Government of Australia

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The Commonwealth of Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 is a federal
Federation
A federation , also known as a federal state, is a type of sovereign state characterized by a union of partially self-governing states or regions united by a central government...

 constitutional monarchy
Constitutional monarchy
Constitutional monarchy is a form of government in which a monarch acts as head of state within the parameters of a constitution, whether it be a written, uncodified or blended constitution...

 under a parliamentary democracy. The Commonwealth of Australia was formed in 1901 as a result of an agreement among six self-governing British colonies
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

, which became the six states. The terms of this agreement are embodied in the Australian Constitution
Constitution of Australia
The Constitution of Australia is the supreme law under which the Australian Commonwealth Government operates. It consists of several documents. The most important is the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia...

, which was drawn up at a Constitutional Convention
Constitutional Convention (Australia)
In Australian history, the term Constitutional Convention refers to four distinct gatherings.-1891 convention:The 1891 Constitutional Convention was held in Sydney in March 1891 to consider a draft Constitution for the proposed federation of the British colonies in Australia and New Zealand. There...

 and ratified by the people of the colonies at referendum
Referendum
A referendum is a direct vote in which an entire electorate is asked to either accept or reject a particular proposal. This may result in the adoption of a new constitution, a constitutional amendment, a law, the recall of an elected official or simply a specific government policy. It is a form of...

s. The structure of the Australian Government, officially Her Majesty's Australian Government, may be examined in light of two distinct concepts, namely federalism
Federalism
Federalism is a political concept in which a group of members are bound together by covenant with a governing representative head. The term "federalism" is also used to describe a system of the government in which sovereignty is constitutionally divided between a central governing authority and...

 and the separation of powers
Separation of powers
The separation of powers, often imprecisely used interchangeably with the trias politica principle, is a model for the governance of a state. The model was first developed in ancient Greece and came into widespread use by the Roman Republic as part of the unmodified Constitution of the Roman Republic...

 into legislative, executive and judiciary branches of government. Separation of powers is implied from the structure of the Constitution which breaks down the branches of government into separate chapters.

Federal Government (officially "Her Majesty's Australian Government")


Section 1 of the Australian Constitution creates a democratic legislature, the bicameral
Bicameralism
In the government, bicameralism is the practice of having two legislative or parliamentary chambers. Thus, a bicameral parliament or bicameral legislature is a legislature which consists of two chambers or houses....

 Parliament of Australia
Parliament of Australia
The Parliament of Australia, also known as the Commonwealth Parliament or Federal Parliament, is the legislative branch of the government of Australia. It is bicameral, largely modelled in the Westminster tradition, but with some influences from the United States Congress...

 which consists of the Queen and two houses, the Senate
Australian Senate
The Senate is the upper house of the bicameral Parliament of Australia, the lower house being the House of Representatives. Senators are popularly elected under a system of proportional representation. Senators are elected for a term that is usually six years; after a double dissolution, however,...

 and the House of Representatives
Australian House of Representatives
The House of Representatives is one of the two houses of the Parliament of Australia; it is the lower house; the upper house is the Senate. Members of Parliament serve for terms of approximately three years....

. Section 51
Section 51 of the Australian Constitution
Section 51 of the Constitution of Australia grants legislative powers to the Australian Parliament only when subject to the constitution. When the six Australian colonies joined together in Federation in 1901, they became the original States and ceded some of their powers to the new Commonwealth...

 of the Constitution provides for the Commonwealth Government's legislative powers and allocates certain powers and responsibilities (known as "heads of power") to the federal government. All remaining responsibilities are retained by the six States
Parliaments of the Australian states and territories
The Parliaments of the Australian states and territories are legislative bodies within the federal framework of the Commonwealth of Australia. Before the formation of the Commonwealth in 1901, the six Australian colonies were self-governing, with parliaments which had come into existence at various...

 (previously separate colonies). Further, each State has its own constitution, so that Australia has seven sovereign Parliaments, none of which can encroach on the functions of any other. The High Court of Australia
High Court of Australia
The High Court of Australia is the supreme court in the Australian court hierarchy and the final court of appeal in Australia. It has both original and appellate jurisdiction, has the power of judicial review over laws passed by the Parliament of Australia and the parliaments of the States, and...

 arbitrates on any disputes which arise between the Commonwealth and the States, or among the States, concerning their respective functions.

