The Roles and Responsibilities of Federal, State and Local Governments

The Federal Government

The Federal or Commonwealth Government is responsible for the conduct of national affairs. Its areas of responsibility are stated in the Australian Constitution and include defence and foreign affairs; trade, commerce and currency; immigration; postal services, telecommunications and broadcasting; air travel; most social services and pensions. The Federal Government is also involved, mainly through funding, in many things largely carried out by the States, such as health, education, environmental issues, industrial relations, etc.

State or Territory Government

Under the Australian Constitution, the States are responsible for everything not listed as a Federal responsibility. However, sometimes both levels are involved. Major State responsibilities include schools, hospitals, conservation and environment, roads, railways and public transport, public works, agriculture and fishing, industrial relations, community services, sport and recreation, consumer affairs, police, prisons and emergency services. Each state has its own constitution setting out its system of government.

Local Government

Local Government areas vary greatly in size and character. The Sydney area is divided into about 35 cities, municipalities or shires, each with its own local council. The bigger country centres such as Bathurst or Albury have city or municipal councils. Large but less populated country areas, with a number of small towns and large rural areas, are usually shires with a Shire Council based in one of the larger towns. The power of local governments is controlled by Acts of State Parliament such as the Local Government Acts. Local Councils are concerned with matters close to our homes, such as building regulations and development, public health, local roads and footpaths, parks and playing fields, libraries, local environmental issues, waste disposal, and many community services.

Who Does What?

It is not always easy to know which government is responsible for which service. Although the Federal Government is probably better known to many of us, the everyday things we do usually have more to do with our State or Local Governments.

Local Government
Shower and get
ready for school
• Power, gas, water, sewerage from State corporations
Have breakfast • Currency
• Trade, imports &
exports
• Advertising
• Consumer laws
• Shop and workplace laws
• Health inspections of shops
Catch the bus • National road funding • Buses, bus passes
• Traffic laws, Police
• Traffic lights, Road signs
• Major roads, road taxes
• Local roads
• Street signs
• Bus stops
Go to school • Funding to States
• Higher education
• Education Department
• School funding and subjects
• Local kindergartens
Go to the library • National Library • State Library
• School libraries
• Subsidies to councils
• Local libraries
Play sport • Australian Institute of

• National sports bodies

• State sports centre
• Funding to local councils
• Safety, health and education
• Local sports fields
Phone a friend • Telephone services
Watch TV • Broadcasting laws
• ABC TV and Radio
Go to the doctor • Medicare
• Funding to States
• Drug control
• Hospitals
• Ambulance services
• Community services,
Go home • Planning laws • Local building controls
• Trees and footpaths
Put out the garbage • International treaties
and national environmental policies
• Waste disposal
• Pollution controls
• Garbage collection
• Local environment

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