Government of Australia | Wikipedia audio article
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Government of Australia | Wikipedia audio article

October 8, 2019


The Government of Australia is the government
of the Commonwealth of Australia, a federal parliamentary constitutional monarchy. It is also commonly referred to as the Australian
Government, the Commonwealth Government, Her Majesty’s Government, or the Federal Government. The legislature, also known as the Parliament
of Australia, or simply Parliament, is made up of democratically-elected representatives
from around Australia. These representatives meet at Parliament House
in Canberra to discuss legislation and make laws for the benefit of the nation. The issues that they can make laws on are
defined by sections 51 and 122 of the Constitution. The Parliament of the Commonwealth comprises
two separate chambers: the House of Representatives (or ‘the lower
house’) the Senate (or ‘the upper house’)
The House of Representatives has 151 members, each representing a different area of the
country (‘electorate’). Each electorate has roughly the same number
of registered voters within its boundary, meaning that states with larger populations
have more electorates and therefore more representatives in the House. The Senate is composed of 76 members. Unlike the House of Representatives, membership
of the Senate is divided evenly between the states. Each state has 12 senators, and the Northern
Territory and the Australian Capital Territory have 2 senators each. The Senate was established this way to ensure
that the larger states could not use their majority in the House of Representatives to
pass laws that disadvantaged the smaller states. The Constitution is silent on the role of
political parties in Parliament. It does not make any reference to a government
party, an opposition party or minor parties, or to roles like Prime Minister and Leader
of the Opposition. These are conventions that have been adopted
to assist the smooth operation of the legislature. The executive is the administrative arm of
government. The Australian Government is formed by the
party or coalition of parties with the support of a majority of members in the House of Representatives. A government minister is a member of the legislature
who has been chosen to also work as part of the executive, usually with responsibility
for matters on a specific topic (his/her portfolio). The main roles of the Government are to make
important national decisions, develop policy, introduce bills (proposed laws), implement
laws and manage government departments. The public service, working in departments
and agencies, puts those laws into operation and upholds those laws once they have begun
to operate. Canberra, located in the Australian Capital
Territory, is Australia’s national capital. The Parliament of Australia is located in
Canberra, as is most of the Australian Government public service. The judiciary is the legal arm of the government. Independent of the legislature and the executive,
it is the role of the judiciary to enforce Australia’s laws. It must also ensure that the other arms of
government do not act beyond the powers granted to them by the Constitution or by Parliament. The High Court of Australia is, as its name
suggests, Australia’s highest court. Underneath the High Court are a number of
other federal courts.The Commonwealth of Australia was formed in 1901 as a result of an agreement
among six self-governing British colonies, which became the six states. The terms of this contract are embodied in
the Australian Constitution, which was drawn up at a Constitutional Convention and ratified
by the people of the colonies at referendums. The Australian head of state is the Queen
of Australia who is represented by the Governor-General of Australia, with executive powers delegated
by constitutional convention to the Australian head of government, the Prime Minister of
Australia. The Government of the Commonwealth of Australia
is divided into three branches: the executive branch, composed of the Federal Executive
Council, presided by the Governor-General, which delegates powers to the Cabinet of Australia,
led by the Prime Minister; the legislative branch, composed of the Parliament of Australia’s
House of Representatives and Senate; and the judicial branch, composed of the High Court
of Australia and the federal courts. Separation of powers is implied by the structure
of the Constitution, the three branches of government being set out in separate chapters
(chapters I to III). The Australian system of government combines
elements of the Westminster and Washington systems with unique Australian characteristics,
and has been characterised as a “Washminster mutation”.==Structure==Section 1 of the Australian Constitution creates
a democratic legislature, the bicameral Parliament of Australia which consists of the Queen of
Australia, and two houses of parliament, the Senate and the House of Representatives. Section 51 of the Constitution provides for
the Commonwealth Government’s legislative powers and allocates certain powers and responsibilities
(known as “heads of power”) to the Commonwealth government. All remaining responsibilities are retained
by the six States (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 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 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”,
two of which are self-governing: the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and the Northern Territory
(NT). These territories’ legislatures, their Assemblies,
exercise powers devolved to them by the Commonwealth; the Commonwealth Parliament remains able to
override their legislation and to alter their powers. Australian citizens in these territories are
represented by members of both houses of the Commonwealth Parliament. The territory of Norfolk Island was self-governing
from 1979 until 2016, although it was never represented as such in the Commonwealth Parliament. The other territories that are regularly inhabited—Jervis
Bay, Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands—have never been self-governing. The federal nature of the Commonwealth and