The Commonwealth Parliament can propose changes to the Constitution. To become effective, the proposals must be put to a referendum
Referendum
A referendum is a direct vote in which an entire electorate is asked to either accept or reject a particular proposal. This may result in the adoption of a new constitution, a constitutional amendment, a law, the recall of an elected official or simply a specific government policy. It is a form of...

 of all Australians of voting age, and must receive a "double majority": a majority of all votes, and a majority of votes in a majority of States.

The Commonwealth Constitution also provides that the States can agree to refer any of their powers to the Commonwealth. This may be achieved by way of an amendment to the Constitution via referendum (a vote on whether the proposed transfer of power from the States to the Commonwealth, or vice versa, should be implemented). More commonly powers may be transferred by passing other acts of legislation which authorise the transfer and such acts require the legislative agreement of all the state governments involved. This "transfer" legislation may have a "sunset clause", a legislative provision that nullifies the transfer of power after a specified period, at which point the original division of power is restored...

In addition, Australia has several territories, three of which are self-governing: the Australian Capital Territory
Australian Capital Territory
The Australian Capital Territory, often abbreviated ACT, is the capital territory of the Commonwealth of Australia and is the smallest self-governing internal territory...

 (ACT), the Northern Territory
Northern Territory
The Northern Territory is a federal territory of Australia, occupying much of the centre of the mainland continent, as well as the central northern regions...

 (NT) and Norfolk Island
Norfolk Island
Norfolk Island is a small island in the Pacific Ocean located between Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia. The island is part of the Commonwealth of Australia, but it enjoys a large degree of self-governance...

. The legislatures of these territories exercise powers delegated to them by the Commonwealth, and the Commonwealth Parliament retains the power to override territorial legislation and to transfer powers to or from the territories. While Australian citizens living in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory are represented in the Commonwealth Parliament, Norfolk Islanders are not represented federally.

Australia's other territories that are regularly inhabited (Jervis Bay
Jervis Bay Territory
The Jervis Bay Territory is a territory of the Commonwealth of Australia. It was surrendered by the state of New South Wales to the Commonwealth Government in 1915 so that the Federal capital at Canberra would have "access to the sea"....

, Christmas Island
Christmas Island
The Territory of Christmas Island is a territory of Australia in the Indian Ocean. It is located northwest of the Western Australian city of Perth, south of the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, and ENE of the Cocos Islands....

 and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands
Cocos (Keeling) Islands
The Territory of the Cocos Islands, also called Cocos Islands and Keeling Islands, is a territory of Australia, located in the Indian Ocean, southwest of Christmas Island and approximately midway between Australia and Sri Lanka....

) are not self-governing. Instead, these territories are largely governed by federal law, with Christmas Island and the Cocos Islands also having local governments. The largely uninhabited Coral Sea Islands
Coral Sea Islands
The Coral Sea Islands Territory includes a group of small and mostly uninhabited tropical islands and reefs in the Coral Sea, northeast of Queensland, Australia. The only inhabited island is Willis Island...

 was established as a Territory of the Commonwealth in 1969 while Ashmore and Cartier Islands
Ashmore and Cartier Islands
The Territory of the Ashmore and Cartier Islands is an external territory of Australia consisting of two groups of small low-lying uninhabited tropical islands in the Indian Ocean situated on the edge of the continental shelf north-west of Australia and south of the Indonesian island of...

 has been a territory since 1933 and administered under the laws of the Northern Territory.

The federal nature of the Commonwealth and the structure of the Parliament of Australia
Parliament of Australia
The Parliament of Australia, also known as the Commonwealth Parliament or Federal Parliament, is the legislative branch of the government of Australia. It is bicameral, largely modelled in the Westminster tradition, but with some influences from the United States Congress...

 were the subject of protracted negotiations among the colonies during the drafting of the Constitution. The House of Representatives
Australian House of Representatives
The House of Representatives is one of the two houses of the Parliament of Australia; it is the lower house; the upper house is the Senate. Members of Parliament serve for terms of approximately three years....

 is elected on a basis which reflects the differing populations of the States. Thus New South Wales
New South Wales
New South Wales is a state of :Australia, located in the east of the country. It is bordered by Queensland, Victoria and South Australia to the north, south and west respectively. To the east, the state is bordered by the Tasman Sea, which forms part of the Pacific Ocean. New South Wales...

