The Westminster System

In NSW, government has been based on the Westminster System since the mid nineteenthcentury. The Westminster System is also the basis ofgovernment in the Australian Commonwealth, theTerritories and the other States. It is founded on theBritish Palace of Westminster model of responsiblegovernment which comprises:

  • A head of state, being the Sovereign or his/her representative (or, in a republic, the president)
  • An elected Parliament, with one or two HousesA Government formed by the political party, or coalition, with majority support in the Lower House
  • A Prime Minister or Premier, who heads the Government
  • A Ministry, drawn from members of Parliament – usually Government members – exercising executive authority and accountable to the Parliament
  • An independent judiciary.

At the heart of the system is the concept of theseparation of powers between the three branchesof government:

  • The legislature: the Parliament, which makes the law
  • The executive: the Governor, Prime Minister/ Premier, Ministers, Departments and agencies, which implement the law
  • The judiciary: the courts, which interpret and apply the law.

Another key feature of the Westminster System isan apolitical, professional public service providingimpartial advice to the Government of the day andimplementing the Government’s policies and programs. ln addition, as was first proposed in the Northcote-Trevelyan report to the UK House of Commons in 1854,a core requirement of the Westminster System is thatthe recruitment and promotion of employees in thepublic service is on the basis of merit.

Further advice on the NSW system of government andits history is available at www.parliament.nsw.gov.au.