Written constitution

Parliament and MPR [PDF 2.73Mb, 18 pages]

Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act, 1900: Original Public Record Copy (1900)

Parliament House Art Collection, Art Services Parliament House

A constitution is a set of rules by which a country is run. On 1 January 1901, when the Australian Constitution took effect, the British colonies of New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia peacefully united to become a nation. The movement toward federation had been driven by the belief a national government would be better able to handle the issues of trade, defence and immigration, as well as a growing sense of national pride.

The Australian Constitution includes details on the composition of the Australian Parliament, how Parliament works, what powers it has, how federal and state parliaments share power, and the roles of the executive government and the High Court. It has been amended (changed) eight times.

The Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia (Undang Undang Dasar Negara Republik Indonesia Tahun 1945) – commonly referred to as the 1945 Constitution – was adopted when the Republic of Indonesia declared independence from the Netherlands on 17 August 1945. It was meant as a temporary constitution, to be replaced by a permanent constitution written by elected members of a national parliament. The Federal Constitution was adopted in 1949 but was replaced by the Provisional Constitution in 1950. The 1945 Constitution was reintroduced in 1959. It has been amended four times.

The 1945 Constitution created a nation based on the Indonesian people working together to achieve common goals through gotong royong (mutual assistance), musyawarah (deliberations of representatives) and mufakat (consensus). It includes the Pancasila; the composition and role of the MPR and the executive; the powers of the regional legislatures; the human rights of Indonesian citizens; and how changes can be made to the constitution.

The constitutions of Australia and Indonesia both contain details about the three branches of governance: the legislature (law-makers), the executive (high-ranking government decision-makers) and the judiciary (the federal courts). The power to make and manage federal law is divided between the three branches of governance. This division is known as the ‘separation of powers’. Under this principle, the power to make and manage laws is shared, to avoid any one branch misusing – or having too much – power.

Neither Australia nor Indonesia has a complete separation of powers. In both systems of governance the roles of the Parliament and executive overlap. In Australia the Prime Minister and ministers must be members of the Parliament, while in Indonesia both the President of Indonesia and the DPR (People’s Representative Council) must agree to a bill before it can become a law. Members of the judiciary (High Court of Australia and Supreme Court of Indonesia judges) are appointed by the Governor-General and President respectively.


Garuda Pancasila

A major concern at the founding of the Republic of Indonesia was how to form the different peoples, religions, cultures and traditions of the Indonesian archipelago into a unified nation. In the discussions leading up to independence, a unifying political philosophy was developed combining the shared beliefs of the Indonesian people.

Pancasila is the official principle upon which Indonesia is founded. It informs the 1945 Constitution, and the President and members of the MPR must abide by it.

  1. Belief in the one and only God (Ketuhanan Yang Maha Esa)
  2. Just and civilised humanity (Kemanusiaan Yang Adil dan Beradab)
  3. The unity of Indonesia (Persatuan Indonesia)
  4. Democracy guided by the inner wisdom in the unanimity arising out of deliberations amongst representatives (Kerakyatan Yang Dipimpin oleh Hikmat Kebijaksanaan, Dalam Permusyawaratan dan Perwakilan)
  5. Social justice for all the people of Indonesia (Keadilan Sosial bagi seluruh Rakyat Indonesia)