 has 48 members while Tasmania
Tasmania
Tasmania is an Australian island and state. It is south of the continent, separated by Bass Strait. The state includes the island of Tasmania—the 26th largest island in the world—and the surrounding islands. The state has a population of 507,626 , of whom almost half reside in the greater Hobart...

 has five. But the Senate
Australian Senate
The Senate is the upper house of the bicameral Parliament of Australia, the lower house being the House of Representatives. Senators are popularly elected under a system of proportional representation. Senators are elected for a term that is usually six years; after a double dissolution, however,...

 is elected on a basis of equality among the States: all States elect 12 Senators, regardless of population. This was intended to allow the Senators of the smaller States to form a majority and amend or even reject bills originating in the House of Representatives. The ACT and the NT also elect two senators each.

The third level of government after Commonwealth and State/Territory is Local government
Local government in Australia
Local government in Australia is the third tier of government, administered by the states and territories which in turn are beneath the Commonwealth or federal tier. Unlike New Zealand, the US or the UK, there is only one level of local government in all states, with no distinction such as...

, in the form of shire
Shire
A shire is a traditional term for a division of land, found in the United Kingdom and in Australia. In parts of Australia, a shire is an administrative unit, but it is not synonymous with "county" there, which is a land registration unit. Individually, or as a suffix in Scotland and in the far...

, town or city. These bodies such as Councils are composed of elected representatives (known as either councillor
Councillor
A councillor or councilor is a member of a local government council, such as a city council.Often in the United States, the title is councilman or councilwoman.-United Kingdom:...

 or alderman
Alderman
An alderman is a member of a municipal assembly or council in many jurisdictions founded upon English law. The term may be titular, denoting a high-ranking member of a borough or county council, a council member chosen by the elected members themselves rather than by popular vote, or a council...

 depending on the State), usually serving on a part-time basis.

Government is undertaken by three inter-connected arms of government:
  • Legislature: The Commonwealth Parliament
    Parliament of Australia
    The Parliament of Australia, also known as the Commonwealth Parliament or Federal Parliament, is the legislative branch of the government of Australia. It is bicameral, largely modelled in the Westminster tradition, but with some influences from the United States Congress...

  • Executive: The Sovereign, whose executive power is exercisable by the Governor-General, the Prime Minister, Ministers and their Departments
  • Judiciary: The High Court of Australia
    High Court of Australia
    The High Court of Australia is the supreme court in the Australian court hierarchy and the final court of appeal in Australia. It has both original and appellate jurisdiction, has the power of judicial review over laws passed by the Parliament of Australia and the parliaments of the States, and...

     and subsidiary Federal courts.


The Separation of powers
Separation of powers
The separation of powers, often imprecisely used interchangeably with the trias politica principle, is a model for the governance of a state. The model was first developed in ancient Greece and came into widespread use by the Roman Republic as part of the unmodified Constitution of the Roman Republic...

is the principle whereby the three arms of government undertake their activities separate from each other:
  • the Legislature proposes laws in the form of Bills, and provides a legislative framework for the operations of the other two arms. The Sovereign is formally a part of the Parliament, but takes no active role in these matters
  • the Executive enacts the laws by Royal Assent, administers the laws and carries out the tasks assigned to it by legislation
  • the Judiciary hears cases arising from the administration of the law, using both statute law and the common law
    Common law
    Common law is law developed by judges through decisions of courts and similar tribunals rather than through legislative statutes or executive branch action...

    . The Australian courts cannot give advisory opinions on the constitutionality of laws
  • the other arms cannot influence the Judiciary.


Until the passage of the Australia Act 1986
Australia Act 1986
The Australia Act 1986 is the name given to a pair of separate but related pieces of legislation: one an Act of the Commonwealth Parliament of Australia, the other an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom...

, and associated legislation in the parliament of the United Kingdom, some Australian cases could be referred to the British Judicial Committee of the Privy Council
Judicial Committee of the Privy Council
The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council is one of the highest courts in the United Kingdom. Established by the Judicial Committee Act 1833 to hear appeals formerly heard by the King in Council The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) is one of the highest courts in the United...

 for final appeal. With this act, Australian law was made unequivocally sovereign, and the High Court of Australia
High Court of Australia
The High Court of Australia is the supreme court in the Australian court hierarchy and the final court of appeal in Australia. It has both original and appellate jurisdiction, has the power of judicial review over laws passed by the Parliament of Australia and the parliaments of the States, and...

 was confirmed as the highest court of appeal. The theoretical possibility of the British Parliament enacting laws to override the Australian Constitution was also removed.