the structure of the Parliament of Australia were the subject of protracted negotiations
among the colonies during the drafting of the Constitution. The House of Representatives is elected on
a basis that reflects the differing populations of the States. Thus New South Wales has 48 members while
Tasmania has only five. But the Senate 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 thus be able to amend or reject bills originating
in the House of Representatives. The ACT and the NT each elect two Senators. The third level of government after Commonwealth
and State/Territory is Local government, in the form of shires, towns and cities. The Councils of these areas are composed of
elected representatives (known as either councillor or alderman, depending on the State), usually
serving part-time. Their powers are devolved to them by the State
or Territory in which they are located. Government at the Commonwealth level and the
State/Territory level is undertaken by three inter-connected arms of government: Legislature: The Commonwealth Parliament
Executive: The Sovereign of Australia, whose executive power is exercisable by the Governor-General,
the Prime Minister, Ministers and their Departments Judiciary: The High Court of Australia and
subsidiary Federal courts.Separation of powers is the principle whereby the three arms of
government undertake their activities largely separately 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,
except that (representing the sovereign) Governors-General, State Governors and Territory Administrators
sign enactments into law through providing Royal Assent
the Executive administers the laws and carries out the tasks assigned to it by legislation
the Judiciary hears cases arising from the administration of the law, applying both statute
law and the common law; the Australian courts cannot give an advisory opinion on the constitutionality
of a law, but the High Court of Australia can determine whether an existing law is constitutional
the Judiciary is appointed by the sovereign’s representatives, on the advice of the Commonwealth
or State/Territory government; but the Legislature and the Executive should not try to influence
its decisions.Until the passage of the Australia Act 1986, and associated legislation in the
Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, some Australian
cases could be referred to the British Judicial Committee of the Privy Council for final appeal. With this act, Australian law was made unequivocally
sovereign, and the High Court of Australia 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 is bicameral, consisting
of the Queen of Australia, a 76-member Senate and a 151-member House of Representatives. Twelve Senators from each state are elected
for six-year terms, using proportional representation and the single transferable vote (known in
Australia as “quota-preferential voting”: see Australian electoral system), with half
elected every three years. In addition to the state Senators, two senators
are elected by voters from the Northern Territory (which for this purpose includes the Indian
Ocean Territories, Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands), while another two
senators are elected by the voters of the Australian Capital Territory (which for this
purpose includes the Jervis Bay Territory). Senators from the territories are also elected
using preferential voting, but their term of office is not fixed; it starts on the day
of a general election for the House of Representatives and ends on the day before the next such election. The members of the House of Representatives
are elected by majority-preferential voting using the non-proportional Instant-runoff
voting system from single-member constituencies allocated among the states and territories. In ordinary legislation, the two chambers
have co-ordinate powers, but all proposals for appropriating revenue or imposing taxes
must be introduced in the House of Representatives. Under the prevailing Westminster system, 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. 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 18
May 2019. The Commonwealth Parliament and all the state
and territory legislatures operate within the conventions of the Westminster system,
with a recognised Leader of the Opposition, usually the leader of the largest party outside
the government, and a Shadow Cabinet 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 of Representatives
is usually negotiated between the Leader of the House, appointed by the Prime Minister,
and the Manager of Opposition Business in the House, appointed by the Leader of the
Opposition in the Commonwealth parliament, currently Bill Shorten.==Executive=====
Head of state===The Australian Constitution dates from 1901,
when the Dominions of the British Empire were not sovereign states, and does not use the
term “head of state”. As Australia is a constitutional monarchy,
government and academic sources describe the Queen as 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, who is appointed by the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister of Australia. Though in many respects the Governor-General
is the Queen’s representative, and exercises various constitutional powers in her name,
they independently exercise many important powers in their own right. The governor-general represents Australia
internationally, making and receiving state visits. The Sovereign of Australia, currently Queen
Elizabeth II, is also the Sovereign of fifteen other Commonwealth realms including the United
Kingdom. Like the other Dominions, Australia gained
legislative independence from the Parliament of the United Kingdom by virtue of the Statute
of Westminster 1931, 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 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 provides
that a Governor-General 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. Under the conventions of the Westminster system
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, 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 with a President 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 continues
