Legal and Political System
The Commonwealth of Australia was formed on 1 January, 1901, when 6 former British Colonies – now six states – Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania, New South Wales and Queensland agreed to form a union. B two major territories are included in the makeup of the country, they are, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory.
The Australian Constitution, which lays down the framework for the Australian system of government, also took effect on this I January, 1901.
The Australian Constitution has three branches:
- Legislative - Contains the parliament, the body with the legislative power to make laws
- Executive - Administers of the law
- Judicial - Allows for the establishment of the Country’s courts of law and the appointment and removal of it’s judges
The Australian constitution sets out the responsibility of the government, including areas of national importance such as taxation, defence, foreign affairs and immigration.
The Commonwealth of Australia uses the Westminster system of government. The official Head of State is Queen Elizabeth II, represented in Australia by the Governor-General, Ms Quentin Bryce AC. The Governor-General is appointed by the Queen on advice of the Prime Minister of Australia.
The current Prime Minister of Australia is Ms Julia Gillard of the Australian Labor Party. Currenlty in opposition is the Leader of the Liberal Party, Mr Tony Abbott.
Australia is a representative democracy. Voting in Australia is compulsory for citizens over the age of 18. The next election can occur within three years of the first sitting of the new Parliament, at a date selected by the incumbent government.
State and Territory Government
The state and territory governments are responsible for the powers not administered by the Commonwealth government.
Each state and territory has its own parliament and its own constitution (which can be amended by its parliament), but they are bound by the national constitution.
The state and territories are responsible for matters which include: public health, education, roads, public land use, police, fire, ambulance services and local government within their State or Territory.
State elections occur on the second Saturday in March every four years.
Local governments are established by state and territory governments to take responsibility for a number of community services. Local government have a legislature, which includes Elected Members and an executive, but no judiciary. Their powers are defined by the state or territory government which established them. Local governments are also known as local councils.
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