Mandate: Australia's Current Debate in Context

Research Paper 19 1998-99

J.R. Nethercote
Politics and Public Administration Group
11 May 1999

Major Issues
The Mandate: An Elusive Concept with a Long History
Mandate Doctrine: Aspects of its History
United Kingdom
Australia's Mandate Debate 1998
The Protagonist: the Prime Minister
The Antagonists
Media Analysis
Mandate: Dictionary and Academic Analyses
Appendix 1: Mandate-Dictionary Definitions
Appendix 2: Dictionaries of Politics
Appendix 3: Academic Analysis

Major Issues

The purposes of this paper are to provide:

  • analysis of the meaning and character of mandate doctrine
  • background on the part played by mandate doctrine in the evolution of representative and responsible government in the United Kingdom and Australia
  • an explanation of why mandate debate in Australia is more frequent and more complex than in other Westminster-based parliamentary systems, especially since introduction of the proportional method of electing Senators in 1948
  • an authoritative account of debate about the mandate arising during and after the 1998 national elections
  • appendices include material on dictionary definitions and academic analyses.

The principal findings of the research are:

  • during and following the 1998 elections there was debate about the Government's bid for a mandate for its tax proposals, especially the goods and services tax component. Debate centred on both voting and seats won in the Senate and the House of Representatives. There have been similar debates during the Whitlam Government, 1972-75, and following election of the Howard Government in 1996
  • because of the character of Australia's bicameral Parliament, both Houses of which are elected and have comparable powers, debate in Australia about the mandate is more frequent, more complex and more vigorous than in other Westminster-style parliaments, for example, in the UK and Canada, where the lower house's preeminence over a non-elected upper house is well-established
  • mandate is a political idea in two senses. Mandate doctrine derives from the politics of responsible government on a democratic basis. It does not derive from constitutional, legal or parliamentary prescription. Moreover, a mandate is not a substitute for prescribed constitutional, legal or parliamentary procedures, though it may influence the workings of such procedures
  • second, mandate doctrine has been mainly developed by politicians in political forums rather than by philosophers or academics
  • the purpose of mandate doctrine is to accord a larger role to the people than simply casting a vote at specified intervals. It is about politicians declaring the philosophies, principles, policies, plans and programs which they will support if they win office. President Eisenhower furnished a succinct definition of what mandate is about. He entitled the first volume of his presidential memoirs, Mandate for Change, and the relevant chapter, 'Promises to Keep'
  • there is considerable debate about what a mandate is. Does it apply to the entire platform (or manifesto) of a winning party only to the more important item or to matters mainly the subject of contention during a campaign? And can others, apart from winners, claim to have a mandate? Likewise, there is considerable debate about how a mandate may be discerned-seats in a legislature, seats in which chamber of a legislature or the voting strengths which lie behind respective party strengths in parliament? And what of voting strength not translated into representation?
  • in the UK, mandate ideas were related, first, to the rise of campaigning and the need to tell the voters how power, if won, would be exercised. They were also important in the ascendancy of the House of Commons over the House of Lords
  • in Australia, it has been a different story, especially since adoption of the 1948 method of electing Senators. As a consequence, disputes between the Houses are more likely than previously, but it is less likely that they will be resolved by recourse to simultaneous dissolutions of the Houses except with respect to the legislation on which the dissolutions are based
  • the debate in Australia during and after the 1998 elections reflected the long history of discourse on mandate doctrine and embraced many of the elements which have arisen during the past two centuries of democratic responsible government
  • academic analysis of mandate matters is divided. Some authors consider it is a political idea which seeks to give meaning to elections and that criticisms are based on overly literal definitions of the term. Others believe that the legitimacy of democratic politics requires that, as much as possible, commitments made on the hustings should be honoured once the election result is settled (recognising that there are circumstances where a mandate will lose its relevance or be overtaken by events), and
  • critics of mandate doctrine portray it as a device for nullifying or circumventing due processes of government and legislation. The conception of mandate doctrine which they criticise is the product of rhetoric rather than more considered expositions.


During the 1998 elections for the House of Representatives and the Senate the Prime Minister, John Howard, sought a mandate for the Government's tax package, especially the goods and services tax component. Once the Government had been returned to office-that is, had a majority of seats in the House of Representatives-the Prime Minister claimed a mandate. The claim was subsequently contested by the Opposition and by the Australian Democrats, a cross-bench party represented only in the Senate. Until new Senate terms commence on 1 July 1999, the Government can secure Senate consent to legislation providing it has the support of either the Australian Democrats or independent Senators Harradine and Colston. After the new terms commence, Democrat support will be essential for any Government measures to which the Opposition is opposed.

The Prime Minister's claim to a mandate in these circumstances is based on the Government's support in the House of Representatives where it has a majority of 12 over all others. The Opposition legitimises its argument by reference to relative voting strengths behind representation in the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Australian Democrats' claim likewise turns on relative voting strengths rather than results in terms of seats; they also distinguish between outcomes for the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Questions about mandates also arose following the first election of the Howard Government in March 1996 and, even more prominently, during the Whitlam Government, 1972-75. Indeed, it was Prime Minister Whitlam who essentially placed the term mandate itself in the Australian political lexicon.(1)

There are differences between the respective claims of the two prime ministers. The Whitlam Government had an exceedingly comprehensive program whereas the Howard Government has focussed its mandate claims, on each occasion, on a small number of specific, albeit major, policies (for example, in 1996, the partial sale of Telstra). In terms of seats in the House of Representatives the Whitlam Government's majorities were very small, nine after 1972 and seven after 1974 (eventually five). It never had a majority in the Senate; indeed, there was only one Senate election in the period, that which occurred in May 1974 following simultaneous dissolutions of the two Houses.

After 1996 the Coalition had a majority in the House of 40 over all other parties; this fell to 12 following the 1998 election; its voting base likewise fell in terms of two-party preferred voting from 47.2 to 39.5 per cent (House of Representatives), though the Opposition made only limited headway as nearly eight per cent went to the new Pauline Hanson One Nation Party. The Government's Senate strength was initially just two short of a majority; when Senators elected in 1998 take their seats on 1 July 1999 the Coalition will be four short of a majority.

In Britain, the term mandate historically was bound up, first, with the growth of campaigning for office and the view that party leaders should make declarations to the voters about their principles and policies. It was, second, and probably more significantly, central to adaptation of the respective roles of the Lords and Commons following the Reform Act of 1832, and, more especially, extension of the franchise in 1867. The mandate question has been of reduced significance since the Commons established its pre-eminence through the Parliament Act 1911. This history is outlined in greater detail later in this paper.

Nor is the mandate a doctrine of great consequence in other countries with Westminster-style governments where the parliamentary arrangements are similar, that is, where the lower house has a clear pre-eminence as in Canada or where the parliament is unicameral as in New Zealand. In these cases, the principal import of mandate doctrine is that major measures, circumstances permitting, should be open to scrutiny in an electoral context before implementation. In the late 1980s in Canada the Progressive Conservative Government headed by Brian Mulroney was criticised because it was claimed there was no mandate to introduce a goods and services tax. A majority in the House of Commons was enough even though it was eventually necessary to resort to special constitutional measures to ensure the legislation passed the Senate in the face of the then Liberal majority in that chamber.(2) Similarly, in New Zealand, the Lange Labor Government has been criticised on the basis that it lacked a sufficient mandate for the sweeping economic changes it introduced.

In these cases the governments in question were able to proceed with their programs without conclusive resistance from parliament. For legislative purposes, a majority in the lower house was enough. Whether to proceed or not because of criticism about want of a mandate or any other reason was a political judgment for the ministry itself to decide.

At the national level in Australia it is a different story because of the character of the bicameralism of the Parliament. As a result, mandate debate is more frequent, more complex and more vigorous.

In Australia, a government must have the support of the Senate as well as the House of Representatives for legislation. Where there is a disagreement between the Houses it is a contest between two parliamentary bodies elected on a similar franchise (if not necessarily at the same time except following simultaneous dissolutions). The Senate is not vulnerable to attack on democratic grounds as are the non-elected upper houses of Britain and Canada. Moreover, since adoption of the present method of electing Senators in 1948 the constitutional procedure (section 57) for resolving disputes between the two Houses has proven to be very limited, and largely retrospective, in scope. The difficulty in resolving problems in relations between the Houses helps to account for the fervour with which Australian parliamentarians address the mandate question-a government in seeking to win over Senate opposition, inter alia, through public pressure if not other means; opponents of the government seeking to be seen as representing popular interests against an insensitive ministry.

Australia's national situation is more analogous to mandate contests which sometimes mark relations between presidents of the United States, elected on a nation-wide basis, and either or both Houses of the Congress. Unlike the Australian Constitution, the US Constitution does not include any formal provisions for resolving disputes between a president and the Congress, or between the two Houses of Congress. If the matter of who has the mandate is to be resolved it has to be at the constitutionally scheduled elections.

This paper mainly focusses on mandate doctrine in the workings of parliament and elections but it is well to remember that it is utilised in other forums, mainly as a rhetorical weapon. Clear statements of policies during elections are an aid to party leaders afterwards establishing and maintaining unity and cohesion among their followers, outside as well as within Parliament.(3) Mandate might also be invoked in relations with the courts,(4) public sector agencies,(5) and international financial institutions.(6)

This paper primarily seeks to assist in understanding the debate about mandate which occurred in Australia during and after the 1998 national elections by providing:

  • analysis of the meaning and character of mandate doctrine, an elusive concept with a long history
  • background on the significance of mandate doctrine in the evolution of representative and responsible government in the United Kingdom, particularly in adaptation of the role and eventually the powers of the House of Lords as the franchise of the Commons was increasingly democratised
  • an account of the place of the mandate idea in Australia's parliamentary politics and especially the interconnection between increasing rhetorical resort to mandate doctrine and the 1948 method of electing Senators
  • an authoritative account of the terms of the mandate debate during and following the 1998 national elections, and
  • appendices which include material on dictionary definitions and academic analysis.

