As a country located in Oceania according to andyeducation, the Commonwealth of Australia is a constitutional monarchy and has a parliamentary system of government. Queen Elizabeth II is currently the head of the Australian state and uses the formal title of ‘Queen of Australia’, fulfilling a different role than she does in other Commonwealth kingdoms. She is nominally represented by the governor general at the federal level and by the governor of each state. Although the Constitution provides broad executive powers to the Governor General, their implementation is generally carried out only on the advice of the Prime Minister.
There are three branches of the Australian government:
- Legislative branch: the Parliament of Australia, including the Queen, the Senate and the House of Representatives. The queen is represented by the governor general, who in practice only exercises constitutional power with the approval of the Prime Minister.
- Executive power: the Federal Executive Council (the governor general in agreement with the executive directors). in practice, the councilors are the prime minister and the ministers of state.
- Judiciary: The Supreme Court of Australia and other federal courts. State courts formally became independent from the Privy Council Judiciary Committee when the Australia Act was passed in 1986.
The Commonwealth Parliament, which is bicameral, consists of the queen, the Senate (upper house), made up of 76 senators, and the House of Representatives (lower house), made up of 150 members. Members of the lower house run in one-man constituencies, commonly known as electorates (‘electorates’) or seats (‘seats’). The seats in the House of Representatives are assigned to the states based on the population of each one of them. In the Senate, each state, regardless of its population, is represented by 12 senators, while the territories (the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory) are represented by two senators each. Elections for both houses take place every three years, renewing only half of the Senate seats corresponding to the states and all of the senators for the territories. This means that the senators for the states hold said office for a period of six years and the territorial senators hold said offices for a period of three years. The party or coalition that has the support of the majority in the House of Representatives forms the Government, with its leader becoming the Prime Minister. There are three main political parties:
- The Labor Party.
- The Liberal Party
- The National Party.
Independent members and minor parties – including the Greens and Australian Democrats – have gained representation in Parliament, mainly in the upper house, although their influence has not been of great importance. From Australian Legislative elections of 2007 | elections of 2007, the Labor Party led by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is in power. In the 2004 elections, the Coalition won control of the Senate, this being the first time in more than 20 years that a party (or a coalition of parties) has done so while also at the head of the national government. By 2006, the Labor Party was in power in all states and territories. Voting is mandatory for every citizen over 18 years old both at the territorial or state level as well as in national elections.
Australia is divided into six states, two mainland territories, and other smaller territories. The states are:
- New South Wales (NSW),
- Queensland (QLD),
- South Australia (SA),
- Tasmania (TAS),
- Victoria (VIC).
- Western Australia (WA).
The two mainland territories are the Northern Territory (NT) and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). In most of their affairs, territories function similar to states; however the Commonwealth Parliament has the power to override any legislation of the former parliaments. In contrast, federal law can only override state laws relating to certain areas as set out in Section 51 of the Australian Constitution; all residual legislative powers are handled by state parliaments, including hospitals, education, police, the judiciary, highways, public transportation, and local government. Each state and territory has its own legislature (unicameral in the case of the Northern Territory, the Australian Capital Territory and Queensland, and bicameral in the remaining states). The lower house is known as the Legislative Assembly (House of Assembly in South Australia and Tasmania) and the upper house is called the Legislative Council. The head of government of each state and territory is called premier or chief minister respectively. The queen is represented in the states by a governor, in the Northern Territory by an administrator, and in the Australian Capital Territory by the Governor General. Australia also has several minor territories. The Federal Government administers a separate area within New South Wales, the Jervis Bay Territory, as a naval base and seaport for the national capital. Australia also has the following inhabited external territories:
- Norfolk island
- Christmas island
- Cocos (Keeling) Islands.
Uninhabited external territories:
- Ashmore Islands
- Cartier Islands.
- Coral Sea Islands
- Heard and McDonald Islands.
- Australian Antarctic Territory (claimed, not recognized).
As for two alleged islands, the Dougherty and the Emerald, these have been considered fiction for years and are therefore categorized as ghost islands.
Foreign relations and military affairs
In recent decades Australia’s foreign relations have been marked by a close relationship with the United States, the signing of the ANZUS Treaty, and the desire to develop relations with Asia and the Pacific, particularly through the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the Pacific Islands Forum. Relations with the UK are also close. Much of the Australian diplomatic effort is focused on the liberalization of international trade. In 2005, Australia secured a seat at the first East Asia Summit. He is also a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations, in which the meetings of the Commonwealth Heads of State constitute the main forum for cooperation among the nations that comprise it. Australia is part of the Cairns Group, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and the World Trade Organization. The nation has supported several major bilateral trade agreements, the most recent being the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement. It is a founding member of the United Nations and maintains an international aid program through which 60 countries receive assistance.