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Government in Australia


Government in Australia

Almost everywhere in Australia you will have three levels of Government. There are the Federal or Commonwealth, State or Territory and local Governments. Only two levels exist in the Australian Capital Territory (Federal and Territory.)

Local Governments began to be established in the second half of the nineteenth century. It should be noted, though, that Local Government can only regulate, not legislate, as it is controlled by the laws of various State Government departments.

Despite the fact that the States only gave up specific powers to the Commonwealth in the contracts creating our Federation, the powers of the State and Federal Governments are now totally blurred. Changes to these contracts, and thus the Constitution, should only be made after being agreed to by the people through a referendum.

Slowly, by various means, the Federal Government has gained many of the powers that our Founders of Federation had withheld from it. Regardless of the constitutional issues this devious transfer of powers has led to the creation of many duplicated Government Departments with all of the subsequent additional costs.

Levels of Government in Australia


  • The Federal Government:
    The Federal or Commonwealth is responsible for national affairs. It's responsibilities are stated in the Australian Constitution and include
  1. Defense
  2. Foreign Affairs
  3. Trade
  4. Commerce
  5. Currency
  6. Immigration
  7. Postal Services
  8. Telecommunications and Broadcasting
  9. Airports and Air Safety
  10. Social Services and Pensions
  11. As mentioned above, the Federal Government is also involved in many things largely carried out by the States creating a duplication of many administrative costs.

Covering the entire Nation the Federal Government is lead by the Prime Minister and consists of the Senate, an Upper House that was designed to look after the interests of the various States and Territories and The House of Representatives a Lower House where most of our legislation is formulated and introduced.

  • The House of Representatives has 147 members representing separate electorates and

  • The Senate has 76 members, 12 from each State and two each from the two Territories.

  • State and Territory Government:
    Under the Australian Constitution, the States are responsible for everything not listed as a Federal responsibility.

    The main State responsibilities are
  1. Education
  2. Health
  3. Conservation and Environment
  4. Roads
  5. Public Transport
  6. State Public Works
  7. Agriculture
  8. Fishing and Fisheries
  9. Industrial Relations
  10. Community Services
  11. Sport and Recreation
  12. Consumer Affairs
  13. Police
  14. Prisons
  15. Emergency Services

Lead by a Premier or Chief Minister each of the States and Territories have different Parliamentary structures.

There are 6 State Parliaments and two Territory Parliaments. New South Wales is made up of

  • The Legislative Assembly, the Lower House with 93 members each representing a unique electorate and

  • The Legislative Council with 42 members each representing the whole State.

  • Local Government:
    The power of Local Government is controlled by Acts of State Parliament and, as mentioned above, Local Government can only regulate within the boundaries of such laws. Local Government is generally responsible for
  1. Building Regulations
  2. Development
  3. Public Health
  4. Local Roads and Footpaths
  5. Parks and Playing Fields
  6. Libraries
  7. Local Environment
  8. Waste Disposal

With each lead by a Mayor or a Lord Mayor, there are 685* Local Government areas in Australia consisting of between 5 to 15 Councilors or Aldermen.

In some Councils (Local Governments) the area is divided into sections called wards or ridings each with its own councilor.

*NOTE: Dear Grandpa Pencil is awaiting the end of unpopular 'Council amalgamations', if there is ever to be one, before attempting to get an accurate number here. It could well turn out to be one.



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Published by Robin A Cartledge ~ ABN 19 924 273 138 ~ Low Head, Tasmania ~ Contact/Comment