The Mandate: An Elusive Concept with a Long History

The term mandate, and certainly the ideas lying behind it, has been central to the evolution of responsible parliamentary government on a democratic basis throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In Australia, it has from the start been prominent in debates about relations between the Senate and the House of Representatives. These debates have had particular edge since adoption in 1948 of a proportional method of electing Senators, for, thereafter, it became both more likely that there would be deadlocks between the two Houses and less likely that such deadlocks could be resolved except in respect of specified contested legislation. This feature of Australia's parliamentary arrangements is explained more fully below.

The mandate idea is quintessentially a political doctrine in two important senses. In the first instance, it exists in the realms of political debate and competition. It is not a term which is, in the sense addressed in this paper, to be found in constitutions or laws.

Acknowledgment, or disavowal, of a mandate may have a bearing on the workings of constitutional or legal processes. A mandate, however, is a supplementary force, not a substitute for prescribed constitutional, parliamentary or legal processes or procedures. It is part of the physiology of the body politic rather than the anatomy. It is a doctrine which seeks to reinforce the legal basis on which election winners take the reins of government with a claim to legitimacy in so doing; the winners take office as agents of popular will as well as in their own right.

Mandate can often be a program adjunct of a leader seen (not necessarily by everyone) to have charisma. This sentiment may be strengthened if the margin of victory is substantial. (But there is no inevitability in this: charisma may characterise narrow wins and ambitious leadership just as large wins may be secured by uncharismatic leaders with limited programs).

A second sense in which mandate is a political doctrine is its provenance. It has been developed by politicians themselves in the context of electoral and parliamentary activity. Hence, although analytical and academic expositions of mandate ideas are relatively few, the idea, on the other hand, has a long case history.

The idea of mandate derives from the view that elections are about more than periodically casting a vote for particular individuals. The idea embraces candidates and/or parties telling the voters what they stand for in terms of philosophies, principles, plans and programs; what they stand against; and what they propose to do should their campaign be successful. An early expression of the mandate idea was the view that, circumstances permitting, major new policies or programs should be submitted to the people before being enacted. The mandate idea applied both to legislation and to policy which might be implemented on the basis of executive power. President Eisenhower provided a succinct definition in the first volume of his presidential memoirs, Mandate for Change, when he headed the relevant chapter 'The Platform: Promises to Keep'.(7)

In these senses, the mandate idea is as applicable in a unicameral parliament, or a parliament in which one chamber is constitutionally pre-eminent, as it is to parliaments which are effectively bicameral, or systems with competing sources of popular power, as in the United States and France.

In the United States, the mandate is most frequently invoked by presidents trying to persuade either or both houses to pass the administration's legislation. Both the president and the Congress may lay claim to a mandate on the basis that each is elected.(8) Comparable if not identical contests periodically occur in France when a government of a different political complexion to the president secures support in the Assemblée Nationale. The bifurcation in this instance stems in part from different terms: the president is elected for seven years whilst the term of the Assemblée Nationale is four years. Presidents normally dissolve the Assemblée upon election (which has normally brought a friendly majority). However, at the next elections, midway through the President's term, an Assemblée with an opposition disposition has been elected on three occasions (1985, 1992 and 1998). The consequential political accommodation is known as cohabitation and the president perforce assumes a less active role, especially in domestic matters.

Whilst the mandate idea has a long history in the context of responsible government on a democratic foundation, it has never been constitutionally or legally entrenched. Its meaning as well as the means whereby its existence may be divined are continuing subjects of debate in politics.

Mandates may be challenged where parliamentary majorities are at best insecure; where the outcome in one forum is not reflected in others (as in Australia when a substantial majority in the House of Representatives is not matched by even a small majority in the Senate); where they are not supported by voting majorities, or unambiguous pluralities; where party manifestos are so long and complex that the significance of particular items is unclear; and where a policy to which a government subsequently attaches great weight attracted little or no attention in the relevant campaign. A mandate also has greater force immediately following an election; the legitimacy it confers wanes as a new poll approaches.

Practical problems aside, the mandate has been roundly criticised on general grounds as a means for avoiding, circumventing, short circuiting or nullifying parliamentary process in the making of legislation. In this view, the mandate is portrayed as a bludgeon in the hands of a majority party for imposing its views on others; behind this lies a fear that the view of the majority party is only that of a majority within it and therefore a minority within the whole.

Critics of mandate doctrine usually focus on its rhetorical rather than philosophical expositions. Few if any defenders of the mandate eschew the need for parliamentary process in law making. For them the mandate is about the significance of commitments to the electorate before and during elections; the need subsequently to realise obligations made during campaigns; and the importance of these for maintaining the legitimacy of democratic parliamentary politics.

In the debate about the mandate these apologia are critical for they demonstrate that such authority as is conferred by a mandate has its source in undertakings given by a winning side during a campaign. Authority thus flows from obligation and commitment. The integrity of politics will be diminished if promises made on the hustings can be readily discarded once victory has been achieved.

Recent debates centre on incumbent governments seeking to honour obligations made during campaigns in the face of continuing resistance from opponents with a footing in the parliament and, thereby, also able to claim electoral support for their position.

There are occasions, however, where it is the victors who wish to turn away from undertakings made in the course of a campaign. That the main sanction against their doing so is their likely fate at the next election underlines the political character of mandate doctrine, and, in illustration, the fact that the penalties, such as they are, are themselves political, not constitutional nor legal.

Mandate Doctrine: Aspects of its History

Mandate doctrine has been developed in the forums of electoral and parliamentary politics themselves. The aim of this part of the paper is to provide information on this development in British and Australian national politics.

United Kingdom

In the UK, mandate doctrine has been integral to development of responsible government on a democratic basis, in particular, linking the campaign activities of parties to their activities if they win office. A second, and derivative, dimension of its importance emerged in its role in resolving conflicts, or potential conflicts, between the House of Commons and the House of Lords. It was contended that providing it was feasible to do so, major measures, especially any measures affecting the institutions of the country, should be put before the country before enacting legislation

Mandate as statement of principles

Perhaps the most significant illustration of the mandate idea in the first of the above senses was Sir Robert Peel's Tamworth manifesto of 1834 in which he announced Conservative acceptance of the Reform settlement of 1832. The need for the manifesto arose, according to Peel himself, from an abrupt change of government, the fact that Parliament was not sitting, the policy of aiding friends at the election and the aim of winning 'the adhesion of moderate men, not professing adherence to our politics'.(9)

Mandate as prior notice

Mandate doctrine played a key role in shaping relations between the two Houses as the franchise for the House of Commons was increasingly democratised. Thus, in 1867, Disraeli, prime minister without majority support, challenged Gladstone's attempt to introduce legislation to disestablish the Church of Ireland on the basis that it was beyond the:

... moral competence [of Parliament] to do that without an appeal to the nation ... . You cannot come, on a sudden, and without the country being the least informed of your intention, to a decision that will alter the character of England and her institutions ... . Technically, no doubt, Parliament has power to do so ... . But, ... it is most wise that you should hold your hand unless you have assured yourselves of such an amount of popular sympathy and support as will make your legislation permanent and beneficial.(10)

Gladstone, for his part, found this view 'ultra-democratic' and 'anarchical'. Nevertheless, having won the 1868 election, he proceeded with his plan. Lord Salisbury urged the Lords to accept the legislation on the basis that they should give way 'when the House of Commons is at one with the nation'.(11)

Another aspect of the same approach arose in 1886. Following an election Gladstone again became prime minister and introduced legislation to grant Home Rule to Ireland. It was defeated, not least because of Liberal Party defections. These were justified on the basis that the matter had not been canvassed at the recent general election. Lord Hartington told the House of Commons that:

The constituents of Great Britain are the source of power, at all events in this branch of Parliament; and I maintain that, in the presence of an emergency which could not have been foreseen, the House of Commons has no more right to initiate legislation, especially immediately upon its first meeting, of which the constituencies were not informed, and as to which, if they had been so informed, there is, at all events, the very greatest doubt as to what their decision might be.(12)

Hartington was at pains to deny the existence of a mandate-'there exists in our Constitution no principle of the mandate'. But, as one author has observed, 'it would be difficult to find any other single term by which to describe the obligations which he mentioned as being due to the electorate'.(13)

Management of relations between the Commons and the Lords according to practice and convention based largely on mandate doctrine broke down during the Liberal governments of Campbell-Bannerman and Asquith especially over the so-called People's Budget of 1909. Even then the tactic of the Conservative opposition was to delay passage until there had been a general election (four years ahead of schedule). However, when, following the first election of 1910, the House of Lords still resisted, the matters at issue at the second election later that year were not only the financial and taxation measures but also the powers of the upper house itself.

Under the Parliament Act 1911 the Lords lost their powers over finance legislation and kept only a suspensive veto of two years over other legislation, providing the bill was passed again by the Commons at intervening sessions. In recognition of the augmented power of the Commons as a consequence of this legislation, the maximum interval between elections was reduced from seven years to five in order that it should be accountable to the people more frequently.

The 1911 settlement was tested when the first Labour Government with a majority-a considerable majority at that-in the Commons was elected in 1945. The mandate idea was crucial to the formula devised by the Conservative peers to determine their attitude to the Government's legislation. The Leader in the Lords at the time, Lord Salisbury (grandson of Victoria's prime minister), has stated:

... our broad guiding rule [was] that what had been on the Labour Party programme at the preceding General Election should be regarded as having been approved by the British people ... . When however measures were introduced which had not been in the Labour Party manifesto at the preceding election, we reserved full liberty of action.

