturday night to watch it.
Production continued smoothly throughout the rest of 1963 and 1964. But difficulties arose during the third season in 1965: Lambert was replaced by a new producer, whom William Hartnell did not get along with; and it was getting harder for Hartnell himself to remember his lines (he was suffering from the early stages of arteriosclerosis, which would go on to cause his death). By 1966, it was obvious Hartnell couldn’t continue playing the Doctor: his health was deteriorating fast. Innes Lloyd, who replaced the producer who replaced Lambert, talked to Hartnell about the possibility of leaving the show, and Hartnell agreed it’d be the best thing to do.
This was how the ingenious idea of regeneration came about. Lloyd and story editor Gerry Davis needed a viable way to write Hartnell out of the show, and both decided that since the Doctor was an alien, he could change his body when it was mortally wounded or deteriorating from old age. They initially called this process ‘a renewal’; it wasn’t until much later that it would come to be called ‘regeneration’. Patrick Troughton was cast as the Second Doctor, and first appeared at the end of the 1966 episode The Tenth Planet. Troughton had big shoes to fill after Hartnell left, but he did an outstanding job. Troughton maintained the character’s hatred of evil, but played the Doctor in a more light-hearted way.
After three years, though, Troughton was burnt-out due to the show’s gruelling production schedule, and was also worried about being typecast. He eventually decided to leave at the end of 1969, and Jon Pertwee was brought onboard to replace him.
Pertwee’s debut as the Third Doctor in 1970 was a significant moment in the show’s history: it was the first time it was filmed and broadcast in colour. Pertwee played the Third Doctor in a very straight and action-orientated way. Because of a tight budget and the possibility of cancellation in 1969, the decision was made to shake things up and set the majority of the Third Doctor’s episodes exclusively on Earth. This decision seemed to save the show from cancellation and saved money. But having almost every episode set on Earth became stale over time, and the production team decided to go back to having more episodes set in space and on other planets. It was also during the Pertwee era that the character of the Master was introduced.
The actor who played the Master, Roger Delgado, tragically died in a car accident in 1973. This, as well as chronic back problems and the break-up of the production team he saw as his family, made Pertwee consider leaving the show. He apparently asked for a pay rise if the new production team wanted to keep him on, but his request was denied and he subsequently left the show in 1974.
Tom Baker replaced Pertwee, and played the Doctor on TV for seven years, far longer than any actor before or since. It’s because of this longevity that many people who grew up during his era on the show always think of him when Doctor Who is mentioned. Baker played the Doctor as a more eccentric, aloof, and alien character. When new producer John Nathan-Turner came onboard in 1980, he made numerous changes that Baker fundamentally disagreed with, leading him to resign the role. His last episode was broadcast in in 1981.
Peter Davison was then cast as the Fifth Doctor, with his debut season being broadcast in 1982. Davison was the youngest actor to play the Doctor at the time. He played the character as more human and more vulnerable. The show’s twentieth anniversary took place in 1983, during Davison’s tenure. The occasion was celebrated with a special feature-length episode called The Five Doctors, which saw the return of Troughton and Pertwee as the Second and Third Doctors respectively. Actor Richard Hurndall was brought in to replace William Hartnell (who had died in 1975) as the First Doctor. Tom Baker declined to take part in the episode, and footage from an unfinished episode from his era was subsequently (and cleverly) inserted into the episode to portray the Fourth Doctor. Davison had been advised by Troughton to only play the role for three years, and Davison followed this advice, leaving in 1984.
Colin Baker was selected as the Sixth Doctor, and debuted in the final episode of the 1984 season. He’d previously played another character (also a Time Lord) on the show in 1983. Baker’s Doctor was often overbearing and bombastic, more so than his predecessors, and this sparked criticism from viewers. There was also an increase in violence on the show during Baker’s time as the Doctor.
A man named Michael Grade became the new BBC 1 Controller in 1984, and he disliked Doctor Who so much that he wanted to cancel it. In 1985, he decided to move the show’s production back a financial year, leading to the belief that Doctor Who was going to be cancelled for good.
