Australia: Government

Commonwealth of Australia Flag
Coat of Arms of Commonwealth of Australia

Key Figures

Chief of State: Queen of Australia Elizabeth II represented by Governor General Sir Peter Cosgrove

Head of Government: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull

Overview

Government Name: Commonwealth of Australia

Constitution: Formed: 1901; Constitution provides for the commonwealth government's legislative powers and allocates certain powers and responsibilities to the commonwealth government. All responsibilities remaining are retained by previously separate colonies referred to as the six states. Each state has its own constitution, so Australia itself has seven sovereign parliaments which cannot impede with the functions of another.

Government Type: Federal Parlimentary Democracy and a Commonwealth Realm

Main Powers Election Process Election Cycle Source: ElectionGuide, http://www.electionguide.org/
Executive

The queen is the figure head for the government and also appoints the governor-general and prime minister. The governor-general represents the queen, makes and receives state visits, and rarely exercises reserve powers similar to those of the queen in the UK. The prime minister has the 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 queen is hereditary. The governor-general is appointed by the queen. The prime minister is appointed by the governor-general having been judged by the governor-general to be capable of commanding the support of a majority of members of the house of representatives.

Governor-General: at Her Majesty's pleasure; Prime Minister: at Her Majesty's pleasure

Judicial

Judicial high courts arbitrate on any disputes that arise between the commonwealth and the states or among the states in terms of their specific function. The high courts have judicial review over laws passed by both the commonwealth and states' parliaments.

The high courts vice-regal is appointment upon nomination by the prime minister who follows the advice of the attorney-general and cabinet. The chamber of deputies are elected by people of each district using proportional representation, the D'Hondt formula with a 3% of the district registered voters threshold.

Mandatory retirement age of 70

Legislative

Senate powers are equal to those of the house of representatives except that it cannot introduce or amend proposed laws that authorize expenditure for the ordinary annual services of the government or that impose taxation. They may request that the house of representatives make amendments to financial legislation and it can refuse to pass any bill. The house of representatives determines the government, debates and passes laws, watches over government administration and expenditure, and provides a forum for public debate on issues of national importance.

The senate has 76 members who are elected through a single transferable vote (STV) proportional representation system. The house of representatives has 150 members who are elected through an alternative voting system.

Senate: 6 years; House of Representatives: 3 years

International Relations

Foreign Policy Trends: Australia is steadfastly allied with New Zealand (ANZAC ties from early 1900's). It is committed to multilateralism and regionalism, as well as to strong bilateral relations with its allies. Its key focuses include free trade, terrorism, economic cooperation with Asia and stability in the Asia-Pacific. Australia is an active member of the United Nations and the Commonwealth of Nations.

Regional Trade Blocs: APEC

Treaties: No multilateral military treaties


International Organization Participation  Source: CIA World Factbook

ADB ANZUS APEC ARF ASEAN Australia Group
BIS C CD CP EAS EBRD
EITI ESCAP FAO FATF G-20 IAEA
IBRD ICAO ICC ICRM IDA IEA
IFC IFRCS IHO ILO IMF IMO
IMSO Interpol IOC IOM IPU ISO
ITSO ITU ITUC MIGA NEA NSG
OECD OPCW OSCE Pacific Alliance Paris Club PCA
PIF SAARC SICA Sparteca SPC UN
UNCTAD UNESCO UNHCR UNMISS UNMIT UNRWA
UNSC UNTSO UNWTO UPU WCO WFTU
WHO WIPO WMO WTO ZC

Note: Click table to see details


Environmental Agreements  Source: CIA World Factbook

Antarctic Seals Antarctic Treaty Antarctic-Environmental Protocol Antarctic-Marine Living Resources Biodiversity Climate Change
Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol Desertification Endangered Species Environmental Modification Hazardous Wastes Law of the Sea
Marine Dumping Marine Life Conservation Ozone Layer Protection Ship Pollution Tropical Timber 06 Wetlands
Whaling

Note: Click table to see details


Tax Authority: Australian Taxation Office

Tax Name: GST


Sources:

CIA World Factbook and U.S. Bilateral Relations Fact Sheets except where stated otherwise.

Glossary