|Australia has a robust, clear and transparent legal system. This is demonstrated consistently in international rankings.|
The IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook 2010 places Australia’s justice system second in the Asia-Pacific region – and ninth in the world - for its fair administration.
This survey also demonstrated that Government policy and decision-making processes are transparent.
Australia has been ranked the eighth least corrupt country in the world, and third in the Asia-Pacific region, by Transparency International.
Australia has two sources of law:
- legislation made by federal, state and municipal (local) governments; and
- common law – laws made as a result of court decisions.
Government in Australia
|Australia is one of the world’s most politically stable countries. |
Australia has a three-tier political system, comprising:
- one federal/commonwealth (national) government;
- six state (provincial) governments - Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania and two territory governments - Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT); and
- hundreds of local (municipal) governments.
|The head of state is Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II. In practice, the nation is run by the elected federal government, led by the Prime Minister. The role of Governor-General – the Queen’s appointed representative in Australia – is ceremonial. |
Separation of Powers
|Australia has three arms of governance.|
- The Judiciary (the courts)
- The Legislature (all the elected members of Parliament); and
- The Executive (ministers who form a government)
|Parliaments make the laws, the executive government administers the laws, and the judiciary independently interprets and applies them.|
This independence – known as the separation of powers - is taken seriously. It means judges act independently of the Government in interpreting and applying the law.
Australia ranks fifth in the world for the independence of its judiciary according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2009-2010.
|Federal elections are held every three years and voting is compulsory for all Australian citizens over 18 years of age. The current Prime Minister is Julia Gillard, head of the Australian Labor Party.|
Federal Parliament consists of two chambers:
- The House of Representatives (Lower House) initiates laws and forms the government of the day; and
- The Senate (Upper House) represents state and territory interests, and is also a House of Review - that is, it can block or amend legislation.
|The federal government handles responsibilities of national importance, such as defence, immigration, foreign affairs and income taxation. |
Federal and state governments work together to deliver infrastructure, and essential services such as health and education.
|Each State has its own judicial system and hierarchy of courts headed by a Supreme Court.|
Australia’s court structure includes specialised courts and tribunals to handle disputes of a particular nature.
- The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) – a civil justice system that handles disputes over credit, purchase and supply of goods, land valuations and state taxation.
- Fair Work Australia (formerly the Australian Industrial Relations Commission); and
- Bodies that supervise the licensing and administration of motor vehicle dealers, real estate agents, travel agents, credit providers and finance brokers.
|The High Court of Australia is the final court of appeal for all State and Federal jurisdictions.|
|Australia enjoys a robust system for protection of intellectual property, ranking globally alongside the United Kingdom and Japan. |
Australia is a member of the Paris Convention for the Protection of Intellectual Property, the Berne and Universal Copyright Conventions and the Patent Cooperation Treaty.
It's also a signatory to the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) among others.