There was a huge public outcry, and those who worked on the show were frustrated because they’d already began preparing for the next season. Despite this, Grade stuck to his decision. Eighteen months passed before the next season was aired in 1986. All previous plans for this season were dropped and an overarching story arc was incorporated into it.
Grade allowed the Doctor Who to continue beyond 1986, but ordered John Nathan-Turner, who was still the show’s producer, to dismiss Baker and find a new actor to play the Doctor. Grade also moved the show from its traditional Saturday slot to a mid-week one.
Nathan-Turner quickly chose Sylvester McCoy, a well-known comedy actor, to play the Seventh Doctor. McCoy initially played the part in a light-hearted, clown-like way, but new script editor Andrew Cartmel developed the character into a much darker one who was very manipulative. The show started receiving praise again, but viewing figures were plummeting because episodes were broadcast opposite the very popular soap opera, Coronation Street.
Grade left as Controller of BBC 1 in 1987, and was replaced by Jonathan Powell, who suspended production indefinitely at the end of the 1989 season.
The show remained off the air for sixteen years, though novels and comics picked up where the show left off. In 1996, after much negotiation between the BBC and the Fox Network in America, a Doctor Who television movie was filmed and edited in the U.S. and broadcast there and the U.K. The movie depicted the regeneration of the Seventh Doctor into the Eighth, played brilliantly by Paul McGann. McGann, whose costume was reminiscent of William Hartnell’s, played the Eighth Doctor as a boyish figure who viewed the universe with glee and wonder. People were hoping the movie would spark a new series, but it didn’t.
An animated episode called Scream of the Shalka was produced for the show’s fortieth anniversary in 2003, starring Richard E. Grant as the Ninth Doctor. The episode debuted via webcasting.
Shortly after Scream of the Shalka was released, it was announced that Doctor Who would finally return to TV, with renowned scriptwriter Russell T. Davies as Executive Producer and head writer. Christopher Eccleston was cast as the Ninth Doctor, with the Ninth Doctor played by Richard E. Grant re-named as the “Shalka Doctor”. Eccleston’s Doctor was less eccentric than previous Doctors, spoke with a Northern accent, and was traumatised by the Last Great Time War, which wasn’t depicted on-screen until 2013.
The first season of the revived show was broadcast in 2005 to much praise, but Eccleston only did this first season. He was replaced by David Tennant at the end of 2005, whose Tenth Doctor was energetic, friendly, and human in nature. Tennant quickly became the Doctor for many new viewers, so when he announced in 2008 he was going to leave Doctor Who at the start of 2010, people were devastated. Russell T. Davies also decided to leave alongside Tennant, and Steven Moffatt, who had scripted some of the most popular episodes of the revived version of the show, replaced him at the start of the fifth season.
Little-known actor Matt Smith took over from Tennant, and became the youngest ever actor to play the role. Smith played the Doctor similarly to the Tennant, only more youthful and alien. Smith’s first season was broadcast in 2010.
The year 2013 was Doctor Who’s fiftieth anniversary, and it was treated as a momentous occasion (and rightfully so). A special anniversary special, ‘The Day of the Doctor’, was broadcast on 23rd November, the date An Unearthly Child was broadcast in 1963. It starred Smith, who was still playing the Eleventh Doctor. David Tennant reprised the Tenth Doctor in the special, and all previous Doctors featured via archive footage. Tom Baker also appeared as a character called the Curator, who was later revealed to be a future incarnation of the Doctor.
Smith stepped down at the end of 2013, with Peter Capaldi taking over as the Twelfth Doctor. Capaldi had played a different character in the Tenth Doctor episode ‘The Fires of Pompeii’ and also appeared in the third season of Torchwood, which was a spin-off of Doctor Who. The Twelfth Doctor, a blend of the Third, Fourth, and Ninth Doctors, was even more alien than the Eleventh was, and was also more removed as a character.
Both Capaldi and Steven Moffat left the show at the end of 2017. Moffat was replaced by Chris Chibnall, who occasionally wrote for Doctor Who in the past and was the head writer of the first two seasons of Torchwood. Capaldi was replaced by Jodie Whittaker, who’s playing the Thirteenth Doctor and is the first female to play the character.

