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System of government

There are 3 levels of government in Australia—local, state and federal.

The 3 levels of government work together to ensure all Australians are able to live, work and participate fully in our community. The federal (or Commonwealth) government is responsible for general taxation and economic matters, and the larger issues like national security, communications and welfare. As well as providing services and collecting taxes, the federal government provides funding to both state and local government.

The 73 local governments in Queensland are responsible for making decisions on local, town or city matters—things like street signs and traffic control, libraries and rubbish collection. While local governments collect taxes in the form of rates, fees and fines to pay for the services they provide, they also receive money from both the state and federal government.

How government works in Queensland

The Queensland Constitution sets out the rules for how Queensland is governed and, as a representative democracy, the citizens of Queensland determine who governs through elections.

On this page:

Queensland's Constitution

Our Constitution contains the set of rules for how Queensland is governed. For example, the Queensland Constitution provides for the law making powers in Queensland and sets out the role of the Governor in how government works.

History of our Constitution

Before the Constitution of Queensland 2001, Queensland did not have one constitutional document that outlined the State's constitutional arrangements.

After widespread community consultation, debate and analysis, the Constitution of Queensland 2001 and the Parliament of Queensland Act 2001 started operating on Queensland Day, 6 June 2002.

Access the Constitution of Queensland 2001 (PDF 486KB)

On 25 February 2010, the Constitution (Preamble) Amendment Act 2010 commenced, adding a preamble to the Constitution.

Read the preamble amendment (PDF 485KB).


Queensland state elections are held about every three years, which is the maximum term of a Parliament under the Queensland Constitution.

Queensland is a representative democracy. This means citizens have the right to vote to elect the candidate they believe will best represent their interests in Parliament. Queensland has 89 electoral districts each with an elected representative in Parliament.

It is compulsory to vote in all Australian elections - local, state and federal. So all Australian citizens who are 18 years or older must register to vote.

Forming government

The candidate who stands for election and wins the majority of votes in an electoral district becomes a Member of Parliament - MP for short. This is commonly referred to as winning a seat in Parliament.

Of the political parties contesting the election, the party, or group of parties working together, that win the majority of seats (at least 45) forms the government.

The party, or group of parties working together, that gain the next highest number of seats forms the opposition.

Separation of powers

Our system of government is modelled on the Westminster system after the British Parliament in the Palace of Westminster, London.

Under this system, there are three separate parts or arms of government:

  • The Legislative Assembly (Parliament)
  • The Executive (Cabinet and Executive Council), and
  • The Judiciary (Courts).

This is a way of ensuring that no one branch of government has all the power.

Role of the Governor

The Governor is the representative in Queensland of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

The Governor conducts a range of constitutional and ceremonial duties including:

  • summoning and dissolving Parliament
  • granting Royal Assent to proposed laws (Bills) passed by Parliament
  • presiding over meetings of the Executive Council, and
  • issuing writs for state elections and elections for Queensland's federal Senators.

More information is available from the Office of the Governor.

Queensland's Parliament

Queensland Parliament is the only state parliament in Australia without an Upper House. This makes it a 'unicameral' parliament, meaning that it has just one House - the Legislative Assembly.

Members of the Legislative Assembly make decisions about new laws and proposed changes to legislation.

As part of the democratic process, members also debate the key issues of the day and ask questions of Ministers.

Ministerial portfolios

To help the Premier make decisions that are in Queensland's best interests, a number of MPs are selected to become Ministers, forming the Cabinet.

Each Minister, including the Premier, heads up one or more 'portfolios' or areas of responsibility. Portfolio areas include health, education, transport and the arts, among others.

View the current list of Queensland ministers and portfolios.

Government departments

For every portfolio there are government departments and agencies whose job it is to implement policies and deliver services to Queenslanders.

Departments are led by Directors-General, who are effectively the Chief Executive Officers. Collectively these departments and agencies are known as the public sector or public service.

View a list of departments.

Statutory bodies

As well as the core government departments, there are statutory bodies.

These statutory bodies have been established under their own separate legislation, and are responsible for specific aspects of government administration. They include authorities, boards, commissions, committees, councils, corporations, trusts and tribunals. Most statutory bodies are administered by boards or committees, and all must report through the responsible Minister on their operations.

Find out more about specific boards, committees and other government bodies — search by name and other options for membership, roles and functions.

In addition, you can nominate to serve on a government board, committee or statutory authority.

For information on the Queensland Register of Appointees to Government Bodies please phone (07) 3003 9247.
Last updated
6 October, 2016

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