In Salisbury's view, it was more difficult to apply the rule when a government had only a small majority in the Commons and when, as was the case in 1964, there was a substantial vote for minor opposition parties.(14)

During the period of Labour governments with small or no majorities, 1974-79, the Conservative leader in the Lords, Lord Carrington, stated that 'the will of the elected House must in the end prevail' but there were occasions when there might be 'a delay in which there can be reassessment by Government, by parties and by the people of this country of the rights or wrongs of an issue'.(15)

Even as the preeminence of the House of Commons was settled, the view remained alive that major changes generally should be exposed at general elections before implementation. This has been so throughout the twentieth century especially on tariff matters and, later, British entry to the European Economic Community. Another famous instance of a different kind was the National Government's successful call for a 'doctor's mandate' during the 1931 general elections.


As in the United Kingdom, mandate debate in Australia has reached its greatest intensity during periods of dispute between the two Houses of Parliament. The source of the intensity lies in the effective equality of the two Houses in terms of legislative power, the fact that both are elected on a similar franchise, and the limitations of the deadlock provision in the Constitution (section 57), especially under the method of electing Senators adopted in 1948.

Mandate Disputes-Inherent in the Constitutional Framework

That there was a possibility of inter-cameral mandate disputes under the Constitution was recognised by Alfred Deakin at the Constitutional Conventions. He observed in 1897 that:

One chamber represents the people, and acts under the impression that it has a mandate to do certain work in a certain way, while the other chamber, also claiming that it has a mandate from the people, resists that policy, or its expression in a particular measure.(16)

Deakin considered that mandate disputes would be 'abnormal'.(17) One reason lying behind this view of Deakin's was the fact that, unlike in the colonial legislatures, the two Houses would essentially be elected on the same franchise:

Receiving their mandate, deriving their authority from the same franchise, although not exactly in the same numerical proportion, the two chambers, it appears to me, must necessarily, on all major questions, be brought into line in a shorter period of time than we can expect our houses of legislature in the different colonies to be brought into line.(18)

Mandate Disputes, 1910-1949

Inter-house disputes were indeed abnormal until the present method of electing Senators was introduced in 1948. From 1910, the first occasion when the governing party had a majority in its own right in the House of Representatives, until 1949, governments had Senate majorities most of the time. However, the Cook Government, 1913-14, had to deal with a Senate in which the Labor Party had 29 of the 36 seats. In seeking to resolve the situation it was necessary for Cook to establish that section 57 should be activated immediately, once the formal prescriptions had been met, and that a fresh election for the House alone, following British practice, would not resolve anything from the Government's perspective. The legislation on which the simultaneous dissolutions were based concerned union preference in public service employment. Cook's advice to the Governor-General seeking simultaneous dissolutions stated:

The present Government, on assuming office, decided that its mandate from the country would not be fulfilled by simply ceasing to apply the obnoxious principle, and that it was necessary to make it impossible for any Government again to resort to it without the express authority of Parliament.(19)

The Labor Party secured control of both Houses as a result of the 1914 simultaneous dissolutions. However, uncertain of support within his own party led Prime Minister Hughes in 1916 to seek authorisation for his conscription policy by means of a plebiscite. Following the subsequent split in the Labor Party, neither the Hughes National Labour nor the Hughes Nationalist governments had majorities in the Senate. Nevertheless, even with clear majorities in both the Senate and the House following the 1917 elections, the Nationalist Government again resorted to a plebiscite in a second attempt, also unsuccessful, to introduce conscription.

The next Labor Government, led by J. H. Scullin, came to office following the first ever sole House of Representatives election. It faced a hostile Senate-29 Opposition to seven Government-but, notwithstanding the Opposition's aggressiveness, it did not seek to resolve the deadlock by the only means possible, simultaneous dissolutions. It was defeated in the House of Representatives itself after two years.

In the unstable politics which followed the death of Prime Minister Lyons in 1939 the Menzies Government's nominal minority in the Senate was buttressed from Opposition attack by four Country Party Senators who subsequently returned to the government benches when the Country Party returned to coalition with the United Australia Party (UAP). The Curtin Government, however, faced a Senate in which it was two short of a majority when it assumed office in October 1941. Also in a minority in the House, it nevertheless survived without great discomfort until the 1943 elections when it secured comfortable majorities in both Houses.

In this period, 1910 to 1946, it was as unusual for a government to lack a majority in the Senate as it has subsequently been for it to have one. Hence there was little need for party leaders to invoke mandate doctrine in the bid to win parliamentary approval of legislation. Moreover, on three of the five occasions between 1910 and 1946 when there was a change of government as a direct result of an election, the incoming government also had a Senate majority (1910, 1914 and 1932). The simultaneous dissolutions procedure was activated on the first occasion that an incoming government found itself without a majority in the Senate (1914); on the other occasion the new government acquiesced in the situation it inherited (1929-31).

Mandate Disputes: the Story under Proportional Representation in the Senate

The story is very different after the 1948 changes to the method of electing Senators. First, on only one occasion has an incoming government secured a majority in the Senate when it was elected (Fraser in the unusual circumstances of 1975). Second, it has been relatively rare for governments to have majorities in the Senate (only after the elections of 1951, 1953, 1958, 1975 and 1977). Third, while it is less likely now than previously that a government will have a majority in the Senate, the section 57 mechanism is less viable under the 1948 voting method as a means of settling a deadlock one way or the other, except on the specific bills giving rise to the simultaneous dissolutions.

Menzies comprehended this at the time. In his speech on the 1948 legislation, on which he observed that the Chifley Government was acting 'without any mandate', he explained his basic philosophy: the House of Representatives was the pre-eminent chamber but the Senate had a legitimate if 'subordinate role'; in the event of disagreement, resolution was then possible by means of double dissolution:

... in the last analysis a measure which has passed through this House-perhaps by a government fresh from an election-may be sent to the Senate again in the next session, so that if that body again rejects it there will be a double dissolution. In that way the will of the people can prevail ... . It is this House which, after all, makes and unmakes governments, and represents in its most recent form the public opinion of the country ... . [W]hen proportional representation is introduced into the system of election for the Senate, the threat, spoken or unspoken, of a double dissolution will be much less formidable than it has been to date.(20)

Menzies' focus on the unworkability of the Parliament as a whole, and the need to find a way of ensuring that the 1948 voting system for Senators did not mean continuing, unresolvable deadlock between the Houses, lay behind the constitutional amendment legislation he introduced in 1950 shortly after resuming the prime ministership. The aim of the proposed amendment, with which he did not persevere, was to ensure that:

If there is a double dissolution, the Parliament thereafter will be able to get to work and that, whatever government emerges, it will know it has not only a mandate from the people and majority in this House, but also a majority in the Upper House.(21)

His deeper view foreshadowed much of the subsequent rhetoric about the impact of the 1948 method of electing Senators on Parliament and government:

If proportional representation can produce an equality of voting strength in the Senate out of inequality of voting strength in the electorates; in other words, if a majority of the electors can do no more than produce equality of strength in the Senate, then proportional representation is defective indeed. Worse still, it is a denial of popular self-government, and we shall not leave a position like that untouched. The claimed purposes of proportional representation are two in number. The first is that, like any other system of voting, it purports to reflect in the Parliament the will of a majority of electors, expressed through a majority of their representatives. Secondly, proportional representation aims at giving effective representation, but not equal representation, in the Parliament to minorities. Once a minority is given equal representation with a majority in the Parliament, the validity of the majority is denied, government becomes impossible, and the whole purpose of the institution of Parliament is defeated ... . Nothing could be more exasperating to a community that wants clear administration and a firm course of legislation, than to have the prospect of a double dissolution that will leave matters exactly where they were.(22)

It has also been exasperating to prime ministers and it is this feature of Australia's current constitutional and parliamentary arrangements which partly explains the fervour with which newly elected prime ministers have advocated observance of mandate doctrine in Australia's national parliamentary politics.

Menzies himself was the first to do so, drawing attention to the Government's 'new mandate from the people'. In his advice to the Governor-General of 16 March 1951 he observed:

... the Government, with a new mandate from the people, has been in major affairs, constantly delayed and frustrated by the facts that the two Houses are of opposite political complexions and that in consequence the legislative machine, except in respect of relatively minor matters, has been materially slowed down and rendered extremely uncertain in its operation.

Under these circumstances, if the only condition upon which a Double Dissolution could be granted was, broadly expressed, that a serious conflict between the two Houses ought to be ended by the votes of the electors, then I would have no doubt whatever that as Prime Minister I should be more than justified in asking you to take the necessary steps to have determined by those electors a disagreement which tends so strongly against the giving of prompt expression to the public will.(23)

After 1951 Menzies himself did not make any further attempt to address what he saw as the deficiencies of the 1948 method of electing Senators for the workings of the bicameral Parliament and there is little evidence of any action by others even when, from 1967, the Senate became an increasingly active chamber. Prime Minister Whitlam, who as Opposition Leader had exploited avenues in the Senate for holding governments to account, relied from the earliest days after the 1972 election win on the mandate, not only in disputes with the Senate but as a general source of authority. The mandate was basically seen to be embodied in the policy speech with which he had opened the campaign. Thus, for example, when recommending that the Governor-General exercise the prerogative of mercy and release several youths who had refused national service, Whitlam wrote:

It may be assumed that this was endorsed by the electors and that Your Excellency's Government has a mandate to take these steps.(24)

But as the Opposition mounted a resistance in the Senate to legislation embodying Labor promises, the Prime Minister increasingly looked to the mandate as a self-sufficient justification for the policies the government was seeking to implement. As one of his biographers wrote: 'The more obstructive the Senate became, the more Whitlam insisted on the principle that the mandate was, indeed, mandatory';(25) note, however, Harold Macmillan's view that '[a] mandate is permissive and not compulsory. You are not compelled to commit a folly'.(26)

Whitlam's most extended exposition of his view of the mandate is to be found in the August 1975 Chifley Memorial Lecture:

So the debate about the meaning of the mandate has centred on the question of whether in 1972 and again in 1974 the Australian Labor Party was given only a general mandate to govern or a specific mandate to implement each part of its programme.

