Australia's government type is federal parliamentary democracy and a Commonwealth realm. It's system is founded in the liberal democratic tradition, on the values of religious tolerance, freedom of speech and association, and the rule of law, Australia’s institutions and practices of government reflect British and North American models. One of the oldest continuous democracies in the world, the Commonwealth of Australia was created in 1901 when the former British colonies — now the six states — agreed to federate. The democratic practices and principles that shaped the pre-federation colonial parliaments (such as ‘one man, one vote’ and women’s suffrage) were adopted by Australia’s first federal government. The Australian colonies had inherited an electoral tradition from Britain that included limited franchise and public and plural voting.
Australia’s government is based on a popularly elected parliament with two chambers: the House of Representatives and the Senate. Ministers appointed from these chambers conduct executive government, and policy decisions are made in Cabinet meetings. Apart from the announcement of decisions, Cabinet discussions are not disclosed. Ministers are bound by the principle of Cabinet solidarity, which closely mirrors the British model of Cabinet government responsible to parliament.
Although Australia is an independent nation, Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain is also formally Queen of Australia. The Queen appoints a Governor-General (on the advice of the elected Australian Government) to represent her. The Governor-General has wide powers, but by convention acts only on the advice of ministers on virtually all matters.
Like the United States and unlike Britain, Australia has a written constitution. The Australian Constitution can be amended only with the approval of the electorate through a national referendum in which all adults on the electoral roll must participate. A bill containing the amendment must first be passed by both houses of parliament or, in certain limited circumstances, by only one house of parliament. Any constitutional changes must be approved by a double majority — a national majority of electors as well as a majority of electors in a majority of the states (at least four of the six). Where any state or states are particularly affected by the subject of the referendum, a majority of voters in those states must also agree to the change. This is often referred to as the ‘triple majority’ rule.
The Australian Constitution sets out the powers of government in three separate chapters — the legislature, the executive and the judiciary — but insists that members of the legislature must also be members of the executive. In practice, parliament delegates wide regulatory powers to the executive. For all citizens over the age of 18 it is compulsory to vote in the election of both federal and state governments, and failure to do so may result in a fine or prosecution.
Relative to some other countries, Australia’s political parties and their internal operations are comparatively unregulated, but internal party discipline is extremely tight. There is an official system of party registration and reporting of some party activities through the Australian Electoral Commission and its state and territory equivalents. Australia has four main political parties. The Australian Labor Party (ALP) is a social democratic party founded by the Australian labour movement. The ALP has governed since late 2007. The Liberal Party is a party of the centre right. The National Party of Australia, formerly the Country Party, is a conservative party representing rural interests. The Australian Greens is a left-wing and environmentalist party.
Sources: University World and Wikipedia