Legislature




The Legislature makes the laws, and supervises the activities of the other two arms with a view to changing the laws when appropriate. The Australian Parliament
Parliament of Australia
The Parliament of Australia, also known as the Commonwealth Parliament or Federal Parliament, is the legislative branch of the government of Australia. It is bicameral, largely modelled in the Westminster tradition, but with some influences from the United States Congress...

 is bicameral, consisting of the Queen, a 76-member Senate
Australian Senate
The Senate is the upper house of the bicameral Parliament of Australia, the lower house being the House of Representatives. Senators are popularly elected under a system of proportional representation. Senators are elected for a term that is usually six years; after a double dissolution, however,...

 and a 150-member House of Representatives
Australian House of Representatives
The House of Representatives is one of the two houses of the Parliament of Australia; it is the lower house; the upper house is the Senate. Members of Parliament serve for terms of approximately three years....

. Twelve Senators from each state are elected for six-year terms, using proportional representation
Proportional representation
Proportional representation is a concept in voting systems used to elect an assembly or council. PR means that the number of seats won by a party or group of candidates is proportionate to the number of votes received. For example, under a PR voting system if 30% of voters support a particular...

 and the single transferable vote
Single transferable vote
The single transferable vote is a voting system designed to achieve proportional representation through preferential voting. Under STV, an elector's vote is initially allocated to his or her most preferred candidate, and then, after candidates have been either elected or eliminated, any surplus or...

 (known in Australia as "preferential voting": see Australian electoral system
Australian electoral system
The Australian electoral system has evolved over nearly 150 years of continuous democratic government, and has a number of distinctive features including compulsory voting, preferential voting and the use of proportional voting to elect the upper house, the Australian Senate.- Compulsory voting...

), with half elected every three years.

In addition to the state Senators, two senators are elected by voters from the Northern Territory
Northern Territory
The Northern Territory is a federal territory of Australia, occupying much of the centre of the mainland continent, as well as the central northern regions...

 (which for this purpose includes the Indian Ocean Territories, Christmas Island
Christmas Island
The Territory of Christmas Island is a territory of Australia in the Indian Ocean. It is located northwest of the Western Australian city of Perth, south of the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, and ENE of the Cocos Islands....

 and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands
Cocos (Keeling) Islands
The Territory of the Cocos Islands, also called Cocos Islands and Keeling Islands, is a territory of Australia, located in the Indian Ocean, southwest of Christmas Island and approximately midway between Australia and Sri Lanka....

), while another two senators are elected by the voters of the Australian Capital Territory
Australian Capital Territory
The Australian Capital Territory, often abbreviated ACT, is the capital territory of the Commonwealth of Australia and is the smallest self-governing internal territory...

 (which includes the Jervis Bay Territory
Jervis Bay Territory
The Jervis Bay Territory is a territory of the Commonwealth of Australia. It was surrendered by the state of New South Wales to the Commonwealth Government in 1915 so that the Federal capital at Canberra would have "access to the sea"....

 for this purpose). Senators from the territories are also elected using preferential voting, however, their term of office is not fixed: it starts on the day of a general election for the House of Representatives and ends the day before the next such election day.

The members of the House of Representatives are elected by preferential voting from single-member constituencies allocated among the states and territories roughly in proportion to population. In ordinary legislation, the two chambers have coordinate powers, but all proposals for appropriating revenue or imposing taxes must be introduced in the House of Representatives. Under the prevailing Westminster system
Westminster System
The Westminster system is a democratic parliamentary system of government modelled after the politics of the United Kingdom. This term comes from the Palace of Westminster, the seat of the Parliament of the United Kingdom....

, the leader of the political party or coalition of parties that holds the support of a majority of the members in the House of Representatives is invited to form a government and is named Prime Minister
Prime Minister of Australia
The Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia is the highest minister of the Crown, leader of the Cabinet and Head of Her Majesty's Australian Government, holding office on commission from the Governor-General of Australia. The office of Prime Minister is, in practice, the most powerful...

.

