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World > Australia > Australia > Government and Political Conditions (Notes)

Australia - Government and Political Conditions (Notes)


GOVERNMENT
The Commonwealth government was created with a Constitution patterned partly on the U.S. Constitution, although it does not include a 'bill of rights'. The powers of the Commonwealth are specifically defined in the Constitution, and the residual powers remain with the states. Proposed changes to the Constitution must be approved by the Parliament and the people, via referendum, in order to take effect.

Australia is an independent nation within the Commonwealth. Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state and since 1973 has been officially styled 'Queen of Australia.' The Queen is represented throughout Australia by a governor general and in each state by a governor.

The federal Parliament is bicameral, consisting of a 76-member Senate and a 150-member House of Representatives. Twelve senators from each state are elected for 6-year terms, with half elected every 3 years. Each territory has two senators who are elected for 3-year terms. The members of the House of Representatives are 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 parliamentary system, the leader of the political party or coalition of parties that wins a majority of the seats in the House of Representatives is named prime minister. The prime minister and the cabinet wield actual power and are responsible to the Parliament, of which they must be elected members. General elections are held at least once every 3 years; the last general election was in October 2004.

Each state is headed by a premier, who is the leader of the party with a majority or a working minority in the lower house of the state legislature (Queensland is an exception, with a unicameral parliament). Australia's two self-governing territories have political systems similar to those of the states, with unicameral assemblies. The territories are headed by Chief Ministers who are the leader of the party with a majority or a working minority in the territories' legislature. Australia's 673 local councils assist in the delivery of services such as roads maintenance, sewage and the provision of recreational facilities.

At the apex of the court system is the High Court of Australia. It has general appellate jurisdiction over all other federal and state courts and possesses the power of constitutional review.

Principal Government Officials
Governor General--Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Michael Jeffery
Prime Minister--John W. Howard
Deputy Prime Minister--Mark A.J. Vaile
Foreign Minister--Alexander Downer
Defense Minister--Brendan J. Nelson
Ambassador to the United States--Dennis Richardson
Ambassador to the United Nations--Robert Hill

Australia maintains an embassy in the United States at 1601 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20036 (tel. 202-797-3000), and consulates general in New York (212-351-6500), San Francisco (415-536-1970), Honolulu (808-524-5050), Los Angeles (310-229-4800), Chicago (312-419-1480) and Atlanta (404-760-3400).


Facts at a Glance: Geography - People - Government - Economy - Communications - Transportation - Military - Climate - Current Time - Ranking Positions - Australian Dollar Exchange Rates
Notes and Commentary: People - Economy - Government and Political Conditions - Historical Highlights - Foreign Relations - Relations with U.S.



Facts at a Glance
Geography
People
Government
Economy
Communications
Transportation
Military
Climate
Current Time
Ranking Positions
Australian Dollar Exchange Rates


Notes and Commentary
People
Economy
Government and Political Conditions
Historical Highlights
Foreign Relations
Relations with U.S.





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