1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2012  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/05/2012   
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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 March 2012 are shown in table 4.4.

4.4 GOVERNORS—March 2012
New South WalesHer Excellency Professor Marie Bashir AC
VictoriaHis Excellency Alex Chernov A0 QC
QueenslandHer Excellency Ms Penelope Wensley AC
Western AustraliaHis Excellency Malcolm McCusker AO QC
South AustraliaHis Excellency Rear Admiral Kevin Scarce AO CSC
TasmaniaHis Excellency the Hon. Peter Underwood AC

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.

Table 4.5 lists the premiers at March 2012.

4.5 PREMIERS—March 2012
New South WalesThe Hon. Barry O’Farrell MP (LP)
VictoriaThe Hon. Ted Baillieu MLA (LP)
QueenslandThe Hon. Campbell Newman MLA (LNP)
Western AustraliaThe Hon. Colin Barnett MLA (LP)
South AustraliaThe Hon. Jay Weatherill MLA (ALP)
TasmaniaThe Hon. Lara Giddings MHA (ALP)

Source: Library of the Commonwealth Parliament.


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). Preferential voting is used to elect members to the Legislative Assemblies in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia. Proportional Representation (PR) is used for elections for their respective Legislative Councils. In Tasmania, the reverse occurs, with PR used for elections for the Legislative Assembly and preferential voting used for the Legislative Council.


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Statistics contained in the Year Book are the most recent available at the time of preparation. In many cases, the ABS website and the websites of other organisations provide access to more recent data. Each Year Book table or graph and the bibliography at the end of each chapter provides hyperlinks to the most up to date data release where available.