Australia Government and Politics

Australia’s legislative power lies in the Federal Parliament, which consists of a Senate and a House of Representatives. Both are elected in general elections.

Australia Country Flag

The Senate, which consists of 76 senators – twelve from each of the six states, two from the Northern Territory and two from the Australian Capital Territory – is elected by a form of proportional elections for six years and so that half of the Senate is renewed every three years.

The House of Representatives is elected for three years by a majority vote in one-man circles. Its composition should be proportional to the population of the states, but none of the original six states should have less than five representatives; territories are also represented. The House of Representatives should have almost twice as many members as the Senate, and (from 2005) has 150.

The voting age is 18 years. From 1925 there has been voting. If a long-standing conflict arises between the Senate and the House of Representatives, both chambers can be dissolved.

Formally, the executive power lies with the British monarch, represented by a Governor General. This is assisted by an Executive Council, which is responsible to Parliament. All ministers are automatically members of the executive council. In reality, all decisions are made in the Cabinet, which is headed by the Prime Minister. Cabinet decisions take effect when they are dealt with in the executive council. The federal state has authority over, among other things, trade, transport, finance, banking, currency, defense, foreign policy and the social security system.

All areas not mentioned in the Constitution fall under the jurisdiction of the states. A federal law is effective against a state law. Proposals to amend the Constitution shall be put to the referendum. To be passed, an amendment must be supported by a majority of the states and a majority of voters. Each of the six states is governed by the federal government with a governor, a parliament with upper and lower house (with the exception of Queensland, where the upper house was abolished in 1922), a government headed by a prime minister, and an executive council. Among the most important functions of the states are education, health care, the judiciary and the police.

Australian politics is dominated by three parties: the Trade Union Allied Labor Party, the Right-wing Liberal Party and the National Party, which is an agricultural-oriented party. The latter two parties have often cooperated.

Administrative division

Australia is a federal state consisting of six states and three federal territories. A number of remote island regions administered by Australia without being a part of the federation of state law: Norfolk Island, Ashmore and Cartier Islands, Christmas Island, Cocos Islands, a sector in Antarctica (Australian Antarctic Territory), Heard Island and McDonald Islands, Korallhavterritoriet (Coral Sea Islands Territory) and Macquarie Island.


The law in Australia is based on British Common Law, expanded by newer local laws. In Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania, criminal law is codified. The Supreme Court is the federal supreme court, and consists of one justice and six other judges. It makes judgments in cases involving representatives of other countries in Australia and in some cases involving the federal state or states. It is the Supreme Court of Appeal.

Since 1977, Australia has had a federal court that has been responsible for matters of economic and constitutional nature. It is also a federal family court. Each state has its own judicial system with a Supreme Court and lower courts.

Australian Prime Ministers

Prime ministers

Year Prime minister
1901-1903 Sir Edmund Barton
1903-1904 Alfred Deakin
1904 John Christian Watson
1904-1905 George Reid
1905-1908 Alfred Deakin
1908-1909 Andrew Fisher
1909-1910 Alfred Deakin
1910-1913 Andrew Fisher
1913-1914 Joseph Cook
1914-1915 Andrew Fisher
1915-1923 William Morris Hughes
1923-1929 Stanley Melbourne Bruce
1929-1932 John Henry Scullin
1932-1939 Joseph Aloysius Lyons
1939 Sir Earle Page
1939-1941 Robert Gordon Menzies
1941 Arthur William Fadden
1941-1945 John Curtin
1945 Francis Michael Forde
1945-1949 Joseph Benedict Chifley
1949-1966 Robert Gordon Menzies
1966-1967 Harold Holt
1967-68 John McEwen
1968-1971 John Gorton
1971-1972 William McMahon
1972-1975 Edward Gough Whitlam
1975-1983 Malcolm Fraser
1983-1991 Robert Hawke
1991-1996 Paul Keating
1996-2007 John Howard
2007-10 Kevin Rudd
2010-13 Julia Gillard
2013 Kevin Rudd
2013-15 Tony Abbott
2015-18 Malcolm Turnbull
2018- Scott Morrison

Australia Head of Government

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