The Prime Minister and the Cabinet are responsible to the Parliament, of which they must, in most circumstances, be members. General elections are held at least once every three years. The Prime Minister has a discretion to advise the Governor-General to call an election for the House of Representatives at any time, but Senate elections can only be held within certain periods prescribed in the Constitution. The most recent general election was on 21 August 2010.

The Commonwealth Parliament and all the state and territory legislatures operate within the conventions of the Westminster system
Westminster System
The Westminster system is a democratic parliamentary system of government modelled after the politics of the United Kingdom. This term comes from the Palace of Westminster, the seat of the Parliament of the United Kingdom....

, with a recognised Leader of the Opposition, usually the leader of the largest party outside the government, and a Shadow Cabinet
Shadow Cabinet
The Shadow Cabinet is a senior group of opposition spokespeople in the Westminster system of government who together under the leadership of the Leader of the Opposition form an alternative cabinet to the government's, whose members shadow or mark each individual member of the government...

 of Opposition members who "shadow" each member of the Ministry, asking questions on matters within the Minister's portfolio. Although the government, by virtue of commanding a majority of members in the lower house of the legislature, can usually pass its legislation and control the workings of the house, the Opposition can considerably delay the passage of legislation and obstruct government business if it chooses. The day-to-day business of the house is usually negotiated between a designated senior Minister, who holds the title Leader of the House
Leader of the House (Australia)
The office of Leader of the House in the House of Representatives of the Parliament of Australia exists in order for the management of government business, involving such matters as the following:* the order in which Government issues are to be dealt with...

, and an Opposition frontbencher known as the Manager of Opposition Business. The current Leader of the Opposition in the federal Parliament is Tony Abbott
Tony Abbott
Anthony John "Tony" Abbott is the Leader of the Opposition in the Australian House of Representatives and federal leader of the centre-right Liberal Party of Australia. Abbott has represented the seat of Warringah since the 1994 by-election...

.

Head of state



The Australian Constitution
Constitution of Australia
The Constitution of Australia is the supreme law under which the Australian Commonwealth Government operates. It consists of several documents. The most important is the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia...

 dates from 1901, when the Dominions of the British Empire
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

 were not sovereign states, and does not use the term "head of state". In practice, the role of head of state of Australia is divided between two people, the Queen of Australia and the Governor-General of Australia
Governor-General of Australia
The Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia is the representative in Australia at federal/national level of the Australian monarch . He or she exercises the supreme executive power of the Commonwealth...

, who is appointed by the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister of Australia
Prime Minister of Australia
The Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia is the highest minister of the Crown, leader of the Cabinet and Head of Her Majesty's Australian Government, holding office on commission from the Governor-General of Australia. The office of Prime Minister is, in practice, the most powerful...

. Though in many respects the Governor-General is the Queen's representative, and exercises various constitutional powers in her name, they are also independently vested with many important constitutional powers by the Constitution.

The Sovereign
Sovereign
A sovereign is the supreme lawmaking authority within its jurisdiction.Sovereign may also refer to:*Monarch, the sovereign of a monarchy*Sovereign Bank, banking institution in the United States*Sovereign...

 of Australia, currently Queen Elizabeth II, is also the Sovereign of fifteen other Commonwealth Realm
Commonwealth Realm
A Commonwealth realm is a sovereign state within the Commonwealth of Nations that has Elizabeth II as its monarch and head of state. The sixteen current realms have a combined land area of 18.8 million km² , and a population of 134 million, of which all, except about two million, live in the six...

s including the United Kingdom. Like the other Dominions, Australia gained legislative independence from the Parliament of the United Kingdom
Parliament of the United Kingdom
The Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the supreme legislative body in the United Kingdom, British Crown dependencies and British overseas territories, located in London...

 by virtue of the Statute of Westminster 1931
Statute of Westminster 1931
The Statute of Westminster 1931 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Passed on 11 December 1931, the Act established legislative equality for the self-governing dominions of the British Empire with the United Kingdom...

, which was adopted in Australia in 1942 with retrospective effect from 3 September 1939. By the Royal Style and Titles Act 1953, the Australian Parliament gave the Queen the title Queen of Australia, and in 1973 titles with any reference to her status as Queen of the United Kingdom and Defender of the Faith
Fidei defensor
Fidei defensor is a Latin title which translates to Defender of the Faith in English and Défenseur de la Foi in French...

 as well were removed, making her Queen of Australia.

