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A Competent Democracy: Dissecting Australia's Framework of Government

1 April, 2016

Much like the rest of the western developed world, Australia works on a multi-level of leadership and democracy. An odd combination of monarchy, parliamentary, and democracy working like a well-oiled machinery.

For some, this could be confusing, even an oxymoron of government category and functionality that is even impossible to exist. Here, we will dissect Australia’s political system and how it works.



A young Queen Elizabeth as shown in an Australian stamp.

A Realm Of Great Britain

As we have told you before, modern Australia was once a colony of Great Britain. Founded by the Empire as an exile destination for their ever growing number of prisoners, it worked hard to be a peaceful colony before being handed its sovereignty as an autonomous federal nation.

Autonomous, but not independent. The country is still part of the Commonwealth of Nations, countries which are former territories of the British Empire and still regards the British monarchy, currently reigned by Queen Elizabeth II, as the ruling queen.

This part is where the monarchist nature of Australia’s government ends, and where semi-modern democracy begins.




A Parliamentary Democracy


The Parliament House in Canberra, the capital of Australia.

As the prime element of Australia’s legislative branch, the Queen is represented by the Governor-General which serves as the de facto President and commander-in-chief of the country. The Queen appoints the Governor-General upon the nomination of the Australian Prime Minister.

Along with him is the Senate, the upper house of the country’s bicameral parliament. Each of the six states is represented by 12 senators (regardless of the population), making a total of 76 senators. After the reforms of March 2016, member of the senate will be elected through proportional voting system.

Completing this system of checks and balances is the House of Representatives of the lower house. This is composed of 150 members each representing electoral divisions or “seats”. These members are elected via preferential voting.


A Monarchy with Limits

Australia isn’t just a monarchy, it’s a constitutional monarchy. Contrary to absolute monarchy, this form of government has the ruling power of the monarch restricted by the Australian constitution. And not just one constitution. The country has also six federal states, each one having their own constitution, barring each state from influencing, encroaching, and infringing each other. All in all, Australia has seven working constitutions.



The Three Levels of Government

Much like the rest of the democratic world, Australia operates on three levels of governmental functions, each one handling their own significant departments and affairs.


Federal Government


A map of Australia with its six states and other territories.

Headed by the Queen (represented by the Governor-General), the Upper House, and the Lower House, the Parliamentary Federal Government handles the Defense, Customs, Currency, and Immigration. It branches further more into three arms:

The Legislature – responsible for debating and voting new laws.

The Executive – In charge of enacting and upholding the laws instituted by the Legislature.

The Judicial – the government’s legal arm and in charge upholding the law.


State Governments

Australia has six state governments; New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania. They each their own constitutions (save for the territories) and enact their own laws. They look after the police force, wildlife protection, schools, and hospitals.


Local Governments

Composed of boroughs, cities, towns, aboriginal shires, island councils, among other, there are a total of 561 local governments in the country. They enact their own by-laws and in charge of local functions such as town planning, garbage collections, libraries, and parking meter supervisions.



Elections in Australia are being held periodically to elect members of the legislature.

A Competent Democracy

The Australian Parliament is the sixth oldest continuous democracy in the world, having hailed back to the beginning of the 1900s. And more importantly, it is the one of the best and most effective complete democracies in the world.

It is a country with an efficiently functioning government and outstanding culture of politics where civil liberties are duly and highly enforced and a competent electoral process. It has been this way for a century and will always be for many more.

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