Date of Award

2000

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts Honours

Faculty

Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Dr Quentin Beresford

Abstract

This study examines the influence which pressure groups, unelected, unrepresentative groups, exert on the legislative process. This thesis studies the issue in relation to the Western Australian School Education Bill 1999, and the action of four pressure groups- the Aboriginal legal Service of Western Australia, the Disability Services Commission, the Home Based Learning Network and the Western Australian Council of State Schools Organisations. The re-writing of the School Education Bill1999 presented an opportunity to study pressure group activity against the background of two unusual circumstances: the first being that the updating of the seventy year old Act was the occasion for the Government to create a modem and inclusive legislation, and to achieve this, it utilised a Green Bill to encourage community consultation and participation, including that from the pressure groups; and the second, was that, for the first lime in the history of the State's legislature, the Legislative Council was not controlled by the conservative parties, and the conservative Government faced the certainty of increased scrutiny of its legislation in the Upper House. Both of these circumstances encourage activity from pressure groups, and it is the purpose of this study to examine whether the pressure groups had an undue influence in the formulation of the legislation. This is done through the establishment of three criteria to assess their effectiveness. The first relates to the specific activities of the pressure group, and how effective they are; the second refers to the choice by the pressure group of the most appropriate methods of applying pressure, and why they are effective; and the third relates to the pressure groups' choice of the time in the legislative process to have the greatest impact, and when they are effective. The thesis assesses the Australian literature which is relevant to the three criteria, and then details the significance of the Bill and the Consultative or Green phase, including the role played by the media to educate the public in making informed contributions to the debate. The study then moves to the Parliamentary phase where vigorous debate occupied a great deal of the Parliament's time in both Houses. It will be shown that while a great many changes to the draft Bill occurred during the Consultative phase, there were only minor alterations during the Parliamentary stage. It will be shown that the Government was able to disregard more than two thirds of the amendments from the Upper House, and in fact only accepted amendments to those clauses of the Bill which it had anticipated. The conclusion of this thesis is that pressure groups can have success in modifying aspects of legislation/policy when it chooses the 1ight tactics and when it applies them before the Bill is tabled in the Parliament. Even in the case of the School Education Bill 1999, when public contributions were encouraged, the government only made alterations which it had foreseen, and which it was prepared to accept, thus showing that pressure groups did not have an undue influence on the legislation.

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