The Present Political System of Australia

Friday, July 20, 2012
Together with New Zealand, Canada, and other former British colonies around the world, Australia is considered a constitutional monarchy under the throne of Queen Elizabeth II. The present Governor General, Quentin Bryce, is the Queen's representative.

Australia's government today follows the tradition of liberal democracy, which allows religious freedom, and is committed to uphold the freedom of speech and association. The country today has about 20 million people. Australia's territory is made up of six states and seven other external territories and islands in Indian, Pacific, and Southern Oceans. The present political structure is a combination of American and British governments. The country's constitution shares different powers to Federal- and State-level governments.

The Federal Government of Australia
The Federal Government is made up of two Houses--Upper and Lower. The Senate, which is composed of 12 elected representatives from each state is the Upper House; while the House of Representatives composed of 147 members is called the Lower House. A dominant party in the House of Representatives will become the government. A ministry from its members will be distributed in both Houses. The Prime Minister, the country's political leader, will come from the Lower House.

Local or State Government of Australia
Every state in Australia, except Queensland, has 2 Parliament houses patterned after the Federal government. There are 850 local governments from each state and each of these local governments is regulated by State Acts of Parliament.

The Judiciary
The Federal Government is vested with judicial power in the High Court. Part of Federal Government's responsibility is to create other courts like Family Court and Federal Court whenever necessary. The High Court is the highest court of the land. It interprets the constitution and helps settle disputes between the State and Federal Governments.

Political Parties
Political parties are the lifeblood of a democracy. In Australia, a "party system" is the norm, which means that the party or coalition of parties that garnered the highest number of votes forms the government. A good example is the present government under the Labor Party. A party with the second highest number of votes will officially become the Opposition.

Australia has been dominated by two major parties for over 50 years now--the Labor Party and the coalition of the Liberal and National Parties. At present, the Labor Party is the Government and the Coalition is the Opposition. There are however, several minor parties that hold the balance of power for almost 20 years now. The country is also one of the few nations in the world that make voting compulsory in both state and federal levels.

By Harvey Russell