Introducing ... the three levels of government

Begin your exploration of the three level of government in Australia with this short introduction. Discover the responsibilities of the federal Parliament, state and territory parliaments and local government, and how they work together.

Australia has three levels of government that work together to provide us with the services we need.

The three levels of government are:

  • federal—national—parliament
  • state and territory parliaments
  • local government.

Three levels of government in Australia.

Three levels of government in Australia.

Parliamentary Education Office (peo.gov.au)

Three levels of government in Australia.

Three levels of government in Australia.

Parliamentary Education Office (peo.gov.au)

Description

This diagram illustrates the three levels of government—the law-making bodies in Australia with three maps of Australia: Local councils (located around Australia in each local council division); State/territory parliaments (located in the capital cities of each of the 6 states and 2 territories); and federal Parliament (located in Canberra, the nation's capital).

Each level of government has the power to make laws about different things. Sometimes these powers are shared.

Things you need to know

  • Each level of government provides different services to Australians:

FEDERAL PARLIAMENT

STATE AND TERRITORY PARLIAMENTS

LOCAL COUNCILS

Responsible for issues that affect all Australians (national issues)

Responsible for issues that affect people in that state or territory

Responsible for issues that affect local communities

Post, telephones and the internet

Immigration

Defence

Police

Public transport

Hospitals

Rubbish collection and recycling

Parks, sports fields and swimming pools

Pet control

  • There are some areas both the federal parliament and state and territory parliaments can make laws about. These areas include:
    • Education
    • Health
    • Taxation
    • Environment
  • If the federal Parliament and a state parliament make laws about the same thing but these laws don’t agree, the Australian Constitution says the federal law will be followed and the state law will be removed.
  • The three levels of government often work together to solve problems and provide Australians with the services they need. For example, the federal Parliament funds interstate and other highways, state parliaments manage major roads and local councils look after local roads.

How governments in Australia raise and spend money.

How governments in Australia raise and spend money.

Parliamentary Education Office (peo.gov.au)

How governments in Australia raise and spend money.

How governments in Australia raise and spend money.

Parliamentary Education Office (peo.gov.au)

Description

This diagram shows how governments raise and spend money.

The federal government raises money through taxing incomes, spending and businesses. The money is spent on federal matters such as: Medicare, defence, immigration, foreign policy.

State/territory governments receive more than half their money from the federal government and also collect taxes. The money is spent on state matters such as: roads, prisons, housing, public transport, police and ambulance services.

Local councils collect taxes (rates) from all local property owners and receives money from the federal and state governments. The money is spent on local matters such as: town planning, rubbish collection, water and sewage, dog registration and local roads.

  • Australians have someone to represent them at each level of government. They vote to elect their representatives to the federal Parliament, their state or territory parliament and local government.

Did you know?

In the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) there are only 2 levels of government! The ACT Government has the roles and responsibilities of both a state government and a local government. This means the ACT Government runs hospitals, schools and prisons, as well as controlling parking, collecting rubbish and running libraries.