Constitution of Australia
Status: Monarchy under Queen Elizabeth II
Elections organisation: Australian Electoral Commission
Legislature: Parliament of Australia
Under the Australian constitution, the legislative power of the Commonwealth of Australia is vested in the Parliament of the Commonwealth, which consists of the monarch, the Senate (the upper house) and the House of Representatives (the lower house). Queen Elizabeth II is represented by a Governor-General who holds the office for a five-year term.
The Senate comprises 76 senators, 12 from each of the six states, and two from each of the two territories. Senators are directly elected for six years; half the Senate retires every three years. The House of Representatives comprises 150 members directly elected; elections – using the preferential voting system – for both houses are held simultaneously at a maximum of three-year intervals. There is compulsory universal suffrage for all Australians over the age of 18. All amendments to the constitution must be passed by absolute majority in both houses. There must then be a referendum in every state.
Each of the states also has its own government, with a governor representing the Queen. Five states have bicameral legislatures, and Queensland has a single chamber. The federal government is responsible for administration of the Australian Federal Territory and, since 1978, Northern Territory has had a degree of selfgovernment