Is the mandate merely general or is it specific? Is it a grant of permission to preside or a command to perform? Our opponents naturally interpret it in the weakest sense as a general and highly-qualified mandate to govern-on their terms and indeed by their grace and favour. I interpret the mandate as being both general and specific-a general mandate to govern for the term for which we were elected and a specific mandate to implement the undertakings we made, within that term. But even when I speak of a general mandate I cannot accept the conservative definition of a mere mandate to govern, a permit to preside over the administration of government and, hopefully, to administer the existing system in a sufficiently acceptable way to give reasonable prospects of re-election-for a further renewal of the mere mandate to preside. The mandate as I interpret it is to move by specific programmes toward the general goals and the general objectives accepted by the people at elections.(27)

The Opposition of the time was more circumspect about the Prime Minister's wide-ranging view of the mandate. Its Leader, B. M. Snedden, said 'we will not obstruct policies which we believe Australians want and for which a mandate exists'; the Opposition Leader in the Senate thought that later election results-by-elections and State elections-had invalidated the claim to a mandate; and an Opposition backbencher said quite simply that:

...when in the course of an election campaign a political leader makes what he is pleased to call a policy speech and a number of other speeches and issues supplementary statements and so on there may be 199 different matters that he has mentioned. To claim that he has a mandate for every one of these is of course on the face of it obviously absurd.(28)

Two political scientists, Gordon Reid and Clem Lloyd, wrote in 1974:

The theory of mandate applied by Mr Whitlam was often naïve and obscure. Inherent in it were very real dangers of inflexibility in the composition of policy, and confrontation with the Senate on the wrong political issues. Undoubtedly, the Whitlam mandate also gave expression to a strong strain of idealism and a remarkable fidelity to the performance of electoral promises.(29)

From 1975 until 1996 the mandate idea lost some of its prominence though related issues periodically came to the fore. When Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser sought simultaneous dissolutions in 1983 it was on the basis that 'there is a need for the Government, in the critical period we face, to have decisive control over both Houses of Parliament'.(30) He was seeking a result which, as Menzies had argued more than three decades earlier, was very difficult to achieve under the 1948 method of electing Senators.

Four years later the Hawke Government secured a double dissolution on a single measure, the Australia Card Bill, which it said was 'a fundamental part of the Government's legislative program both in terms of its economic impact and in terms of the principle of equity it represents'. The advice referred also to Senate 'obstruction' of other measures.(31)

The Government won a significant majority in the House (86 to 62) but had only 32 of the 76 seats in the Senate-enough to secure passage of the Australia Card legislation at a joint sitting but by no means sufficient to remedy its general problem in the Senate. Notwithstanding the strength of its position in electoral and parliamentary terms, the Government abandoned the legislation when the Opposition announced that it would disallow in the Senate regulations made under the Act needed to implement it. This case again illustrated the very limited scope of section 57 for resolving inter-cameral differences.

Immediately following the 1993 elections, the Keating Government introduced a number of taxation measures which ran counter to statements made during the campaign. The Opposition opposed these moves on the basis that they were at odds with statements made prior to the elections and during the campaign.

The 1996 elections brought a new government to office with a number of policies hotly debated during the campaign. It had a large majority in the House of Representatives but fell short by two of a majority in the Senate. In claiming victory on election night the Prime Minister-elect, John Howard, declared:

... we have been elected with a mandate, a very powerful mandate. And whilst I will seek at all times unity and a common point of view, we have not been elected to be just a pale imitation of the government that we have replaced. We have been given this emphatic mandate tonight because there have been many things that have been left undone that need to be attended to and addressed.(32)

Two analysts at the time considered that the Coalition's mandate was 'enormously broad', 'several hundred specific commitments', any one of which 'might legitimately be advanced ... as part of [the] mandate, just as the failure to meet any such undertaking is always likely to be presented with similar legitimacy by the opposition as a broken promise'. They concluded:

The concepts of mandate and 'broken promise' are the opposite sides of the same coin in the Australian political game, but all players know that policy commitments are always open to various interpretations and that some must be adjusted or abandoned as circumstances in the political, legal, economic, social and technological environment change or as new information becomes available.(33)

In the course of the 1996-98 Parliament the Government achieved many of the goals it had set itself but not infrequently in the context of negotiation with cross-bench Senators. On a number of key matters such as unfair dismissal laws it was not successful.

The Howard Government is the first to win office since introduction of the 1948 method of electing Senators which was neither elected following simultaneous dissolutions nor which endeavoured to improve its parliamentary position subsequently by seeking simultaneous dissolutions. However, like all newly-elected governments since the Second World War, it went to the polls again well before expiry of the Parliament, with a wide-ranging set of tax proposals, of which a goods and services tax was a major feature. This provided the context for vigorous debate about the mandate both during the campaign and subsequently. The following section provides an account of that debate.

Australia's Mandate Debate 1998

Australia's mandate debate in 1998 occurred in the context of re-election of the Howard Government with a reduced but sufficient majority in the House of Representatives and needing Australian Democrat votes to secure Senate support for legislation to which the Opposition is opposed once the new Senate terms commence on 1 July 1999.

It is in this situation that, in the context of discussion and debate about the Government's plans for tax reform, there has been a concurrent debate about the concept of mandate and its application in contemporary Australian national politics. It has been a debate which extensively if implicitly draws upon nearly two centuries of political discourse on the mandate-the term and the idea-and the powers, roles and responsibilities of government and democratically elected legislative bodies.

The Protagonist: the Prime Minister

The Prime Minister, John Howard, has been the leading protagonist in this concurrent debate. In a speech delivered within a week of the general election he stated:

There has been a lot of debate about mandates. There's been a lot of debate about what we are now entitled to do ... we made taxation reform a central issue of this election campaign. We were up front, we were unashamed, we were forthright, we were open, we were honest, and we didn't hide anything about it. And having won that election it is our intention to press ahead with all of the resources at our disposal to implement the program on which we were elected. ... just before I left home to come here tonight I saw the Premier of New South Wales on television saying that he supported our right to implement the taxation program on which we were elected. And can I say that I welcome the remarks that Mr Carr made. I welcome the fact that he acknowledges that any government commanding support in the Lower House of an Australian Parliament has the right to implement the program on which that government has been elected.(34)

A month later the Prime Minister told a meeting of the Tasmanian Liberal Party that:

I have a very simple view about the political process in this country. And that view is that elections are opportunities for opposing political forces to lay their plans in detail before the Australian people and when the Australian people have made a decision it is the obligation of the victor in that political contest to implement the plans laid before the Australian people. There is nothing complicated about it. All this talk about reviews and surveys and examinations and reconsiderations seems to ignore this simple fact that we had an election. We had a seven-week campaign, effectively, from the release of the Government's tax plan to polling day. And we subjected ourselves to all the scrutiny imaginable. I hear Mr Beazley complaining about the lack of detail. There hasn't been a government in Australia's history that has laid out more detail before an election about a fundamental reform than my Government did before the last election.(35)

On other occasions the Prime Minister has asserted his view in more general terms: 'We got the mandate, we got the authority, we got the votes of the Australian people on 3 October [1998] and we intend to press ahead'.(36)

Answering a question from a journalist also on 27 October 1998 he said:

Look, we can spend all day to-ing and fro-ing but nothing can alter the fact ... that we went to the election with a GST, we took our courage in our hands, we put our political bodies on the line and we won. And on that basis, if parliamentary democracy means anything, we're entitled to have the plan that we took to the Australian people put through and those who would frustrate that plan are really challenging the verdict of the Australian people.(37)

The Prime Minister's case for a mandate for the Government's tax plan has several elements:

  • the mandate attaches to a policy/plan/program which is 'a really major issue ... right there slap bang in the middle'(38)
  • the Government's tax plan 'occupied the centrality of an election campaign ... there will be nothing like it in terms of an identifiable mandate ...'(39)
  • it is a plan about which the Australian people were, appropriately, 'given an early opportunity to express their will at the ballot box'; 'on matters of such fundamental importance, it is critical that the Government knows it has the full confidence of the Australian people'(40)
  • where a Government wins in the House of Representatives but not in the Senate, 'we should listen to the verdict of the Australian people. I would hope ... that those who might control the numbers in the Senate would look favourably upon that decision and would listen to the verdict of the Australian people ... ',(41) and
  • on the basis that the tax plan has won the support of the Australian people, as expressed in the party composition of the House of Representatives, there would be an inquiry in the Senate; ' ... it should be a sensible inquiry but it should not be an inquiry that burns up so much time that you don't have proper time left for sensible debate and a vote to be taken before 30 June [1999]'.(42)

The Antagonists

The Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives

There are, however, other views about the outcome of the 1998 election and the implications for legislative activity in the Parliament. Among those who have advanced different views are the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives, Kim Beazley, and the Leader of the Australian Democrats, Senator Lees.

Several themes run through the Opposition Leader's views on the mandate concept and its interpretation in the context of the election results for both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Among these themes are the importance of trust and credibility in electioneering and subsequent political activity. Another is the relationship of these views to the Opposition's attitude to the GST. Other elements include the nature of the Government mandate and the connection between election results and parliamentary process.

