States and territories of Australia

States and territories of Australia
Number16 (6 states, 3 internal territories, and 7 external territories)
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The states and territories are the federal states and territories that make up the first administrative divisions of Australia. They are ruled by regional governments that constitute the level of governance between the federal government and local governments. States are self-governing polities that are to some extent sovereign, having ceded some sovereign rights at federation such that the total sovereign power of Australia is shared by the state and federal governments.[1] They also have their own constitutions, legislatures, departments, and certain civil authorities (e.g. judiciary and law enforcement) that administer and deliver most public policies and programs. Territories can be autonomous and administer local policies and programs much like the states in practice, but are still legally subordinate to the federal government.

The Commonwealth of Australia constitutionally consists of six federated states (New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania (including Macquarie Island), Victoria, and Western Australia) and ten federal territories,[2] out of which three are internal territories (the Australian Capital Territory, the Jervis Bay Territory, and the Northern Territory)[2] on the Australian mainland and seven are external territories (Ashmore and Cartier Islands, the Australian Antarctic Territory,[a] Christmas Island, the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, the Coral Sea Islands, Heard Island and McDonald Islands, and Norfolk Island)[2] that are offshore dependent territories. Every state and internal territory (except the Jervis Bay Territory) is self-governing with its own independent executive government, legislative branch, and judicial system, while the rest only have local government status overseen by federal departments.

State and territory governments have executive authority to legislate on matters concerning their citizens, subject to the limits of the federal constitution (notably section 51 and section 109). Each state and internal territory (except Jervis Bay Territory) has its own legislature, although the Federal Parliament can override territorial legislation. The federal High Court of Australia acts as a final court of appeal for all matters, and has the authority to override any state judiciary. While all states and internal territories have their own judicial system (subject to appeal to the High Court), most external territories are subject to the judiciary and legislature of either a state or internal territory. Excluding the Heard Island and McDonald Islands and the Australian Antarctic Territory (which are governed by the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water), the external territories are governed by the federal Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts.[3] Norfolk Island had its own legislature from 1979 to 2015.[4]

Each state of Australia is a successor to historical British colonies, and each has its own constitution. The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and Northern Territory for the most part operate indistinguishably from the states, even though they do not have constitutional status as states and territorial legislation can be overridden.

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  1. ^ Twomey, Anne (January 2008). "The States, the Commonwealth and the Crown: The Battle for Sovereignty". Parliament of Australia. Retrieved 12 November 2023.
  2. ^ a b c Section 2B, Acts Interpretation Act 1901
  3. ^ "Territories of Australia". Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications. Archived from the original on 9 February 2021. Retrieved 29 January 2021.
  4. ^ Cite error: The named reference norfolk was invoked but never defined (see the help page).

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