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The difference between Parliament and Government

The Parliament comprises all the members elected to both houses of Parliament. The government comprises those members of the party (or alliance of parties) that has won the most seats in the Legislative Assembly. Some members of the government are appointed as ministers and form the cabinet. There are up to 17 ministers in the cabinet (executive government).

The leader of the winning party is the Premier, who chairs cabinet meetings and makes the recommendation to the Governor to appoint ministers. Ministers are vested with the responsibility for administering one or more government departments (or portfolios). Ministers and members of the party, or alliance of parties, that forms the government are referred to as government members or members of the government.

What is Parliament?

Parliament represents the interests of the people and ensures those interests are taken into account by government. Government is unable to pass laws or raise taxes without the agreement of the Parliament.

Parliament comprises the members of parties that the community has elected to represent them. Western Australia has a bicameral system of Parliament, meaning it has two houses:

  • The Legislative Council, which has 36 members who represent six electoral regions with the number of seats held by a political party reflecting the percentage of votes that a party received at an election.
  • The Legislative Assembly, which has 59 members elected from single member electoral districts who are elected for a minimum of four years.

While government ministers sit within Parliament, the majority of their work is undertaken in relation to government departments and agencies.

What does Government do?

The government administers government policy, the legislative agenda, taxes, how best to deliver public services and which services and activities funding should be allocated to. This could include, for example, services and funding for health, education, police and courts.

Government departments and statutory authorities administer or execute laws.

What does Parliament do?

Parliament works on behalf of the people of Western Australia to ensure:

  • through questions and requests for information that ministers are answerable for the actions taken by the department or agency under his/her authority.
  • government works and is run efficiently by reviewing new proposals and checking government expenditure and the effect of new laws.
  • that decisions made are legal, fair and non-discriminatory and support equality.

What is the Opposition?

The opposition is the largest non-government party or coalition of parties in the Parliament after an election. The Leader of the Opposition appoints members of the opposition to a shadow ministry, whose role it is to 'shadow' the relevant minister by scrutinising their actions, questioning government policies and the administration of particular portfolios. The opposition is considered the 'alternative government' and is responsible for creating alternative policies for the State.