Section 61 of the Constitution provides that 'The executive power of the Commonwealth is vested in the Queen and is exercisable by the Governor‑General as the Queen’s representative, and extends to the execution and maintenance of this Constitution, and of the laws of the Commonwealth'. Section 2 of the Australian Constitution
Constitution of Australia
The Constitution of Australia is the supreme law under which the Australian Commonwealth Government operates. It consists of several documents. The most important is the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia...

 provides that a Governor-General
Governor-General of Australia
The Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia is the representative in Australia at federal/national level of the Australian monarch . He or she exercises the supreme executive power of the Commonwealth...

 shall represent the Queen in Australia. In practice, the Governor-General carries out all the functions usually performed by a head of state, without reference to the Queen.

The question of whether the Queen is Australia's head of state became a political one during the 1999 Australian republic referendum
Australian republic referendum, 1999
The Australian republic referendum held on 6 November 1999 was a two-question referendum to amend the Constitution of Australia. The first question asked whether Australia should become a republic with a President appointed by Parliament following a bi-partisan appointment model which had...

, when opponents of the move to make Australia a republic claimed that Australia already had an Australian as head of state in the person of the Governor-General, who since 1965 has invariably been an Australian citizen. The former Governor-General, Major General Michael Jeffery
Michael Jeffery
Major General Philip Michael Jeffery AC, CVO, MC was the 24th Governor-General of Australia , the first Australian career soldier to be appointed governor-general...

, said in 2004: "Her Majesty is Australia's head of state but I am her representative and to all intents and purposes I carry out the full role." However, in 2005, he declined to name the Queen as head of state, instead saying in response to a direct question, "The Queen is the Monarch and I represent her, and I carry out all the functions of head of state." The Governor-General represents Australia internationally, making and receiving State visits.

In 2009 Prime Minister Kevin Rudd
Kevin Rudd
Kevin Michael Rudd is an Australian politician who was the 26th Prime Minister of Australia from 2007 to 2010. He has been Minister for Foreign Affairs since 2010...

 described the Governor-General as the Australian head of state, announcing an overseas visit by Quentin Bryce by saying, "A visit to Africa of this scale by Australia's Head of State will express the seriousness of Australia's commitment".

Under the conventions of the Westminster system
Westminster System
The Westminster system is a democratic parliamentary system of government modelled after the politics of the United Kingdom. This term comes from the Palace of Westminster, the seat of the Parliament of the United Kingdom....

 the Governor-General's powers are almost always exercised on the advice of the Prime Minister or other ministers. The Governor-General retains reserve powers similar to those possessed by the Queen in the United Kingdom. These are rarely exercised, but during the Australian constitutional crisis of 1975 Governor-General Sir John Kerr used them independently of the Queen and the Prime Minister.

Australia has periodically experienced movements seeking to end the monarchy. In a 1999 referendum
Australian republic referendum, 1999
The Australian republic referendum held on 6 November 1999 was a two-question referendum to amend the Constitution of Australia. The first question asked whether Australia should become a republic with a President appointed by Parliament following a bi-partisan appointment model which had...

, the Australian people voted on a proposal to change the Constitution. The proposal would have removed references to the Queen from the Constitution and replaced the Governor-General
Governor-General of Australia
The Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia is the representative in Australia at federal/national level of the Australian monarch . He or she exercises the supreme executive power of the Commonwealth...

 with a President
President
A president is a leader of an organization, company, trade union, university, or country.Etymologically, a president is one who presides, who sits in leadership...

 nominated by the Prime Minister, but subject to the approval of a two-thirds majority of both Houses of the Parliament. The proposal was defeated. The Australian Republican Movement
Australian Republican Movement
The Australian Republican Movement is a non-partisan lobby group advocating constitutional change in Australia to a republican form of government, from a constitutional monarchy.-Foundation:...

 continues to campaign for an end to the monarchy in Australia, opposed by Australians for Constitutional Monarchy
Australians for Constitutional Monarchy
Australians for Constitutional Monarchy is a group that aims to preserve Australia's current constitutional monarchy, with Elizabeth II as Queen of Australia...

.

Executive Council


The Federal Executive Council consists of the Governor-General, the Prime Minister and Ministers. It is a formal body which exists to give legal effect to decisions made by the Cabinet, and to carry out various other functions. Members of the Executive Council are entitled to be styled "The Honourable
The Honourable
The prefix The Honourable or The Honorable is a style used before the names of certain classes of persons. It is considered an honorific styling.-International diplomacy:...

