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Bipartisanship and Bicameralism in Australia's 'War on Terror': Forcing Limits on the Extension of Executive Power

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In Australia, John Howard's coalition government responded to the attacks of September 2001 by introducing a series of bills that would grant the executive and the security services unprecedented new powers in its 'war on terror', and by committing troops to Afghanistan and, later, Iraq. Australia governments normally dominate the lower House of Representatives whereas the Senate, with near co-equal powers, elected by proportional representation, and thus usually denying the government or opposition an overall majority, proved to be a more significant obstacle, often requiring the government to make substantial concessions in order to secure passage of its legislation. Following the 2005 General Election, however, Howard's coalition secured a rare Senate majority, which it was anticipated would curtail parliament's ability to block or amend legislation. In the event, the Senate continued to play a role, albeit a diminished one, in shaping Australia's 'war on terror'.

Keywords: Australia; Australian Senate; John Howard; anti-terrorism legislation; bicameralism; executive federalism; executive-legislative relations; parliament

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13572330902933391

Affiliations: 1: University of Canberra, 2: Australian National University,

Publication date: June 1, 2009

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