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What kinds of laws can be made by each level of government (the Australian, state, territory and local governments)?

The Australian Government generally makes laws on matters which affect the country as a whole, and on matters where it would be unhelpful for the law to be different in each state. Section 51 of the Australian Constitution defines forty specific areas over which the Commonwealth has the power to make laws. Examples of these are: currency, postal and telephone services, relations with other countries, immigration, quarantine, and the operation of a defence force. The Australian Government can also make laws about Australia's territories.

State governments can make laws on any issue that the Australian Government can not. State laws usually cover issues like education, health, the environment, and the operation of emergency services (police, fire, ambulance).

It is possible in some cases for the Australian Government and the states to make laws on the same issue. Where a Commonwealth law and a state law do not agree with one another, the Commonwealth law is followed.

Not all territories have their own government, and even if they do, the powers of a territory government are not the same as those of a state government. Territory governments can only be established with the agreement of the Australian Government. The Commonwealth law that establishes a territory government will also specify the powers of that government. It can be given the right to make the same laws that a state can, or they may only be allowed to make laws on a small number of issues. Territories without their own government can be instructed by the Australian Government to follow the laws of a nearby state, or the Australian Government can make its own laws for the territory.

Local governments are established by state and territory governments to look after matters relevant to local communities. These include garbage collections, public parks and sporting grounds, libraries, and local planning matters.

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