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State and territory government

State government

There are six states in Australia: New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia. Each state has its own state constitution, which divides the state's government into the same divisions of legislature, executive, and judiciary as the federal government.

The six state parliaments are permitted to pass laws related to any matter that is not controlled by the Commonwealth under Section 51 of the Australian Constitution. The monarch's powers over state matters are exercised by a Governor in each state. The head of each state government is known as the Premier.

Territory government

There are ten Australian territories outside the borders of the states. Two mainland territories, the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and the Northern Territory have been granted a limited right of self-government by the federal government. In these territories, a range of governmental matters are now handled by a locally-elected parliament. Outside of government, the ACT and the Northern Territory are often treated like states because of their significant population sizes. Norfolk Island was previously self governed, but following the Norfolk Island Legislation Amendment Bill 2015, an elected Regional Council will be established. The Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development have more information on the Norfolk Island reform.


Seven territories are governed only by Commonwealth law, usually through an Australian Government-appointed Administrator. They are:
  • Ashmore and Cartier Islands
  • Australian Antarctic Territory
  • Christmas Island
  • Cocos (Keeling) Islands
  • Coral Sea Islands
  • Jervis Bay Territory
  • Territory of Heard Island and McDonald Islands

Conflict of laws

If the laws of a state ever conflict with the laws of the Commonwealth of Australia, the Constitution says that Commonwealth law is to be followed. The Australian federal judiciary may also have the power to review decisions by a state judiciary.