Originally a British colony (since 1788), Australia was established as a Commonwealth in 1901. The Australian Constitution established a federal government, under which powers are distributed between the Commonwealth (the federal level of government) and the states. Australia is governed by a constitutional monarchy with the Queen as Head of State who is represented in Australia by the Governor-General. The Prime Minister is the head of Government and leader of the party or coalition holding the majority of seats in the Federal Parliament won via elections held every four years.
Levels of Government
Australia has three levels of government with defined law-making powers. Each level of government has its own responsibilities which may overlap in some cases however it is well developed and consistent.
The Australian Government, referred to as the Commonwealth or the federal government, has a written constitution which defines its responsibilities. The Commonwealth passes laws which affect the whole country. These include legislation related to the treasury, defence, foreign relations & international trade, quarantine and immigration & citizenship. The Federal Government is primarily based in Canberra, Australian Capital Territory (ACT). Australian Commonwealth Government
State Governments are self-governing, dividing responsibilities with the Federal Government. There are six state parliaments and two self-governing territory parliaments. State Governments operate under their own Westminster-based form of government and pass legislation with responsibility for education & schools, housing, public transport & main roads & railway, electricity, water and gas supply, health, consumer affairs, justice & law enforcement.
Local Governments – referred to as city, shire, town or municipal councils – look after the particular needs of a city or a regional community. Local government responsibilities include: local road maintenance, building & development planning regulations & approvals, garbage/waste collection & recycling and other local issues such as recreation and sporting facilities. There are over 560 local councils across Australia. State local government directories provide links to local councils:
- New South Wales local government directory
- Northern Territory local council information
- Queensland local government directory
- South Australia local council information
- Tasmania local government directory
- Victoria local council information
- Western Australia local government directory
Government Grants & Incentives
Grants and funding programs are available from Australian, state & territory and local governments. The Australian Government’s GrantFinder portal provides information on a wide variety of grants. All available federal, state and territory government grant information can be accessed for free through official government websites. Government sites will always have a .gov.au extension and access to grant information is always free of charge. Grants are awarded on merit (sometimes competitively) based on specific criteria which will be clearly shown on the Government sites.
Once a grant is found that is suitable, contact can be made to the administering agency or their (.gov.au) website. Third-party business advisors can assist in the application or grant writing process and will charge either a flat fee or a percentage of the grant amount for this service.
Incentives may also be provided by state governments when significant new business investment and/or employment is involved. The investment attraction or economic development department of the relevant state/local government can provide information on these incentives. These incentives may be provided when the investment is footloose, involves significant new job creation and/or investment and is often negotiated on a case by case basis.
Federal, State and Local Governments tender for the supply of goods and services. Government contracts information
State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) & Public Companies
Australia has privatised most State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) and continues to privatise state-owned assets such as electricity generation, transmission, distribution & retailing. Private enterprises generally compete fairly with public enterprises and are not disadvantaged or discriminated against.
All government information and websites across all levels of Government can be found at www.gov.au. Official Government websites in Australia use the “gov.au” extension in their URL.