Australia’s system of government is tri-fold. Australia has a (i) Constitutional Monarchy; a (ii) Parliamentary Democracy and is a (iii) Federation of States and Territories.
This model of government is often described as the Westminster System because it originated from the United Kingdom parliament at Westminster. It is important to note here that the Australian system is not an identical copy of the United Kingdom system – important and unique differences exist.
Australia was claimed by United Kingdom in 1770 and as such is an independent nation, similar to Canada and New Zealand. It shares a monarchy (The Queen of United Kingdom) and the Queen is the head of the Commonwealth of Australia.
As the Queen lives on the other side of the world, the representative of the Queen, called the Governor-General is appointed by the Queen at the counsel of the Australian Government of the day, who is acting on the recommendation of the Prime Minister of the day.
The current status as a Constitutional Monarchy for Australia is presently quite controversial as a ground swell of Republicanism across the nation is gaining a voice. In 1999 a national referendum was held to decide if Australia was to become a Republic, and it was soundly beaten by the pro Monarchy movement. This vote has in no way quieted the constant conversation within the general public and community voices on both sides of the Republican debate.
Australia, unlike the United Kingdom has a Constitution. The Parliament of Australia is described in the Constitution as the Queen, The Senate and the House of Representatives. Responsible government is the keystone to Australia’s parliamentary institution.
The Parliament, members and government are bound by the constitution to legislate, and are accountable to the people who they represent for its actions.
The Senate is often called the upper house and represents the six states and two territories of the commonwealth of Australia. The Senate operates hand in hand with the House of Representatives in forming legislation, but importantly acts as a check on the government of the day.
The Senate performs most of the work through a committee structure, with representatives of all parties standing on committees.
The House of Representatives
The House of representatives is often referred to as the “People’s House. The political party that holds a majority of seats in the House of Representatives forms a government.
The Australian Parliament currently consists of 150 members who each represent an electorate.
Federation of States & Territories
The Federation of Australia consists of six States and two Territories. Each state has an appointed Governor (the Queen’s representative). The political party that has a majority in the State parliament is in government and is headed by a Premier.
The Territories do not have a Queen’s Representative, and their head of the parliament is called the Chief Minister.