The Australian federal system

Table of Content

Australia has federal system of government. A federation is a union of a number of self governing states or regions united by a central governing. (Webster. Dictionary).Therefore in a federal system of government, self-governing states form a unit which is constitutionally entrenched and is not subject to alterations by the sole decision of the central government. (

Australia, also referred to as the common wealth of Australia is a constitutional monarchy that is; they recognize an elected or hereditary monarch as head of state. The queen is represented by the Governor-General at the federal level and governors at state level .The Governor –General acts on advice of the prime minister. (

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The country has three branches of government; the legislature, that is, the commonwealth parliament comprising of the queen. The other branch of government is called the Executive Council. They comprise the Prime Minister and Minister of State who advise the governor general. The final branch is the Judiciary, that is, High Court of Australia and other federal courts.  (

            The Australian federal system of government should remain in state since it has better governing policies that encourage growth and stability in a country more than any other form of government .Awareness of the federalism benefits will result to a fruitful constitutional debate that will result in good judgments against a republican government. (

In defending the Australian federal government system, we take a look at the benefits accorded a federal government and study the failures and strengths of the republican systems. We’ll also look at the improvements that could be beneficial if adopted by the Commonwealth of Australia to improve on its governance. Studying the effects of the federal government on the country’s business and general growth will exhibit the system’s effectiveness.

            The Federal government and constitution has shown tremendous benefits on the country’s development, Wells Donald, (pp 21-30). It allows comparison of political systems by citizens and one has the freedom to exit at will to a state they find suiting their needs in terms of laws and services offered to citizens.

            The federal government is flexible in its accommodation of diverse economic and cultural settings of different states is more effective than it could be in the case of a national government. Since all the different states have their representatives, their economic and cultural standing is taken care of in federal system of government, unlike national government where the power lies in an individual or a party, which could as well represent only one region’s interest.

            In the book by Hamilton James; in its handling of regional matters, a federal government does not easily take sides unnecessarily as seen in national governments. Since the individual states are represented, the government remains neutral in the handling of the country’s affairs. In national governments, this is a common occurrence as the government in sitting strives to impress voters, and in most cases regions which identify with the government gain its support.

            The division of power as seen in federal systems protects liberty, Robert (pp 22-36). The small states representation helps to prevent impartiality and maintenance of the independence of the judiciary. Due to the fielding of federal judges of the small courts, judges who support the government do not overpower it or impose rules on small states. The federal government can not use the judiciary to suppress other citizens as they are protected by the federal courts.

            According to Watts, (1999-pp29-34), decision making is more effective in decentralized systems as compared to the centralized governments. Since the federal government in most cases does not make decisions for the small states or implement generalized policies outside the law, making major decisions affecting states is much easier. The decentralized systems also avoid the controversy that usually surrounds the implementation of ideas as experienced in centralized governments.

            The federal system of government is more stable as compared to national governments, where a single politician can bring the downfall of a country at once. Since power solely lies on one person’s hand or one party, in the national governments, a decision by a politician to misuse the country’s resources is uncontrollable Therefore the federal government’s damage control is fastened by the fact that each state is represented in the government, it’s therefore more accountable.

 Broz Lawrence (1997-pp 69-67) illustrates that development is heightened in competitive federalism. Healthy competition between states encourages individual growth in each region and the country’s general growth, unlike a republican country where the government initiates growth in every region; this is susceptible to failure as growth depends wholly on the government efficiency and bias.

            Large federations like Australia’s have minimal factionalism as the small states are represented equally. Republican governments experience a lot of factionalism as dissatisfied groups form small alliances to counter government’s ineffective administration. These national governments are prone to instability and rebellions.

            The federal government however has a few pitfalls; due to its various small states, it is bound to have contradicting policies in different parts of the country. Since these states have their own laws, which may be in contrast with the laws governing the country or other small states. It also results to neglect of policies which maybe important to the country but opposed by certain states.

            Since independent states initiates their own development, inequality among different states is common as in Australia where Sidney is more famous than even the country’s capital city, Carribea. Unhealthy competition may also result as they may turn to inter-state rivalry. None the less these do not equal the set- backs of the federal or national governments.

            Federal governments have heads of state who may not be directly elected due support of parties they are affiliated to, where a candidate is elected in favour of the party but not capabilities of an individual. A government in sitting may also manipulate its way back to power without necessarily winning the favour of the citizens.

            The lack of power division also makes the executive too powerful that it lacks accountability since it edits itself. They also lack substantial check on the powers of the legislature. Effective government is impossible as these governments are at times unstable. They have unequal distribution of wealth due to bias leadership and lack of self-governance of the various regions. A ruling party might take advantage of their low political seasons and call an election to get back to power, since elections can be scheduled any time.

            Considering all the above, the Commonwealth of Australia needs no reforms in terms of changing government systems but only needs a few internal reforms to improve on the already existing government policies and general administration. The other forms of government; central, regional, Unitarian or local governments have their own several disadvantages that outweigh their significance if applied to an already stable system like Australia.

Lawrence Broz in his book recommends that  the Senate should ‘revive its role as the state’s house by putting in place a standing committee on federal relations, formalizing present inter governmental bodies by requiring regular meetings and public hearings.’ This will go along way in preventing contradictions of policies. The Australian high court should emulate the American Supreme Court and reject some of the decisions made by the centralists that undermine the constitution.

            Symbolic aspects like honors awarded at state level would revive the country and state spirit of independence state self-reliance and the solidarity in the community. Hence Australia should maintain its federal government due to its great development from its constitution, growth of the country through individual states, lack of pressure to take sides in state matters, and impartiality and maintenance of an independent judiciary.


 Hamilton, James. (2003) Political Science. Madison Publishers,

Broz Lawrence, (1997) The International Origins of the Federal Reserve System. Cornell                       University Press

Robert, D. (1992)Making Democracy Work. Cornell University Press,

Watts. ,(1999)Comparing Federal Systems(2dn ed): Queen’s Press

Webster English Dictionary

Wells, Donald. (2004) The Federal Reserve System: A History. Oxford University Press Accessed on 23rd September,2007 Accessed on 23rd September,2007 Accessed on 23rd September,2007


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