", a title which they retain for life. The Governor-General usually presides
President of the Executive Council
President of the Executive Council may refer to:*The Governor-General or Governors of the Australian states in Australia and New Zealand, although the actual title is not used*A Premier of a Canadian Province...

 at Council meetings, but a Minister with the title Vice-President of the Executive Council
Vice-President of the Executive Council
The Vice-President of the Federal Executive Council is a position in Australian federal governments, whose holder acts as presiding officer of the Federal Executive Council in the absence of the Governor-General....

 serves as the link between the government and the Council.

Cabinet


The Constitution of Australia
Constitution of Australia
The Constitution of Australia is the supreme law under which the Australian Commonwealth Government operates. It consists of several documents. The most important is the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia...

 does not recognise the Cabinet
Cabinet (government)
A Cabinet is a body of high ranking government officials, typically representing the executive branch. It can also sometimes be referred to as the Council of Ministers, an Executive Council, or an Executive Committee.- Overview :...

, and its decisions have no legal force. All members of the ministry must be sworn as members of the Federal Executive Council
Federal Executive Council
The Federal Executive Council is the formal body holding executive authority under the Constitution of Australia. It is equivalent to the other Executive Councils in other Commonwealth Realms such as the Executive Council of New Zealand and is equivalent to the Privy councils in Canada and the...

, a body which is chaired by the Governor-General and which meets solely to endorse and give legal force to decisions already made by the Cabinet. That is why there is always a member of the ministry holding the title Vice-President of the Executive Council
Vice-President of the Executive Council
The Vice-President of the Federal Executive Council is a position in Australian federal governments, whose holder acts as presiding officer of the Federal Executive Council in the absence of the Governor-General....

.

Until 1956 all members of the ministry were members of the Cabinet. The growth of the ministry in the 1940s and 1950s made this increasingly impractical, and in 1956 Robert Menzies
Robert Menzies
Sir Robert Gordon Menzies, , Australian politician, was the 12th and longest-serving Prime Minister of Australia....

 created a two-tier ministry, with only senior ministers holding Cabinet rank, also known within parliament as the front bench. This practice has been continued by all governments except the Whitlam
Gough Whitlam
Edward Gough Whitlam, AC, QC , known as Gough Whitlam , served as the 21st Prime Minister of Australia. Whitlam led the Australian Labor Party to power at the 1972 election and retained government at the 1974 election, before being dismissed by Governor-General Sir John Kerr at the climax of the...

 Government.

When the non-Labor parties are in power, the Prime Minister makes all Cabinet and ministerial appointments at their own discretion, although in practice they consult with senior colleagues in making appointments. When the Liberal Party
Liberal Party of Australia
The Liberal Party of Australia is an Australian political party.Founded a year after the 1943 federal election to replace the United Australia Party, the centre-right Liberal Party typically competes with the centre-left Australian Labor Party for political office...

 and its predecessors (the Nationalist Party
Nationalist Party of Australia
The Nationalist Party of Australia was an Australian political party. It was formed on 17 February 1917 from a merger between the conservative Commonwealth Liberal Party and the National Labor Party, the name given to the pro-conscription defectors from the Australian Labor Party led by Prime...

 and the United Australia Party
United Australia Party
The United Australia Party was an Australian political party that was founded in 1931 and dissolved in 1945. It was the political successor to the Nationalist Party of Australia and predecessor to the Liberal Party of Australia...

) have been in coalition with the National Party
National Party of Australia
The National Party of Australia is an Australian political party.Traditionally representing graziers, farmers and rural voters generally, it began as the The Country Party, but adopted the name The National Country Party in 1975, changed to The National Party of Australia in 1982. The party is...

 or its predecessor the Country Party
National Party of Australia
The National Party of Australia is an Australian political party.Traditionally representing graziers, farmers and rural voters generally, it began as the The Country Party, but adopted the name The National Country Party in 1975, changed to The National Party of Australia in 1982. The party is...

, the leader of the junior Coalition party has had the right to nominate their party's members of the Coalition ministry, and to be consulted by the Prime Minister on the allocation of their portfolios.

