Australia is a representative democracy in which all Australians over 18 years vote for people to represent them, and make decisions on their behalf. There are three levels of government in Australia, and we vote to elect representatives to each of these levels: federal, state or territory and local. Learn about how the Queensland resources sector works with these levels of government.

An overview of levels of government in Australia

Federal government

The decision-making body of the federal government is Federal Parliament, which consists of two houses – the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The leader of the federal government is called the Prime Minister.

A federal election must be held every three years because Australia’s Constitution limits the term of Members of the House of Representatives.

Representatives elected to the House of Representatives are called Members of the House of Representatives. There are 151 members and each member represents a separate division or electorate in Australia. (Find my electorate)

Representatives elected to the Senate are called senators. They represent a whole state or territory. There are 12 senators for every state and two senators for each territory. Senators representing states are elected for a term of six years, with senators representing territories elected for a term of three years.

Federal government responsibilities include: foreign affairs, social security, industrial relations, trade, immigration, currency, defence.

State and territory government

The governance of Australia’s six states is vested in state parliaments that meet in each capital city (e.g. Brisbane). With the exception of Queensland each state parliament consists of two elected houses (Upper and Lower).

The Queensland Parliament is a unicameral parliament, consisting of the Legislative Assembly of Queensland (the Lower House). The Legislative Assembly comprises 93 Members who are directly elected and each represent a Queensland state electoral district. The maximum term of a parliament is four years and the leader of the Queensland government is the Premier.

The Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory have a different arrangement where each has one elected house called the Legislative Assembly with the leader of the government called the Chief Minister.

State and territory government responsibilities include: justice, consumer affairs, health, education, forestry, public transport, main roads.

Local government

The decision-making body of local government is usually called the city or shire council. Councils are established by state governments to look after the particular needs of a city or local community. The people’s representatives who form the Council are called councillors. The head of the Council is the Mayor or Shire President.

Local government responsibilities include: local road maintenance, garbage collection, building regulations and land subdivisions, public health and recreation facilities such as swimming pools.

Role of Government

Federal Government (Commonwealth Government)State / Territory GovernmentLocal Government (City Council or Shire Council)
Foreign investmentMining rights and tenureCouncil rates
TaxationRoyalaties and feesPlanning and management of land use
Immigration and visasSafety and environmental laws
National environmental lawState and regional planning and coordination
International treatiesNative title
Native title
Trade and customs
Company law
Industrial relations