1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2006  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 20/01/2006   
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Contents >> Chapter 2 - Government >> State government


The Australian nation was created by the federation of six British self-governing colonies which became the ‘Original States’ in the Commonwealth of Australia. Under the constitutional arrangements that came into existence in 1901 significant powers were retained by these states. The extent of state legislative power is defined by the Commonwealth and state Constitutions, and includes education, police, public health, public transport, agriculture, roads and the oversight of local government.


A state governor is the representative of the Sovereign, appointed by the Sovereign on the advice of the state’s premier. The governor exercises the executive power of his or her state on the advice of the premier. Other powers and functions are similar to the powers exercised at the Commonwealth level by the Governor-General.

In addition, governors have been invested with various statutory functions by state Constitutions and the Commonwealth Australia Act 1986, as well as under the Acts of the parliaments of the states. For example, governors may administer the prerogative of mercy by the reprieve or pardon of criminal offenders, and may remit fines and penalties due to the Crown in right of their state.

The governors also possess what are referred to as 'reserve powers'. These may be used without the advice of the Premier, but are used only in times of political uncertainty.

The governors of the states at September 2005 are shown in table 2.6.

2.6 GOVERNORS OF THE STATES - September 2005

New South WalesHer Excellency Professor Marie Bashir, AC
VictoriaJohn Landy, AC, MBE
QueenslandHer Excellency Ms Quentin Bryce, AC
Western AustraliaHis Excellency Lieutenant General John Murray Sanderson, AC, AM
South AustraliaHer Excellency Mrs Marjorie Jackson Nelson, AC, MBE
TasmaniaHis Excellency the Hon. William Cox, AC, RFD, ED

Source: Library of the Commonwealth Parliament.


Each state is governed by a ministry headed by a premier. The state cabinet, chaired by the premier, is the centre of political and administrative power in each state.

Each state has a formal opposition, with the same role as at the Commonwealth level, headed by an opposition leader.

Table 2.7 lists the premiers at September 2005.


Five of the six Australian states have a bicameral parliament. In Queensland there is a single house. The lower houses in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia are entitled Legislative Assembly; in South Australia and Tasmania the term is House of Assembly. The title of the five upper houses is Legislative Council.


The members of the parliaments of each state are elected by the residents of that state using either the alternative vote (‘preferential voting’) or proportional representation (single transferable vote).

2.7 PREMIERS, States - September 2005

New South WalesThe Hon. M Iemma, MP (ALP)
VictoriaThe Hon. SP Bracks, MP (ALP)
QueenslandThe Hon. P Beattie, MP (ALP)
Western AustraliaThe Hon. GI Gallop, MP (ALP)
South AustraliaThe Hon. M Rann, MP (ALP)
TasmaniaThe Hon. PA Lennon, MP (ALP)

Source: Library of the Commonwealth Parliament.

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