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Features of our system of government

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In Australia we have a system based primarily on the British Westminster system; however, many of the procedures and the structure of our political system make ours like no other in the world.

Key features

  • A Constitutional Monarchy
  • Representative Democracy
  • Separation of Powers

Constitutional Monarchy

We have a constitutional monarchy with a written constitution outlining most of the institutions and functions of our parliamentary, legal and political system. The Queen is represented in Australia by the Governor-General at the Federal level and the Governor at the State level.

Representative Democracy

We have a system where every few years, the Australian people are given the opportunity to choose whom they wish to represent them through an election. The elected representatives then form what is commonly referred to as Parliament. In Western Australia, like most other states except for Queensland, we have a bicameral system where Parliament is composed of two houses. The Lower house is called the Legislative Assembly and the Upper house is called the Legislative Council. Proposed laws pass through both houses and receive Royal Assent by the Governor in Council, usually on the advice of ministers.

Western Australia

Western Australia was colonised in 1829; however, it did not have a bicameral parliament or responsible government until 1890. The Constitution of Western Australia included only limited provisions relating to the power of the executive and its appointment and establishment. These issues were dealt with in Letters Patent issued by the Crown after 1889.

Since that time, there have been many additions to the State constitution that deal with the office of Governor and the appointment and role of the executive arm of government. 

Separation of Powers

The three arms of government are

  • Legislative
  • Judicial
  • Executive  

Similar to the US and UK systems of government, our constitution divides our institutions and their power into three arms: Legislative, Judicial and Executive. The Legislative arm of government makes the laws (parliament); the Judicial arm interprets the laws made (through the courts) and the Executive arm puts the laws into operation. This separation is entrenched in the constitution of the Commonwealth and of the State of Western Australia.