During the election campaign itself the Opposition Leader raised the topics of trust and credibility on a number of occasions in the context of honouring promises and commitments made during the campaign: 'The electorate out there now does not trust the major political parties. That's the truth of the matter'.(43) On that occasion the point of the statement was Coalition commitments about compensating various groups, in particular, pensioners, for the impact of a GST. In an address to the National Press Club in the week prior to polling day he returned to the theme of honouring promises:

Both John Howard and I know of the cynicism abroad in the community about politicians. That cynicism is a cautionary note to both of us. If the Australian people are again subjected after this election to the tired old charade of the bare cupboard, the gnashing of teeth, and the core and non-core promises, we will have failed perhaps our last test.(44)

The Opposition Leader claimed that during the campaign his party had had a 'determination to keep our promises reasonable, credible, and deliverable ... we want to keep every promise we have made in this campaign. And we will'.(45) Whilst stating that some of the Prime Minister's promises would be 'core' and 'non-core', the Opposition Leader asserted that 'his GST is a core promise-expect him to keep it'.(46)

The Leader of the Opposition, recognising the particular prominence of certain matters in the election, also stressed the larger picture. As he said on the day following release of the Government's tax plan:

... this coming election must not only be about taxation or the privatisation of Telstra. This must be an election about the entirety of the national agenda-our national investment in the skills of our people, the future of our regions and industries, the strength of our infrastructure, and the availability and security of Australian jobs.(47)

On the eve of polling day the Opposition Leader, however, told the National Press Club that '... the Australian people will not want for a clear choice this weekend.'(48)As he saw it, two matters 'must rank above all others'. These were sale of the remainder of Telstra ('no subsequent government will be able to buy it back') and the GST ('no future government will be able to remove it'). He continued: 'These are threshold choices for the Australian people, and the alternatives could not be clearer'.(49)

In the wake of the election, the Opposition Leader's focus was on the character of the Government's mandate in relation to the GST and on the parliamentary process. He portrayed the Government as having a very circumscribed mandate based on a contrast of votes for the House of Representatives and the Senate:

John Howard has won this election. There's no question about that. But he's won it with the lowest vote to win an election that any of us can actually recollect ... He has a right to govern well. And a government has a right to introduce anything that they like ... He is entitled to put forward any piece of legislation that he wants. And he can claim for that legislation the merits of the arguments associated with that legislation. He can claim no more for it than that.(50)

A month later he was more pointed: 'He cannot claim a mandate for his GST, and he certainly cannot claim a mandate for the indecent haste with which he wants to implement it'.(51)

The Opposition's 51.5 per cent of the two-party preferred vote, including majorities in four of the six states, was 'a clear indication to Mr Howard that the community does not want his Goods and Services tax ... the actual real practical evidence of the voting outcome indicates that folk did not want a Goods and Services tax'.(52)

He later pointed to the Senate vote: 'In the Senate, 60 per cent voted for parties they assumed would stop it.'(53)The composition of the vote in both the Senate and House elections was thus seen to legitimise parliamentary activity concerning the GST: 'A vote for Labor is a rolled gold vote against the GST. We will not accept it now. We will not put it forward as our policy option and we will oppose it absolutely. Now, we've made that amply clear'.(54)

The Opposition criticised the decision to call an election immediately upon release of the tax package: '[John Howard] did not want it subject to Parliamentary scrutiny. He did not want the accountability that normally comes when you are in office ...'(55) The Opposition Leader also underlined the institutional context in which the legislation would be handled: 'Neither Mr Howard, nor myself, will enjoy a majority in the Senate after this election. Whether he wins or I win, neither of us will'.(56) And at the National Press Club:

Much as I don't like the fact ... that I'd have to, as a Prime Minister deal with a Senate that would not be my way, that is nevertheless the political system that the Australian people endorse. They expect governments to get on with the Senate, and I would be doing my level best to do that.(57)

After the election the Opposition Leader continued to develop his case for the legitimacy of parliamentary action: '... part of the duty of Opposition is to hold Government accountable on [the GST]'. The Opposition would 'argue the merits of [the GST] legislation in the House and the Senate'(58). He left no doubt that the Opposition was 'opposing [the GST] lock, stock and barrel'.(59) On 28 October he told a media conference: '... we will manoeuvre tactically in whatever way we can to try and procure the defeat of this legislation.'(60) Part of the case was the argument for parliamentary process: 'If ever there was a justification for a high level Senate Inquiry into a matter of Government policy, this is it'.(61)

The Opposition also commented that the Senate which would consider the legislation, especially if it were to be dealt with by 30 June 1999 as the Government desired, was an 'old Senate',(62) its members having been elected at either the periodical elections of March 1993 or March 1996. The Leader of the Opposition was especially critical of any voting support for GST legislation from the former Labor senator, Senator Colston (Queensland), on the basis that he [Senator Colston] had been last elected in 1993 on an anti-GST platform.(63)

The Leader of the Australian Democrats

On 14 September 1998 Democrat leader Senator Meg Lees (South Australia) entered the mandate debate, stating that 'there is also a valid mandate in the "House of Review"'. Her view was that the outcome in the Senate as well as that in the House of Representatives should be respected. '"The voters' choice cuts both ways'', Senator Lees says'.(64)

In the week before polling day the Democrats 'pledged to expand the role of the Senate as a House of Review, saying it is the best way of forcing Government to be honest, accountable and responsive to the public'.(65) The day after polling Senator Lees stated:

Clearly, with the combined Democrat, Labor and Green vote exceeding the Coalition Senate vote by 11.7 per cent, and their House vote by 8.6 per cent, John Howard has a mandate to form Government, but no mandate to impose unfair policies on the Senate. If, as the voting trends suggest, the Democrats regain the balance of power in our own right in the Senate, we will treat the Coalition's legislative program fairly and responsibly, but won't be bullied into becoming a rubber stamp', she concluded.(66)

Four days later, in another media release:

Senator Lees said the Government should respect the Senate's separate mandate as a House of Review. 58 per cent of people who voted in the Senate voted for parties opposed to the Coalition's current tax plan, while the Coalition's Senate vote of 38 per cent was its lowest in half a century.

As John Howard himself acknowledged on 1987, the mandate theory that says people approve every piece of Government policy at election time has always been phony(sic).(67)

Media Analysis

Within a week of polling Paul Kelly, international editor of The Australian, took issue with 'efforts to delegitimise [John Howard's] victory typified by the misuse of the mandate theory'. Kelly's core argument was that '[m]andates, under the classical theory, relate to governments. The mandate is the link, the trust, the bond between the ruler and the people'. And later:

If the mandate is killed, then you kill the central means of keeping governments honest. The government has a right to implement its policies; but it has a responsibility to honour its promises. A government that breaks its promises is abusing its mandate. An Opposition that denies a government a mandate denies any expectation that its promises will be kept ... (68)

Kelly buttressed his argument by locating the mandate-a polemical device-among those 'other conventions, rules or theories [needed] to make our democracy work' for, 'the Constitution, as law, can render Australia ungovernable'. Kelly especially concentrated his defence of the mandate on its challengers in the Senate:

The entire Senate wasn't even elected last Saturday. The Senate can't claim a mandate on a GST because this was a half-Senate poll. The arrogance for the people held by some senators who claim mandates when half their numbers didn't even face the voters is as breathtaking as it is contempuous.

The mandate-the trust between the elected government and the people-can't apply to the Senate because the Senate doesn't determine the government and the Senate as a whole didn't go to the election.

In Kelly's analysis, the mandate concept is essential for Australia's system of government to work:

... our system can't function with equal and competing mandates given the Senate's powers.

The system can work only if the Senate discharges its house of review functions recognising the legitimacy of the Government's program.

If the Democrats have a mandate, then One Nation has a mandate ... This is the crazy logic we have created for ourselves.

A leading article in the Financial Review on the same day adopted a similar view: '... Mr Howard won on Saturday ... Australia made its choice with its eyes open and the Government should now be allowed to deliver'. It considered the argument that different voting for the Senate meant 'the intention of excising key elements of the package is also flawed'.(69) It continued:

With an Upper House in which it is virtually impossible to secure a majority, this is to suggest that the Australian people want governments which aren't able to govern. The Senate is a house of review and a check on government excesses and duplicities, not a vehicle to stop them enacting clearly stated programs.

Peter Cole-Adams in the Canberra Times endeavoured to locate the mandate idea in the institutional context of Australia's bicameral national parliament:

To question the usefulness of the mandate idea is not to undermine the authority of governments, or to say that political parties should not make commitments, or to suggest that they should not do their damnedest to honour them. The electorate will punish them if they do not. It is simply to acknowledge the reality that what the Australian electorate gives a winning party is a parliament with which it must live.

Our system, the way it has evolved, gives governments the power to rule but, when it comes to change, it usually guarantees them little more than the right to negotiate from a position of strength with minor parties.(70)

Others were less sanguine about the case for the mandate. In The Age of 6 October 1998 Tim Colebatch wrote:

The Government has every right to govern. It has no right to make unconstitutional demands on the Senate, such as insisting that it rubber stamp legislation. Senators are elected to form a house of review over legislation; that is their purpose; it is their constitutional duty, and there is no reason why that right should be abandoned.(71)

Peter O'Connor, a Canberra-based journalist, wrote in like terms in the Financial Review of 16 December 1998:

In our system, as in all democracies, the Parliament legislates, the executive governs.

The mandate theorists would have us believe Parliament should function as an electoral college for the executive and then hibernate between polls, while Cabinet seizes legislative power.(72)

Mandate: Dictionary and Academic Analyses

Because in Australia and elsewhere mandate doctrine is at the heart of debate and contention among active politicians, it is not surprising that dictionaries, either general or political, do not provide unequivocal definitions. Most hesitate to vest the term in its political application with definitive meaning. Appendix 1 contains a brief survey of relevant entries in Australian, British and American dictionaries.

Compilers of dictionaries of politics do not have any hesitation about including an entry on mandate in their lexicons but they, too, have considerable reservation about whether any precise or binding meaning can be attached to the term.

The dictionaries of politics refer to the usual range of matters-mandates are claimed even when winning margins are small and for policies which hardly figured at all during the campaign. Indeed, there is a view that the comprehensivity of modern manifestos dilutes any particular claim for a mandate. Dictionaries from American sources write mainly in terms of the significance of mandates in presidential strategies for securing congressional support for administration programs, but some see the concept as more applicable to British than American politics. Appendix 2 contains a more extended review of entries in a selected range of dictionaries of politics.

Academic analysis of mandate doctrine falls broadly into two categories. Authors in the first category believe that the term has substance and is important for the integrity and democratic qualities of politics and government. Authors in the second category question both the doctrine and its adverse implications for considered government and proper conduct of the legislative process. Relevant academic analyses are surveyed in Appendix 3.


