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The Magna Carta, signed by King John of England in 1215, is a foundation stone of our modern consitutional and parliamentary government. You can see one of the hand-written versions of the Magna Carta, made in 1297, in parliament House, Canberra. You can also see it on this website:
http://www.magnacarta.senate.gov.au/

When King John signed the Magna Carta, he was agreeing that the king, the people and the government must all obey the law. Over the centuries, the making of the law was placed in the hands of parliament, and parliament came to represent the people.

The Westminster system, as explained by Malcolm Farnsworth, former schoolteacher. This system, with the Australian law-making carried out by members of parliament elected by the people, is based on the English system of government developed over many centuries.

The American influence on Australia's system of government

At about the same time as the settlement of New South Wales, colonies in North America broke away from English rule and formed their own united states of government. It became The United States of America. The delegates to the Constitution Convention in 1787 spent 11 days debating the American constitution and rewriting parts of it.
You can see the hand-written constitution here:
http://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=true&doc=9
Among the delegates was Benjamin Franklin. He was a landowner and scientist. He was one of the very clever people whose ideas went into the Constitution of The United States of America.

Like the United States and unlike Britain, Australia has a written constitution.
Many ideas were drawn from the American constitution.

The Australian Constitution

This constitution sets out the roles of upper and lower houses, and the responsibilities of the states and federal parliament.






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