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Australian Law & Politics

The information outlined below is intended to be general information about the law in Australia. It is not a substitute for legal or other professional advice. Australia Travel Search does not accept responsibility for loss to any person, who either acts or does not act because of this information.

The Criminal Justice System

The system - Two criminal justice systems exist in all Australian States and Territories, the Federal criminal justice system and the relevant state system. Principally, the law is administered by the relevant State and Territorial Police Services, the National Crime Authority and State & Territorial corrective or penal services.

Legislation - The States & Territories have legislative powers concerning all matters that are not expressly vested in the Commonwealth of Australia. This Law is primarily what governs the day-to-day lives of most Australians.

Law Enforcement - The Police services are responsible for upholding the Law, keeping the peace, preventing any breach of the Law and where this fails, investigating crimes. Where an alleged offender is detected by Police, charges may then be brought against the alleged offender before a criminal court.

The Courts - In all States of Australia the courts form a hierarchy.

Courts of summary jurisdiction are at the base of this hierarchy and their jurisdiction is both civil and criminal - generally hearing matters concerning small debts, small property claims and minor criminal offences.

The next courts in the hierarchy are called District Courts in some States and Country Courts in others. These courts have substantial, though limited civil and criminal jurisdiction.

Above the Distrct Courts are the State & Territorial Supreme Courts and the Federal Court of Australia. These courts have both original (the matter can be bought before the court in the first instance) & appellate (can be bought before the court as a result of an appeal from another court) jurisdiction.

The highest court in Australia is the High Court. This court also has both original & appellate jurisdiction. Generally the High Court has 2 functions, firstly it is of special importance where constitutional matters are an issue and secondly it is Australia's general court of appeal from the Supreme Courts.

It is important to note that each State, Territory and the Commonwealth have put in place Tribunals and various other mechanisms to handle a number of jurisdictions similar to the courts. These bodies have a range of specialist tasks, inlcuding licensing, arbitration and trying most cases where a child is charged with a crime.

Legal Professionals

If you require legal advice or representation in Australia, the first legal professional that you will usually see is a solicitor. If you need to go to court or an expert legal opinion is needed, the solicitor can "brief" a specialist barrister so they can act on your behalf. Usually a solicitor introduces a client to a barrister by "briefing" them, similar to the way a general practitioner introduces a patient to a medical specialist.

Solicitors advertise their services in the phone book & appointments can be made over the phone.

Examples of Offences & Sentences

Driving under the influence - If you are found to have a "middle range" level of blood alcohol ie. between 0.08 and 0.149 you will face a maximum fine of $2200, 6-12 months disqualification of licence and up to 9 months gaol.

Speeding in New South Wales - If it is alleged that the speed of your vehicle is between 30 km/h and 45 km/h above the speed limit you will be facing a one month cancellation of licence and a maximum fine of $2200.

Useful Legal Resources

Law For You -
Australian Legal Information Institute -

Australian Government

The Federal, State & Local governments make up the 3 levels of Government in Australia. The Commonwealth of Australia is a Federation of six States. Both the State and the Commonwealth Systems of Government are consitent with the liberal democratic tradition & are derived from the British Westminster System and North American Constitution.

The Australian Constitution describes the powers that will be exercised by government. The Constitution provides for the seperation of power between legislative, executive and judicial powers of the Commonwealth. As indicted in the diagram below, 3 arms of government were created by the Constitution to carry out these powers: the Parliament which has the legislative power to make laws; the Executive which has the power to administer laws and carry out the business of government; and the Federal Judicature which has the judicial power as exercised by the courts.

The Australian Government

The Constitution requires the House of Representatives to have as close as practicable to double the number of members as in the Senate. The House has 148 members and the Senate currently has 76 members, 12 from each State and 2 from each of the internal territories. Mmebers of the House of Representatives are elected for a term of 3 years, State Senators for 6 years and Territory Senators for 3 years.

All States also have 2 Chambers with the exception of Queensland which only has a Legislative Asssmebly otherwise known as the Lower House. Each of the other States have both a lower and upper house which is known as the Legislative Council.

Useful Government Resources

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