The many questions to which the term, mandate, and the related ideas give rise are firmly located in the centre of politics. They concern not only the interpretation of election results for purposes of legislation and policy, but also who, if anyone, is able to impose an interpretation on the results of a particular election or, indeed, if anyone should do so.

What distinguishes Australia's situation in comparison to other Westminster-style systems is that the Government itself, whose claim to office is based on the House of Representatives, is only in a position to impose its view of the mandate on those rare occasions when it also has a majority in the Senate. Otherwise the question is decided by whether and on what terms a government can build a majority in the Senate, finding support from beyond the ranks of its own party supporters. In this sense, an Australian Government has a good deal less latitude than various counterparts.

It is not only that Australian governments have less latitude in interpreting election results in terms of legislation and policies, the constitutional framework for bicameralism in the Commonwealth Parliament and the 1948 method of electing Senators mean that attempts to resolve a dispute about mandate by resort to section 57 is only of limited and, in most cases, retrospective, value. For some analysts this is not an unsatisfactory situation and, indeed, an assurance of at least a measure of parliamentary control of the Executive. On most matters Australian governments win parliamentary support for most of what they want; they certainly fare better with the Senate than US presidents do with the Congress. They also preside over a House of Representatives which is more tightly controlled than many other lower houses in Westminster-based parliaments, including the Houses of Commons at Westminster and Ottawa.

The other view is that of Sir Robert Menzies. If there is some dispute between the Senate and the House of Representatives, and it is remitted to the people under section 57 of the Constitution, there should be a reasonable prospect of decisive resolution in favour of one side or the other. Such decisive resolution is unlikely under the 1948 method of electing Senators.

Appendix 1: Mandate-Dictionary Definitions

In a dictionary sense, the political usage of the term is neither primary nor prominent. In the 1989 edition of the Oxford English Dictionary political usage is fourth of five meanings: 'The instruction or commission as to policy supposed to be given by the electors to parliament or one of its members' (vol. IX, p. 301).

Its first use in this sense dates from the late eighteenth century in France and in form has a decidedly Burkean resonance: 'The members of the legislative body are not the representation of the department which has chosen them, but of the whole nation, and no mandate instructions can be given them'.

Other dictionaries likewise give a low rating to the political usage of the word. For Webster's it ranks third: 'the wishes of constituents expressed to a representative, legislature, etc. as an order, or regarded as an order' (p. 1093). The third edition of the Macquarie Dictionary includes the following under its entry for mandate: '3. Politics the instruction as to policy given or supposed to be given by electors to a legislative body or to one or more of its members' (p. 1308).

There is thus an equivocal quality to the entries in the OED and Macquarie; both hesitate to vest the term in its political application with definitive meaning.

Appendix 2: Dictionaries of Politics

Authors of dictionaries of politics do not have any doubt that mandate has a place in their lexicons but they, too, share the hesitations of the general dictionaries about whether definitive meaning can be attached to the term. A typical such entry is to be found in David Robertson's A Dictionary of Modern Politics (1993):

Mandates are typically claimed by successful parties in national elections even when they have actually gained only a smallish plurality of votes. If a party, or a candidate, has stood for election on a particular set of policies, then, having won election, a mandate from the people has been granted to implement those policies. Thus governments often claim that they are 'mandated' to carry out some action even if there is no good reason to believe that the policy in question had very much to do with their victory ...

Questions of whether a mandate does or could exist, how much anyone is bound by it, and when an election result would certify such a mandate are hotly-contested matters of modern arguments about democracy both in parliaments and parties.(73)

The conservative philosopher, Roger Scruton, wrote in A Dictionary of Political Thought that:

The doctrine of the mandate is highly influential in democratic politics, although it is extremely difficult to see quite what it means, the problem here being inextricably bound up with the general problems of collective choice. It is sometimes said that when a political party stands for election, it makes certain promises, and by virtue of this secures the vote of the electorate. In return for the voluntary act of the electorate, it therefore stands under a contractual or quasi-contractual obligation to fulfil its promises, and has a 'mandate from the electorate' so to do. In other words, the relation between a party in office and the electorate is one of mandation. The mandate is held to be a sufficient (some say also necessary) condition for the legitimacy of acts performed in fulfilment of it. The whole structure of obligation stems therefore from the fundamental act of consent whereby democracies establish their claims to legitimacy.(74)

Scruton, however, enumerated several problems: the diversity of policies in a party program; the range of reasons lying behind the voting preferences of electors; the likelihood that for reasons, for example, of necessity it may be desirable or expedient to change a policy. On the other side of the ledger Scruton posited that a

... party programme seems to express some kind of commitment. It may be that the correct response is to say that there is a mandate after election, but that its basis is not to be found in contract, or promise-keeping; alternatively, that there is no such thing as a mandate, in which case, with what authority does the ruling party act?

The Oxford scholar S. E. Finer perceived the positive and negative dimensions of the term: positively it implied that 'a government is bound to follow instructions given by the electorate in a general election; or, negatively, that a government ought not, in a democracy, to adopt some new policy unless it has first been put before the electorate'. Like other writers Finer considered that the range of modern party manifestos makes it 'difficult to maintain the doctrine'.(75)

In American political science protagonists of the presidency tend to be strong advocates of the mandate (for the president) whilst others who place more weight on 'checks and balances', and the importance of the Congress, are more sceptical. President Eisenhower entitled the first volume of his presidential memoirs, Mandate for Change; the title of the relevant chapter (8) is: 'The Platform: Promises to Keep'.(76)

Eisenhower initially won office by a significant majority, supported by majorities in both the Senate and the House (though it was a frequent irritation to him that Republicans in the Congress did not feel it a duty to support Administration policies and programs).

The New York Times columnist William Safire, in Safire's New Political Dictionary defined the term simply as 'the authority to carry out a program conferred on an elected official; especially strong after a landslide victory'.(77) He pointed out that in 1960, Eisenhower's successor, President John F. Kennedy, had a wafer-thin win in the popular vote-barely 0.1 per cent; but, as one of his leading acolytes wrote:

The fact remains that he won, and on the day after the election, and every day thereafter, he rejected the argument that the country had given him no mandate. Every election has a winner and a loser, he said in effect. The margin is narrow, but the responsibility is clear. There may be difficulties with the Congress, but a margin of only one vote would still be a mandate.

Another acolyte, the noted historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr, observed:

Kennedy had very little leverage ... [He had been elected] by the slimmest of margins; no one could possibly claim his victory as a mandate for change.(78)

The American Political Dictionary combines a general definition:


Popular support for a political program. A mandate is assumed to emerge from an election as a result of popular support given to a political party or to elected officials who ran on a set of pledges to the voters. A mandate may be vague or specific, depending upon the clarity with which alternatives are presented to the voters,

with a deprecatory assessment of its significance in American politics:

The mandate concept is best implemented where a responsible, well-disciplined party, ready and able to carry out its promised program, exists. The American party system, unlike the British, lacks these qualities, and the mandate is consequently weakened.

The authors observe, however, some signs of a trend 'in which voter action produces change'; for example, Ross Perot's bids for the presidency and the 1994 Republican 'Contract with America'.(79)

Andrew Heywood in Political Ideas and Concepts-An Introduction (1994) presents a view of the mandate doctrine which underlines its two-way character where many analysts perceive only a one-way bid for power by winning politicians. He writes that the 'winning party or candidate not only enjoys a popular mandate to carry out its manifesto pledges but has a duty to do so'. 'The great merit of the mandate doctrine is that it seems to impose some kind of meaning upon an election, and so offers popular guidance to those who exercise government power'.

Whilst Heywood highlights the constructive characteristics of the mandate doctrine in its enhancement of democracy by giving a measure of substance to its meaning as government by the people, he is similarly concerned by the notion of a 'mandate to rule', not only because it is 'hopelessly vague' but because it 'comes close to investing politicians with unrestricted authority simply because they have won an election'.(80)

Appendix 3: Academic Analysis

Important evidence that the mandate doctrine enjoys a lively existence in democratic life is illustrated by the attention it has received in general texts on politics. Most of these reflect the scepticism and hesitancy of the dictionary documentation and analysis of the term but there are some notable exceptions which attempt to discern the importance of the doctrine for democratic polities and, among other things, reasons for its durability. After all, the term was sufficiently prominent during the latter half of the nineteenth century to support a London University doctoral dissertation on the doctrine as it applied to British politics from the Second Reform Act 1867 to the passage of the Parliament Act 1911.(81)

In the academic literature of the past generation there have been two important expositions of the significance and substance of mandate theory, and its importance for the integrity and democratic qualities of politics and government. Two other major essays have questioned the doctrine both in its own terms and in terms of its adverse implications for considered government and proper conduct of the legislative process.

Richard Mulgan, then of the University of Otago and now in the Public Policy Program at The Australian National University, was attracted to a study of the mandate doctrine in late 1978 for a number of reasons including the significance attached to it by ministers and Opposition parliamentarians in New Zealand, in contrast to the tendency of academics either to dismiss the term or, as he expressed it, to take 'the notion ... too literally'.(82)

He briefly traversed various incidents in New Zealand where the mandate was seen to be a central justification for some action of government. One such incident involved termination of a royal commission, an intention which attracted little attention during the campaign. Mulgan concluded that:

Inclusion in the election policy is sufficient, as well as necessary, for the existence of a mandate. If the public is unaware of or not interested in the policy, the mandate may be weakened but not destroyed.(83)

A more significant incident entailed suspension of a superannuation scheme on the basis of the election mandate, to be validated retrospectively by legislation: 'the mandate ... provided the moral and political justification for the Government to announce, without summoning Parliament, that existing legislation was no longer effective'.