When the Labor
Australian Labor Party
The Australian Labor Party is an Australian political party. It has been the governing party of the Commonwealth of Australia since the 2007 federal election. Julia Gillard is the party's federal parliamentary leader and Prime Minister of Australia...

 first held office under Chris Watson
Chris Watson
John Christian Watson , commonly known as Chris Watson, Australian politician, was the third Prime Minister of Australia...

, Watson assumed the right to choose members of his Cabinet. In 1907, however, the party decided that future Labor Cabinets would be elected by the members of the Parliamentary Labor Party, the Caucus
Caucus
A caucus is a meeting of supporters or members of a political party or movement, especially in the United States and Canada. As the use of the term has been expanded the exact definition has come to vary among political cultures.-Origin of the term:...

, and the Prime Minister would retain the right to allocate portfolios. This practice was followed until 2007. Between 1907 and 2007, Labor Prime Ministers exercised a predominant influence over who was elected to Labor ministries, although the leaders of the party factions also exercised considerable influence. Prior to the 2007 general election, the then Leader of the Opposition, Kevin Rudd
Kevin Rudd
Kevin Michael Rudd is an Australian politician who was the 26th Prime Minister of Australia from 2007 to 2010. He has been Minister for Foreign Affairs since 2010...

, said that he and he alone would choose the ministry should he become Prime Minister. His party won the election and he chose the ministry, as he said he would.

The cabinet meets not only in Canberra but also in various other Australian state capitals, most frequently Sydney and Melbourne. Kevin Rudd was in favour of the Cabinet meeting in other places, such as major regional cities. There are Commonwealth Parliament Offices
Commonwealth Parliament Offices, Sydney
The Commonwealth Parliament Offices, Sydney, Australia are used as a base in Sydney for members of the Australian Cabinet. The offices are located in an auspicious building at Charterbridge House, 56-70 Phillip Street, Sydney, only one block from Circular Quay and across the road from the Museum of...

 in each State Capital, with those in Sydney located in Phillip Street
Phillip Street, Sydney
Phillip Street is a street in the central business district of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. While the street runs from King Street in the south to Circular Quay in the north, the present street is effectively in two sections, separated by Chifley Square...

.

Departments


There are over 20 departments of the the Australian Government.
  • Attorney-General's Department
  • Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
  • Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy
  • Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency
  • Department of Defence
  • Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations
  • Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs
  • Department of Finance and Deregulation
  • Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
  • Department of Health and Ageing
  • Department of Human Services
  • Department of Immigration and Citizenship
  • Department of Infrastructure and Transport
  • Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research
  • Department of Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government
  • Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism
  • Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities
  • Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
  • Department of Veterans' Affairs
  • Parliament of Australia
  • The Treasury

Caretaker governments


There are times when the government acts in a "caretaker" capacity, principally in the period prior to and immediately following a general election.

Judiciary


The Judiciary interprets the laws, using as a basis the laws as enacted and explanatory statements made in the Legislature during the enactment.
  • High Court of Australia
    High Court of Australia
    The High Court of Australia is the supreme court in the Australian court hierarchy and the final court of appeal in Australia. It has both original and appellate jurisdiction, has the power of judicial review over laws passed by the Parliament of Australia and the parliaments of the States, and...

  • Federal Court of Australia
    Federal Court of Australia
    The Federal Court of Australia is an Australian superior court of record which has jurisdiction to deal with most civil disputes governed by federal law , along with some summary criminal matters. Cases are heard at first instance by single Judges...

  • Family Court of Australia
    Family Court of Australia
    The Family Court of Australia is a superior Australian federal court of record which deals with family law matters. Together with the Federal Magistrates Court, it covers family law matters in all states and territories of Australia except Western Australia...

  • Federal Magistrates Court

Footnotes


Prior to 1931, the junior status of dominions was shown in the fact that it was British ministers who advised the King, with dominion ministers, if they met the King at all, escorted by the constitutionally superior British minister. After 1931 all dominion ministers met the King as His ministers as of right, equal in Commonwealth status to Britain's ministers, meaning that there was no longer either a requirement for, or an acceptance of, the presence of British ministers. The first state to exercise this both symbolic and real independence was the Irish Free State
Irish Free State
The Irish Free State was the state established as a Dominion on 6 December 1922 under the Anglo-Irish Treaty, signed by the British government and Irish representatives exactly twelve months beforehand...

. Australia and other dominions soon followed.

Government departments