Most Australians are governed by three levels of government – local, state and
federal. For instance, a family living in Sydney would have the Sydney City
Council (local) looking after such things as garbage collection, park
maintenance and dog controls. Australians pay their local government by paying
“rates” – paid according to the area and position of any land that you own. They
would then be governed by the New South Wales Government, which would look after
such things as roads, and the police force. Finally, they are governed by the
Australian (Federal) Government, which is involved with trade, foreign affairs
and the national treasury. Both the State and Federal Governments are paid
through income tax.
Australian governments at a State and Federal level are run according to the
Westminster System, used in England. This means that there are two houses of
Parliament, a lower house (The House Of Representatives) and an upper house (The
Senate). Decisions put forward and approved in the House of Representatives must
then be approved a second time by the Senate. The only exception to this is the
Queensland Government, which has only a House of Representatives.
Local governments are stationed in centre of the town or city that they provide
to. State governments are run from the state capitals, while the Federal
Government sits in Canberra, in the Australian Capital Territory.
There are six states, and two major territories in Australia. The states are:
Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and Western
Australia. The two territories are the Northern Territory and the Australian
Capital Territory. Australia also has a number of areas run by the Federal
Government (dependent areas). These include the Ashmore and Cartier Islands,
Christmas Island, the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, the Coral Sea Islands, Heard
Island, the McDonald Islands and Norfolk Island.
Britain originally ruled Australia as a penal colony after it was discovery in
1788. However, on January 1st, 1901, Australia’s six states were unified
(“federated”) into one nation, formally known (and still known) as the
Commonwealth Of Australia. Australia was originally governed from Melbourne,
however in 1907 the Federal Parliament moved to Canberra, where it has been ever
The biggest political debate at the moment in Australia is whether or not
Australia should become a republic. This means that Australia would be (in
official terms) completely separated from its mother country, England, and would
have an Australian Head Of State. This change to a republic could occur as early
as the year 2001, exactly one hundred years after Federation.