In the subsequent court case, however, it was held that the Prime Minister [Muldoon] had acted illegally, on the basis that under the Bill of Rights the Crown may not suspend laws without the consent of Parliament.(84)

Mulgan was prepared to concede certain criticisms of mandate doctrine, for example, that 'most voters are unaware of most issues', or that mandates do not cover all policies advocated by a particular party, but his fundamental conclusion was that:

The theory of the mandate may thus be taken to justify governments in enacting their election policy and to oblige them not to introduce major measures which are outside that policy. As such it seems an intelligible convention which is vital to our political system; without it both the authority and the accountability of elected governments would be seriously limited.(85)

Nearly two decades later, on the basis of debate about the mandate which followed election of the Howard Government in 1996, Professor Hugh Emy of Monash University supported a broad formulation of the doctrine on the basis that it contains 'ideas of substance for organising representative democracy'.(86) His formulation, which he characterised as 'a descendant of the delegate theory of representation', is as follows:

In the context of Australian national government, mandate is usually taken to mean that a party which fights an election on the basis of policies clearly stated in its manifesto or the leader's policy speech, is entitled to pursue those policies if it wins a majority of seats in the House of Representatives. The mandate is a commission to govern. This includes a general right to govern and a particular right to pursue stated policies. Conversely, the public has a right to expect that the new government will abide 'by the terms of its mandate', i.e. as far as possible it should honour its promises and commitments. If it reneges on the terms of the implied contract with the people through which it gained power, it may be accused of ' dishonouring its mandate'.(87)

Emy also recognised that the mandate has a practical as well as rhetorical dimension. As manifestos became long and detailed documents, they placed certain limits on the winning party's scope for action. He traced evidence in Britain that the parties take their manifestos seriously and, citing a 1992 study, 'what governments do "relates broadly either to their manifesto emphases or to their long-standing ideological commitments"'.(88)

In a key observation Emy contended that 'the mandate has two faces which are two aspects of one relationship'. He continued:

An elected government does enjoy a right to govern and to legislate in pursuit of policies it announced either during or prior to the election campaign. However, the citizens also have a right to expect that the government will govern in line with its stated intentions or promises; and, that faced with the unexpected, it will at least try to respond consistently with established policy and/or its political principles.(89)

Emy sees the vitality of mandate doctrine as having important implications for the reputation of government and politics. Among the sources of low esteem of politics,

... one is certainly the growing practice among modern parties of seeking power by concealing their real intentions from the voters, making promises they have no intention of keeping, in effect seeking power on a program of 'plausible lies'.(90)

Emy thus sees in the mandate doctrine a mechanism for upholding 'the ethic of responsible party government itself'.(91)

Like Mulgan, Emy's analysis recognises most (if not all) of the various criticisms of the mandate doctrine; his own position, again like Mulgan's, is especially sustainable because he does not interpret the doctrine as a carte blanche for the winner, however defined:

... the right to govern does not give an executive an automatic right to convert its policy into law. It must explain itself fully. It is obliged to defend itself against charges of inconsistency: that a Bill departs noticeably from what was foreshadowed, or confers too much discretion on minister and public servants. With controversial policies, the government cannot necessarily invoke its own mandate as a trump card.(92)

In the context of responsible government in Australia, Emy posits an important role for the Senate to scrutinise claims made by a government to exercise 'a trustee's discretion to vary or create new policies'.(93)

One of the major challenges to mandate doctrine came from America's leading theorist on democracy, Robert A. Dahl of Yale University, during the Reagan presidency:

... Reagan's lofty mandate was provided by 50.9 per cent of the voters ... what was widely interpreted as Reagan's mandate, not only by supporters but by opponents, was more myth than reality.(94)

The mandate, according to Dahl, who was in turn relying on a 1983 study, Interpreting Elections, by Stanley Kelley, has four supports: that elections carry messages about problems, policies and programs; certain of those messages must be treated as authoritative concerns; to qualify as mandates, the messages must reflect the stable views of voters and the electorate; and, finally, a negative imperative that, except in emergencies, governments should not undertake major innovations in policy or procedure unless the electorate has had an opportunity to consider them in an election.(95)

Dahl found little difficulty in negating these stipulations and concluding that:

Beyond revealing the first preferences of a plurality of voters, do presidential elections also reveal the additional information that a plurality (or a majority) of voters prefer the policies of the winner and wish the winner to pursue those policies.(96)

In empirical analysis, Dahl pointed out that while in 1984 Reagan had a landslide, Democratic candidates in the House of Representatives secured 52 per cent of the vote, down from 55 per cent at the 1982 mid-term elections.

Dahl cast the claims for a presidential mandate in terms of what he characterised as the pseudo-democratisation of the presidency and an attempt to elevate it above the Congress. In contrast to Emy, who seems to hold that only governments have mandates,(97) Dahl considered that members of the Congress opposing presidential measures 'in effect also claim a mandate for their policies'.(98)

(It is of interest that Dahl's inspiration for his essay was Reagan's comparatively comfortable victories rather than Kennedy's much more questionable victory, decisive though it was in the electoral college).

The scheme in the United States Constitution for election of presidents was, according to Dahl, designed to improve the chances of victory for a national figure rather than a faction leader or a demagogue-the president was not to be a tribune of the people.(99)

This philosophy was challenged by the eighth president of the United States, Andrew Jackson, in 1828 (when he lost in the electoral college having led the vote) and 1832.

Jackson conceived the president as 'an immediate and direct representative of the people'. Little more than a decade later James Polk was justifying his use of the veto on legislation on the basis that the President was responsible to the people of the whole Union, as the representatives in the legislative branches were responsible to the people of particular States and districts.(100)

According to Dahl, it was Woodrow Wilson who elevated the doctrine of presidential mandate to 'what ... appears to be its canonical form'. In an essay of 1908 on Constitutional Government in the United States, Wilson wrote that the earlier Whig theory of the presidency was 'far from being a democratic theory ... It [was] particularly intended to prevent the will of the people as a whole from having at any moment an unobstructed sweep and ascendancy'.(101)

Of the president, Wilson wrote: 'No-one else represents the people as a whole, exercising a national choice ... His is the only national voice in affairs ... . He is the representative of no constituency, but of the whole people.'(102)

Not the least of Dahl's objections to presidential mandates is its use as a device to circumvent the due processes of policy formulation and legislation provided for in the Constitution. Emphasizing the 'crucial importance of opportunities for understanding' and 'deliberation', he observed: '... deliberation is surely central to the idea of a democratic decision-making'.(103)

By far the most trenchant attack on mandate theory came from Professor Campbell Sharman of the University of Western Australia in the December 1998 Senate Department Lecture. Sharman pointed up the importance of mandate debate in Australia because of the bicameralism of the Commonwealth Parliament. The institutional and electoral situation:

... requires governments to compromise so that a larger group than the governing party, perhaps even a body of parliamentarians representing a real majority of voters, supports a proposed measure. This means that, quite apart from any amendments that may be required, legislation is closely scrutinised, and the government of the day and its supporting bureaucracy must publicly justify every proposed law to a legislative body whose support cannot be taken for granted.(104)

Like Dahl, Sharman stressed the importance of public deliberation, and deprecated employment of mandate theory when it is used as a means of circumscribing, or even subverting, the constitutional processes of government and legislation. Sharman's argument focused heavily on features of mandate doctrine which would be seen as abuses by those who take a more benign view of the doctrine.

Sharman asserted:

[The mandate] does not mean that the government can make any new law it wants by the stroke of the prime minister's pen. Governing is not the same as legislating ... the only body that can make laws is the Parliament ... the whole point of parliamentary democracy is that governments are forced to submit new legislation to a representative assembly to gain consent for it.(105)

He saw mandate claims as pre-empting discussion of the merits of particular policy or amendments to legislation. In Australia's current debate he disputed the existence of a mandate on the basis of votes: 'The coalition parties won just under 40 per cent of the vote for the House of Representatives at the last election, but gained a fraction over 54 per cent of the seats'.

Murray Goot of Macquarie University provided another commentary on the current debate in Australia. Goot followed Dahl in seeking to use public opinion polling as a means of probing beyond election results to ascertain the voters' minds on questions at issue.

He believed a claim to a mandate is difficult to sustain in a bicameral parliament in which each house has comparable powers. In Australia, he pointed out, 'the Senate turns out to be a better-not a worse-mirror of the nation's mind than the House of Representatives'.(106)

Goot traced growing criticism of mandate theory but believed that opinion polling provided a means to ascertain whether or not there is substantial support for particular policies. On the basis of the polls he found, in the case of Australia, that there is often popular support for Senate actions and, moreover, cases where the public does not have any objection to a Government failing to honour a promise.

Whilst polls and kindred methods of appraising public opinion are no doubt used by governments and other party leaders in settling their strategies and tactics, it is unlikely that they could be invoked authoritatively to settle a constitutional or even a political point.

Nor will all analysts, let alone parliamentarians, accept Goot's view that 'in politics, promise-keeping is a political act; it is neither a question of morality nor a question of logic';(107) this view is certainly at odds with Emy's interest in the mandate and the connections between meeting commitments made during elections and the general reputation of politics.

Most analysis of the mandate question focuses on a simple set of circumstances-a party makes promises during an election campaign which it is expected to implement in the event of victory.

Politics is, nevertheless, a dynamic process; today's promise may simply be irrelevant tomorrow. The question of realising a mandate may be as much a question of the party's prospects at a succeeding election as one of keeping promises made during a recent contest. Public opinion about a policy or program may change and there is no impediment to an incumbent government responding to that change; indeed, in a democracy it would be wholly appropriate for it to do so. Opinion polls may inform decisions of this character but they cannot, of themselves, legitimate decisions having this effect.

The circumstances giving rise to a particular policy may likewise change necessitating change to the policy or even its abandonment.


  1. Gough Whitlam, The Whitlam Government, 1972-1975, Viking, 1985, esp. chapter 1; Graham Freudenberg, A Certain Grandeur: Gough Whitlam in Politics, Macmillan, 1977, pp. 243-5; G. S. Reid and C. J. Lloyd, Out of the Wilderness, Cassell Australia, 1974, pp. 197-210.

