The Australian nation was created by the federation of the six British self-governing colonies of New South Wales, Tasmania, Queensland, Western Australia, Victoria and South Australia 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. State administrative responsibilities include education, police, public health, public transport, agriculture, roads, community services, corrective services, mineral resources, emergency services, ports 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 Australia Act 1986 (Cwlth), 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.
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 2007 are shown in table 4.4.
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.
Table 4.5 lists the premiers at September 2007.
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 variant).