About Government

The Three Levels of Government

There are three levels of government in Australia and each level provides different services to the people to whom it is responsible:


Local councils make decisions on local, town or city matters.  There are about 850 local governments in Australia (known as either municipalities, shires, boroughs, towns or cities depending on where you live).

Aldermen of councillors are elected to represent the residents.  The Mayor leads the Council.  Councils make laws called by-laws.

Local government taxes, called rates, are collected from land owners.  These, along with Federa and State money grants, pay for the following local government services:

  • Street signs and traffic control
  • Drains and footpaths
  • Setting and collecting rates
  • Sports grounds
  • Animal control
  • Rubbish collection
  • Buildings and permits
  • Swimming pools
  • Community services


Each State or Territory has its own government, a parliament and a Parliament House in its capital city where laws are made about state matters.

The Premier is the leader of the State Government.  Members of the State Parliament are elected to represent the people of each state.  Each of the states, except Queensland, has two houses of Parliament.  the lower house is called the Legislative Assembly or House of Assembly.  The upper house is called teh Legislative Council.  The parliament of each territory have only one house.

State government raise money from taxes on goods and services, and grants from the Federal Government.  Some services for which state governments are responsible include:

  • Hospitals
  • Schools
  • Railways
  • Roads
  • Motor registration
  • Forestry
  • Fire brigade and Ambulance
  • Police
  • Wildlife protection


The Australian Federation was created in 1901.

The Federal Parliament is located in Canberra and makes the laws which are carried out by the Federal Government.  These laws are called acts of Parliament.

There are two house of Parliament: the House of Representatives and the Senate.  All Australians vote for Members and Senators to represent them in Parliament.

The Prime Minister who is a member of the House of Representatives is the leader of the Federal Government.

The Constitution gives the Federal Parliament more powers than state parliament or local councils, including most powers over taxation and economic matters.

Some services for which the Federal Government is responsible include:

  • Employment
  • Pensions and family support
  • Defence forces
  • Immigration and customs
  • Imports and exports
  • Posts and telecommunications
  • Passports
  • Control of television and radio
  • Income and company taxes
  • Airports and air safety.