to campaign for an end to the monarchy in Australia, opposed by Australians for Constitutional
Monarchy and Australian Monarchist League.===Executive Council===The Federal Executive Council is a formal
body which exists and meets to give legal effect to decisions made by the Cabinet, and
to carry out various other functions. All Ministers are members of the Executive
Council and are entitled to be styled “The Honourable”, a title which they retain for
life. The Governor-General usually presides at Council
meetings, but in his or her absence another Minister nominated as the Vice-President of
the Executive Council presides at the meeting of the Council. Since 20 December 2017, the Vice-President
of the Federal Executive Council has been Senator Mathias Cormann. There are times when the government acts in
a “caretaker” capacity, principally in the period prior to and immediately following
a general election.===Cabinet===The Cabinet of Australia is the council of
senior Ministers of the Crown, responsible to the Federal Parliament. The ministers are appointed by the Governor-General,
on the advice of the Prime Minister, who serve at the former’s pleasure. Cabinet meetings are strictly private and
occur once a week where vital issues are discussed and policy formulated. Outside the cabinet there is an outer ministry
and also a number of junior ministers, called Parliamentary secretaries, responsible for
a specific policy area and reporting directly to a senior Cabinet minister. The Constitution of Australia does not recognise
the Cabinet as a legal entity; it exists solely by convention. Its decisions do not in and of themselves
have legal force. However, it serves as the practical expression
of the Federal Executive Council, which is Australia’s highest formal governmental body. In practice, the Federal Executive Council
meets solely to endorse and give legal force to decisions already made by the Cabinet. All members of the Cabinet are members of
the Executive Council. While the Governor-General is nominal presiding
officer, he almost never attends Executive Council meetings. A senior member of the Cabinet holds the office
of Vice-President of the Executive Council and acts as presiding officer of the 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 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 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 and its predecessors
(the Nationalist Party and the United Australia Party) have been in coalition with the National
Party or its predecessor the Country Party, 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 first held office under Chris
Watson, 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,
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, 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 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
in each State Capital, with those in Sydney located in Phillip Street.===Departments===
There are 18 departments of the Australian Government. Attorney-General’s Department
Department of Agriculture Department of Communications and the Arts
Department of Defence Department of Education
Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business
Department of the Environment and Energy Department of Finance
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Department of Health
Department of Home Affairs Services Australia
Department of Industry, Innovation and Science Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development
and Cities Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
Department of Social Services Department of the Treasury
Department of Veterans’ Affairs==
Judiciary==As a federation, in Australia judicial power
is exercised by both federal and state courts. Federal judicial power is vested in the High
Court of Australia and such other federal courts created by the Federal Parliament,
including the Federal Court of Australia, the Family Court of Australia, and the Federal
Circuit Court of Australia. Additionally, unlike in the United States,
the federal legislature has the power to enact laws which vest federal jurisdiction in State
courts. Since the Australian Constitution requires
a separation of powers at the federal level, only courts may exercise federal judicial
power; and conversely, non-judicial functions cannot be vested in courts.State judicial
power is exercised by each State’s Supreme Court, and such other courts and tribunals
created by the State Parliaments of Australia. The High Court is the final court of appeal
in Australia and has the jurisdiction to hear appeals on matters of both federal and state
law. It has both original and appellate jurisdiction,
the power of judicial review over laws passed by federal and State parliaments, and has
jurisdiction to interpret the Constitution of Australia. Unlike in the United States, there is only
one common law of Australia, rather than separate common laws for each State.==Publicly owned entities=====
Corporations prescribed by acts of parliament===
The following corporations are prescribed by Acts of Parliament: Australian Broadcasting Corporation (Australian
Broadcasting Corporation Act 1983) Special Broadcasting Service (Special Broadcasting
Service Act 1991)===Government Business Enterprises===
The following corporate Commonwealth entities are prescribed as Government Business Enterprises
(GBEs) by section 5(1) of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability (PGPA) Rule: Australian Postal Corporation (“Australia
Post”) Defence Housing AustraliaThe following Commonwealth
companies are prescribed as GBEs by section 5(2) of the PGPA Rule: ASC Pty Ltd
Australian Rail Track Corporation Limited Moorebank Intermodal Company Limited (ACN
161 635 105) NBN Co Limited (ACN 136 533 741)===Other public non-financial corporations
===Airservices Australia
Snowy Hydro Limited==
See also==Australian federal budget
Australian Public Service Referendums in Australia (and non-binding
plebiscites) Second Morrison Ministry==
Notes==^ 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. Australia and other dominions soon followed

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