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.