About government in Australia

Australia is a representative democracy and a constitutional monarchy, as well as a federation of states. Eligible Australian citizens vote for people to represent them and make laws on their behalf.

There are three levels of government in Australia: federal, state (or territory) and local. The three tiers of government work together in various ways to govern and provide services to the community.

Federal government

  • The legislative arm of the federal government is the Australian Parliament, which consists of the Queen, represented by the Governor-General, and two Houses: the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Parliament makes laws for the whole of Australia, and proposed laws must be agreed to by both Houses to become law.
  • The head of the executive arm of the federal government is the Prime Minister, who is the elected leader of the party in government.
  • The Cabinet, which consists of senior Ministers led by the Prime Minister, determines the legislative and executive policy of the federal government.
  • Elections are held approximately every three years. It is compulsory for Australian citizens aged 18 years and over to vote.
  • Key federal government responsibilities include:
    • defence
    • foreign policy
    • pensions and welfare payments
    • Medicare
    • currency
    • citizenship
    • postal and telecommunication services.
  • There are a range of shared responsibilities for federal and state and territory governments. These include:
    • education
    • health
    • environment
    • taxation.
Australian flag

State Government

  • The legislative arm of the State Government is the Parliament of Western Australia, which consists of the Queen, represented by the Governor, and two Houses: the Legislative Assembly (Lower House) and the Legislative Council (Upper House). The WA Parliament make laws for Western Australia. Proposed laws must be agreed to by both Houses to become law.
  • The head of the executive arm of the State Government is the Premier, who is the elected leader of the party in government.
  • The WA Cabinet, which consists of up to 17 Ministers led by the Premier, determines the legislative and executive policy of the State Government.
  • General State elections are held every four years. It is compulsory for Western Australians aged 18 years and over to vote.
  • The State Government receives significant funding  from the federal government and also collects taxes.
  • Key State Government responsibilities include:
    • schools
    • hospitals
    • police
    • public transport, major roads and railways
    • community services
    • electricity and water supply
    • mining
    • agriculture
    • consumer affairs and prisons.
WA State Parliament

Local government in Western Australia

  • In WA, local governments are established by the WA Parliament under the Constitution Act 1889.
  • Local governments consist of an elected governing body, known as a council, and an administrative body led by a Chief Executive Officer.
  • Each council make local laws for a local government area.
  • Ordinary local elections are held every two years and council members are elected for a term of up to four years. Voting by local electors aged 18 years and over is voluntary.
  • Extraordinary local elections may also be held at certain times in accordance with the Local Government Act 1995.
  • Local governments collect taxes (rates) from local property owners and receive money from the federal and state governments.
  • Local government responsibilities include:
    • local roads
    • street signage and lighting
    • parks, recreational and cultural facilities
    • waste management and recycling
    • parking
    • local planning and building controls
    • pet registration and management. and management.
  • Local government services can be adapted to the needs of the local community.
Local street

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Page reviewed 01 September 2021