 


Words by Callum J. Jones

Leonardo da Vinci: A Biography

Everyone knows of the man who painted the Mona Lisa: Leonardo da Vinci.
Leonardo lived during the Renaissance period, which took place in Europe from the 14th to 17th century. Starting off as a cultural movement in Italy, the Renaissance is the period between the Middle Ages and Modern History.

He was born in 1452. He was the illegitimate child of Ser Piero da Vinci , a lawyer who lived in Florence, and a woman of poor stature whose name was Caterina.

From 1466 to 1472, Leonardo trained to become an artist under the tutelage of Andrea del Verrocchio, one of the foremost artists in Florence.

Giorgio Vasari, an Italian writer, was a contemporary of Leonardo. Vasari, who wrote an early biography of him, held Leonardo in high regard as an artist. This is because Leonardo had great knowledge of art and practised all branches of it, including painting, drawing, and sculpture. It’s no wonder Leonardo is seen as one of the most famous artists of all time.

But it may surprise you to know that Leonardo rarely finished any of his artworks

According to Vasari, ‘it seemed to [Leonardo] that he was not able to attain to the perfection of art in carrying out the things which he imagined’. In other words: he was never happy with what he produced. Plus he was always starting new pieces without finishing the others he’d previously been working on. And as if this wasn’t enough, he was a very slow worker (it took him five years to finish the Mona Lisa!). Leonardo didn’t sell the majority of his work either; his most well-known paintings were never given to those who commissioned them.

So how did he get by without delivering? Well, he delivered in other areas.

Leonardo displayed immense knowledge for and talent in history, writing, invention, architecture, engineering, science, maths – you get the idea. The man was a polymath. His notes (6,000-odd sheets of them) prove this. Leonardo even boasted of his intellect in a letter to Ludovico Sforza, the then-duke of Milan, asking for employment as an architect and engineer. In the letter, Leonardo listed ideas for various devices, instruments, and plans. It’s interesting that only one of these ideas is a peace-time idea; all the others were devices that could only be used in war. Sforza employed Leonardo until the French invaded Milan in 1499.

He then found a job as a military architect and engineer in Venice. He eventually found himself working under the son of Pope Alexander VI in a similar job. He also held other positions that aligned with his intellect and talents, such as inventor, writer, and mathematician.

Leonardo is an archetypal Renaissance man (a person with many talents or areas of knowledge) because of his vast amount of interests and talents, as well as his large intellect.

He passed away from poor health in 1519. He was 67-years-old.

Despite living centuries ago, Leonardo’s legacy remains intact today. Many people are able to identify his paintings, and he’s still well-known for his talents and knowledge. Because of his notoriety, his artwork and other items are worth a fortune. For example, Bill Gates paid over thirty million U.S. dollars in 1994 for a notebook that Leonardo had kept. Gates has since scanned the notebook and made it available to the world.

It seems that Leonardo will never be forgotten.

 


Words by Callum J Jones

 

Interesting Facts About North Korea

You’d have to be living under a rock to not know about North Korea’s nuclear arsenal. This arsenal won’t be around forever, though, since a denuclearisation agreement was made between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump back in June.

(You’d also be living under a rock to not know that, too).

But are the lesser-known facts about North Korea? Let’s go through them, shall we?

 

1). The United States is technically still at war with North Korea. A cease-fire agreement was signed in 1953, but no peace treaty ever followed that officially ended the Korean War.

 

2). It is not the year 2018 in North Korea. It’s actually the year 106. Their years are counted from the birth of their first Supreme Leader, Kim Il-sung, in 1912.

 

3). The second Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-il, was for a time the leading consumer of Hennesy Cognac in the world.

 

4). One of the major tourist attractions in North Korea is the preserved body of Kim Jong-il.

 

5). During his reign as Supreme Leader (1994-2011), Kim Jong-il kidnapped a North Korean filmmaker and his wife (who also happened to be an actress) and forced them to make films for him.

 

6). The North Korean public only knows what the government tells them. The government owns all the television and radio stations, as well as the newspapers. It also regulates the Internet within the country.

 

7). There’s a three-generation punishment system in North Korea. This means if you commit a crime, then your children and grandchildren also pay the price.

 

8). North Korea is actually a democratic republic (the country is officially called the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea). They have elections, but there’s only one name on the ballot.

 

9). In North Korea, there are only twenty-eight approved haircuts.

 

10). North Korean athletes are quarantined and monitored at international events and competitions.

 

11). The border between North and South Korea is one of the most heavily-guarded places in the world. Guards actually hold hands when they open a door to the other side so that they can’t get pulled over.

 

12). With all the restrictions in North Korea, it might surprise you that marijuana is actually legal there (but the truth is a tad more complex than that).

 


Words by Callum J. Jones.