Australia's Political System

How does our government actually work and who are we electing when we vote on May 21? We break it down.

Australia is a federation of six states and two territories, governed by a Constitution. The federal government sets national laws, while state and territory governments set laws for their specific jurisdictions.

Federal Government

Australia’s political system is a parliamentary democracy. The federal parliament is responsible for making national laws, such as those covering trade, taxation and immigration. It has two houses: the House of Representatives and the Senate. Legislation must be approved by both houses to become law.

House of representatives

The lower house of parliament is made up of 151 elected members who represent people in the 151 electorates in Australia. The number of electorates in each state is proportional to the state’s population. Voters elect members at a general election held approximately every three years. The party that has 76 members or more in the house of representatives makes the government. Sometimes they can form a coalition of parties to make up the required numbers, like the current Liberal-National government - this is known as a minority government. The House proposes most bills to become legislation.

A map of all Australian electorates!
How the House of Representatives seats are divided across states

The Senate

The upper house of parliament represents the six states and two territories, with 76 senators in total. Regardless of population, voters in all states elect twelve senators and each territory elects two. State senators serve six-year terms, while territory senators have the same term as House members. The Senate reviews all legislation proposed by the House before approving it to become law.

How the Senate seats are divided across states

State and territory governments

Each of the six states and two territories in Australia has its own government. Most state parliamentary systems are set up in the same way as the federal system with an upper and lower house responsible for making laws. The Queensland state government and territory governments only have one house. State and territory government laws cover everything the federal government doesn’t - including public health, education and roads.

Keep reading

The Major Parties

Liberal and Labor (you might have heard of them) - how did they start and what do they stand for?

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How to vote

Everything you need to know about making your vote count this election day!

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Minor Parties and Independents

As well as the major parties, minor parties and independents will also be seeking our votes in the upcoming election - so who are they and why are they important?

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Authorised by E. Hedding, Project Planet Australia Inc, Five Dock