Part Three – Government and the law in Australia. At the citizenship ceremony you pledge to uphold and obey the laws of Australia. In this section there is information about how citizens have a say, how Australia is governed, responsibilities of each level of government and how laws are made and administered. How do I have my say? Voting: Australian citizens vote for people to represent them in Parliament. All citizens aged 18 years or over must enrol to vote. Citizens on the electoral roll aged 18 years or over must vote in federal, state and territory elections. Voting is by secret ballot. We are free and safe to vote for any candidate. Raising matters with your representatives: You can contact your elected representative to talk about issues that concern you. In this way, your opinions may help to change or make new government policies. How did we establish our system of government? Federation: Before 1901, Australia was made up of six separate, self-governing British colonies. On 1 January 1901 the colonies were united into a federation of states called the Commonwealth of Australia. The Australian colonies became one independent nation. The Australian Constitution: The Australian Constitution is the legal document that sets out the basic rules for the government of Australia. The Australian Constitution came into effect on 1 January 1901. It established the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia. The Australian Constitution can only be changed by a referendum. How is the power of government controlled? The Constitution divides power between three arms of government. Legislative power – power to make and change laws; executive power – power to put the laws into practice; judicial power – power to interpret and apply the law. Who is Australia’s head of state? Australia is a constitutional monarchy. Australia’s head of state is the Queen of Australia, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The Governor-General represents the Queen in Australia. The Governor-General signs all bills passed by the Australian Parliament into law (Royal Assent), signs regulations, performs ceremonial duties and approves the appointment of the Australian Government and its ministers, federal judges and other officials. Who are some of Australia’s leaders? The Prime Minister is the leader of the Australian Government. A minister is a member of Parliament chosen by a government leader to be responsible for an area of government. A member of Parliament, MP, is an elected representative of the Australian people in the Australian Parliament. A Senator is an elected representative of a state or territory in the Australian Parliament. The Governor is the representative of the Head of State in each Australian state. The Premier is the leader of a state government. The Chief Minister is the leader of a territory government. A Mayor or Shire President is the leader of a local council. A councillor is an elected member of a local council. How is Australia governed? There are three levels of government in Australia. They are the Australian Government, state and territory governments and local governments. The Australian Government is also called the federal government or the Commonwealth government. The Australian Parliament has two houses: the House of Representatives and the Senate. We vote for representatives in federal elections. The House of Representatives: the House of Representatives is also called the Lower House or the People’s House. Australia is divided into federal electorates. People in each electorate vote for one person to represent them in this house. The work of the House of Representatives is to consider, debate and vote on plans to make or change a law and to discuss important national matters. Representatives to this house are called members of Parliament – MPs. The Senate: the Senate is also called the Upper House, the House of Review or the States’ House. The states are equally represented in the Senate. The mainland territories also have representatives. The work of the Senate is also to consider, debate and vote on new laws or changes to the laws and to discuss important national matters. State and territory government: The six states and two mainland territories are governed in a similar way to the Australian Government. Each state has its own parliament, constitution and its own governor to represent the Queen. The leader of a state government is the Premier. The leader of a territory government is the Chief Minister. Local government: The states and the Northern Territory are divided into local government areas. Each area has a local council. People vote to elect their local councillors. Councils provide services to their local communities.