The Commonwealth Government

The Queen is the Head of State of Australia

This is Queen Elizabeth 2nd with Sir William Deane, who was Governor-General of Australia when the photo was taken. He was Governor-General from 1996 to 2001.

This is Queen Elizabeth 2nd with Sir William Deane, who was Governor-General of Australia when the photo was taken. He was Governor-General from 1996 to 2001.

Queen Elizabeth 2 of England is also Queen of Australia. Australians do not vote for her, because a monarch (a queen or king) gets that position from the king or queen before them, usually their parents or another relative. The monarch is the Head of State of Australia.  The Queen lives in England, not Australia.

The Governor-General does the job for her when she is not here.

The Head of State does not run the country, but has other jobs to do, such as sign a law to make it official, signing the paper that begins an election and being Commander in Chief of the defence forces: the army, navy and air force.

In Australia, an elected government runs the country.

Every four years, Australians who are over 18 years old must vote in an election. They help choose the people who will be in Parliament. People who are elected go to Parliament in Canberra. Parliament House is a huge building where parliament meets several times a year to discuss and make laws for the country.

The House of Representatives and The Senate.

Parliament House in Canberra

Parliament House in Canberra

In the Australian Parliament there are 2 sections, called Houses. The two houses are the House of Representatives and The Senate. 

In Australia, a Prime Minister is the Head of the Government.

 

Read about all the Prime Ministers of Australia since the first, in 1901:

http://primeministers.naa.gov.au/

The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia

There are two parts, called Houses of Parliament: the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The House of Representatives

The Prime Minister is a member of the House of Representatives © Getty Images

The Prime Minister is a member of the House of Representatives © Getty Images

Australia is divided up into areas called electorates. For each electorate there is one seat in the House of Representatives. Each electorate has about the same number of people living in it, and for each electorate there is a seat in the House of Representatives. At an election, the people who live in each electorate vote for a person to go to Parliament to speak for them. That elected person becomes the Member of the House of Representatives, or the Lower House, for that electorate. Most people who stand for election are members of different groups or parties. The party that has most members elected to the House of Representatives becomes the Government, and its leader becomes the Prime Minister of Australia. The party that wins the next highest number of seats in the House of Representatives is called the Opposition and its leader is called the Leader of the Opposition.

There is a big room called a chamber in Parliament House where the House of Representatives meets. The room is decorated in green. The Government Members sit on the left of the picture, and the Opposition face them. In the curved part the Members of small parties sit, as well as the Members who do not belong to a Party. They are called Independents.

In the seats around the top of the chamber, called the Gallery, people can sit to watch Parliament but they may not join in or speak. Some of the people in the Gallery are reporters for newspapers, radio or television. In the big wooden chair in the middle, the Speaker sits. The Speaker is in charge of the meeting and makes sure people get a turn to speak.

The Senate

The Senate chamber is decorated in red. © Getty Images

The Senate chamber is decorated in red. © Getty Images

The other House of Parliament is called the Senate. It is the Upper House, or the house of review. People of each state and the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory elect 12 people to be their Senators. No matter how big or small a state or territory is, they have the same number of Senators.

The chamber in Parliament House where the Senate meets is decorated in red. Like the other chamber, the Government members sit in the seats at the left of the picture, and the Opposition sit opposite them. The seats in the curved part are for members of small parties and Independents. In the main chair in the middle, the President of the Senate sits. The President of the Senate is in charge of the meeting.

Making Laws

A law is a rule that affects how we live.

The main business of parliament is to make laws. When a law is first suggested, it is called a Bill. Bills are usually suggested in the House of Representatives. First the Bill is explained, then all Members discuss it. Changes may be made. Then all Members vote for or against the Bill. If it passes the vote, it goes to the other House of Parliament (in most cases the Senate) and the same thing happens. Sometimes the Bill is sent back to be changed some more, and sometimes it passes another vote. Then the Bill is called an Act of Parliament. The Governor-General signs it and it becomes a law that Australians obey.

Australia's State and Territory Governments

Each state, and the Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory, has its own government and parliament. Most have two Houses of Parliament like the Commonwealth Government has. Both Queensland and the Northern Territory have just one house, the one most like the House of Representatives. The state and territory parliaments work in the same way as the Commonwealth Parliament does. They make laws for their state or territory, and the Commonwealth Parliament makes laws for the whole country. Each state and territory have elections for their parliament, and people in each electorate vote for someone to speak for them in Parliament.