  2. David Leyton-Brown, Canadian Annual Review of Politics and Public Affairs 1989, University of Toronto Press, 1995, p.p. 23-5; David Leyton-Brown, Canadian Annual Review of Politics and Public Affairs 1990, University of Toronto Press, 1997, pp. 26-31.

  3. G. S. Reid and C. J. Lloyd, op. cit., pp. 208-9.

  4. As in the case of Franklin D. Roosevelt's attempt to increase the number of justices of the United States Supreme Court following various decisions which declared New Deal legislation to be unconstitutional. See Kermit L. Hall (ed.), The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States, New York, 1992, p. 743.

  5. R. H. S. Crossman, Inside View, Jonathan Cape, 1972, chapters 2 and 3.

  6. Harold Wilson, The Labour Government 1964-70. A Personal Record, Weidenfeld & Nicolson and Michael Joseph, 1971, pp. 37-8; James Callaghan, Time and Change, Collins, 1987, pp. 174-5.

  7. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Mandate for Change, Heinemann, 1963, ch. 4.

  8. Robert A. Dahl, 'The Myth of the Presidential Mandate', Political Science Quarterly, vol. 105 (3), November 1990, pp. 355-72.

  9. As quoted by Norman Gash, Reaction and Reconstruction in English Politics 1832-1852, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1965, p. 142.

  10. As quoted by Vernon Bogdanor, The People and the Party System, Cambridge University Press, 1981, p. 17.

  11. ibid., p. 17.

  12. As quoted by Cecil S. Emden, The People and the Constitution, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1956, p. 220.

  13. Cecil S. Emden, op. cit., p. 220.

  14. As quoted in M. A. J. Wheeler-Booth, 'The House of Lords', J. A. G. Griffith and Michael Ryle, Parliament, Sweet and Maxwell, 1989, pp. 504-5.

  15. As quoted ibid., p. 505.

  16. Alfred Deakin, Official Record of the Debates of the Australian Federal Convention, 20 September 1897, p. 818.

  17. ibid., 20 September 1897, p. 818.

  18. Alfred Deakin, op. cit., 15 September 1897, p. 582.

  19. Memorandum from the Prime Minister (Joseph Cook) to the Governor-General, 4 June 1914, published in Double Dissolution, PP 2/1914, p. 6.

  20. R. G. Menzies, Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates, vol. 196, 21 April 1948, p. 1002.

  21. R. G. Menzies, Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates, vol. 207, 4 May 1950, p. 2222.

  22. ibid., pp. 2222-3.

  23. R. G. Menzies to W. J. McKell (Governor-General), 16 March 1951, 14-5, Documents Relating to the Simultaneous Dissolution of the Senate and the House of Representatives by His Excellency the Governor-General on 19th March, 1951, PP 6/1957.

  24. As quoted in Graham Freudenberg, op. cit., Macmillan, 1977, pp. 244-5.

  25. Freudenberg, op. cit., p. 243.

  26. As quoted by Lloyd and Reid, op. cit., p. 197.

  27. As quoted by Freudenberg, op. cit., p. 244.

  28. As quoted by Lloyd and Reid, op. cit., pp. 203-4.

  29. Lloyd and Reid, op. cit., p. 210.

  30. As quoted in Harry Evans (ed.), Odgers' Australian Senate Practice, AGPS, 1995, p. 107.

  31. As quoted in Harry Evans (ed.), op. cit., p. 109.

  32. As quoted in Scott Prasser and Graeme Starr, Policy & Change: The Howard Mandate, Hale and Iremonger, 1997, p. 17.

  33. Prasser and Starr, op. cit., p. 17.

  34. Transcript of address to the Australian Business Limited's Annual Dinner, Sydney Convention Centre, 8 October 1998, p. 3.

  35. Transcript of Opening Address to Tasmanian Division's State Council, Burnie Civic Centre, Burnie, Tasmania.

  36. Transcript of address to the New South Wales Division's State Council,24 October 1998, p. 4.

  37. Transcript of doorstop interview following declaration of poll, AEC office, Gladesville, 27 October 1998, p. 3.

  38. Transcript of press conference, Parliament House, 13 August 1998, p. 7.

  39. Transcript of questions and answers, National Press Club, 1 October 1998, p. 2.

  40. Letter to His Excellency the Honourable Sir William Deane, 30 August 1998, p. 1.

  41. Transcript of press conference, Prime Minister's Courtyard, Parliament House, 30 August 1998, p. 6.

  42. Transcript of press conference, Prime Minister's Courtyard, 13 November 1998, pp. 4-5.

  43. Transcript of doorstop at the Rockingham Council Chambers, Perth, 8 September 1998, p. 4.

  44. Address to National Press Club, Canberra, 30 September 1998, p. 2.

  45. ibid., p. 2.

  46. ibid., p. 2.

  47. Address to South Australian Israel Chamber of Commerce Luncheon, 'The Tax Package: Labor's Response', Adelaide, 14 August 1998, p. 1.

  48. Address to National Press Club, Canberra, 30 September 1998, p. 1.

  49. ibid., p. 1.

  50. Transcript of doorstop, Australian Electoral Commission, Rockingham, WA, 12 October 1998, p. 2.

  51. Address to ACOSS National Congress, 'Taxation Reform: More Than Just Tax', Adelaide, 6 November 1998.

  52. Transcript of doorstop, Australian Electoral Commission, Rockingham, WA, 12 October 1998, p. 1.

  53. Transcript of introductory remarks to ALP Caucus meeting, Parliament House, Canberra, 19 October 1998, p. 1.

  54. Transcript of doorstop, Woy Woy Leagues Club, Central Coast, NSW, 4 September 1998, p. 5.

  55. Transcript of press conference, The Domain, Sydney, 30 August 1998, p. 1.

  56. Transcript of doorstop, Woy Woy Leagues Club, Central Coast, NSW, 4 September 1998, p. 6.

  57. Transcript of question and answers, National Press Club, Canberra, 30 September 1998, p. 9.

  58. Transcript of doorstop, Electoral Commission, Albion, Queensland, 15 October 1998, p. 5.

  59. Transcript of doorstop, Australian Electoral Commission, Rockingham, WA, 12 October 1998, p. 3.

  60. Transcript of doorstop, Parliament House, Canberra, 28 October 1998, p. 2.

  61. Transcript of introductory remarks at the shadow ministry meeting, Parliament House, Canberra, 28 October 1998, p. 2.

  62. Transcript of doorstop, Australian Electoral Commission, Rockingham, WA, 12 October 1998, p. 1.

  63. Address to ACOSS National Congress, 'Taxation Reform: More than just Tax', Adelaide, 16 November 1998, p. 3.

  64. The Great Debate: A Mandate Works in Both Houses', Media Release 98/674, 14 September 1998.

  65. Strong Senate the best guarantee of better, accountable Government', Media Release 98/767, 30 September 1998.

  66. Record representation for Democrats', Media Release 98/793, 4 October 1998.

  67. No rise needed in GST rate, say Democrats', Media Release 98/796, 6 October 1998.

  68. Paul Kelly, 'Promises the PM is entitled to honour', The Australian, 7 October 1998, p. 15.

  69. 'A mandate is a mandate', Australian Financial Review, 7 October 1998, p. 18.

  70. Peter Cole-Adams, 'Mandates? It's time to get real', Canberra Times, 9 October 1998, p. 11.

  71. Tim Colebatch, 'Howard's choice: seek consensus or try to crash through', The Age, 6 October 1998, p. A15.

  72. Peter O'Connor, 'Constitution puts tax in Senate's lap', Australian Financial Review, 16 December 1998, p. 17.

  73. David Robertson, A Dictionary of Modern Politics, 2nd ed., Europa Publications Limited, 1993, p. 296.

  74. Roger Scruton, A Dictionary of Political Thought, Macmillan, 1982, p. 282.

  75. Vernon Bogdanor (ed), The Blackwell Encyclopaedia of Political Institutions, Blackwell Reference, 1987, p. 352.

  76. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Mandate for Change, Heinemann, 1963.

  77. William Safire, Safire's New Political Dictionary, Random House, 1993, p. 433.

  78. ibid.

  79. Jack C. Plano and Milton Greenberg, The American Political Dictionary, Tenth edition, Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1997, p. 87.

  80. Andrew Heywood, Political Ideas and Concepts-an Introduction, 1994, p. 181.

  81. Patricia Kelvin, The development and use of the concept of the electoral mandate in British politics, 1867 to 1911, PhD thesis, University of London, 1977.

  82. R. G. Mulgan, The Concept of Mandate in New Zealand Politics, Political Science, vol. 30(2), December 1978, p. 94.

  83. ibid., p. 91.

  84. ibid., pp. 91-2.

  85. ibid., p. 94.

  86. Emy, op. cit., p. 66.

  87. ibid., p. 66.

  88. ibid., p. 69.

  89. ibid., p. 70.

  90. ibid., p. 73.

  91. ibid., p. 73.

  92. ibid., p. 76.

  93. ibid., p. 76.

  94. Robert A. Dahl, op. cit., p. 362.

  95. ibid., p. 361; Dahl quotes from Stanley Kelley, Interpreting Elections, Princeton University Press, 1983, p. 99.

  96. Dahl, op. cit., p. 365.

  97. Emy, op. cit., p. 74.

  98. Dahl, op. cit, p. 370.

  99.  ibid., p. 369.

  100.  ibid., pp. 356-7.

  101.  cited ibid., pp. 360-1.

  102.  cited ibid., p. 360.

  103.  ibid., p. 371.

  104.  Campbell Sharman, 'The Senate and Good Government', Senate Occasional Lecture, 11 December 1998, p. 2.

  105.  ibid., p. 3.
  106.  Murray Goot, 'Whose Mandate? Policy Promises, Strong Bicameralism and Polled Opinion', paper presented to Department of Political Science, Research School of Social Sciences, The Australian National University, 1998, p. 9.
  107.  ibid., p. 21.