Australian Government

Written by Patricia Tunstall
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The structure of the Australian government is based on the English parliamentary system, although many elements of the United States Constitution have been incorporated into the Commonwealth Constitution. There are three levels of government: federal, state, and local. The legislative power is vested in the parliament, which consists of the Queen of England, the Senate, and the House of Representatives.

Constitutional Powers

The Constitution of 1901 established a federal system of government, which distributes powers between the national government (the Commonwealth) and the six states. There are three territories that are self-governing: Australian Capital Territory, in which the capital of Canberra is located, the Northern Territory, and Norfolk Island. Each state contributes 12 Senators and each territory two Senators. The number of House of Representatives members is based on population.

The Prime Minister is appointed by the Governor-General, but this individual must appoint the parliamentary leader of the party that holds a majority of seats in the House of Representatives. All the ministers come from this majority party, and all ministers must be members of Parliament. There is a High Court of Australia whose judges interpret and apply the laws, determine the constitutionality of laws, and hear appeals from lower courts.

On a less formal note, Australians have free access to health care (not dental services). Most people over 65 and people who get government aid receive most of their prescription medications at no charge. The government provides an extensive social security system that includes old age pensions, family allowances, unemployment insurance, and welfare.


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