Country Idealist Profiles

Australian Capital Territory, Government

Posted in ACT (Australia) - Basics by diego1084 on August 6, 2008

The ACT has internal self-government, but it does not have the full legislative independence of the Australian states. It is governed by a Ministry headed by a Chief Minister. Laws are made in a 17-member Legislative Assembly that has all state and local government functions. However, its decisions can be overruled by the Australian Governor-General (effectively the national government) under section 35 of the Australian Capital Territory (Self-Government) Act 1988. The ACT Government is a member of the Council of Australian Governments.

Unlike other self-governing Australian territories, the ACT does not have an Administrator. The Crown is represented by the Governor-General of Australia in the government of the ACT. The Chief Minister performs many of the roles that a state governor normally holds in the context of a state, however the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly gazettes the laws and summons meetings of the Assembly.

ACT Ministers implement their executive powers through the following government departments and agencies:

– ACT Health and

– ACT Planning and Land Authority

– the Chief Minister’s Department

– the Department of Disability, Housing and Community Services

– the Department of Education and Training

– the Department of Justice and Community Safety

– the Department of Territory and Municipal Service

In Australia’s Federal Parliament, the ACT is represented by four federal members: two members of the House of Representatives; the Division of Fraser and the Division of Canberra and is one of only two territories to be represented in the Senate with two Senators. The Member for Fraser and the ACT Senators also represent the voters from the Jervis Bay Territory.


The Chief Minister is Jon Stanhope, of the Australian Labor Party. The Speaker of the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly is Wayne Berry, of the Labor Party. He is the presiding officer of the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly, the unicameral legislature of the Australian Capital Territory.


The Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly performs the roles of both a city council and territory government. The Assembly consists of 17 members, elected from three districts using proportional representation. The three districts are Molongo, Ginninderra and Brindabella, which elect seven, five and five members, respectively. The Chief Minister is elected by the Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) and selects another four MLAs to serve as Ministers to form, with the Chief Minister, an Executive (known informally as the cabinet).

The Australian national government retains some influence over the ACT government. In the administrative sphere, most frequently this is through the actions of the National Capital Authority which is responsible for planning and development in areas of Canberra which are considered to be of national importance or which are central to Griffin’s plan for the city, such as the Parliamentary Triangle, major approach and processional roads, areas where the Commonwealth retains ownership of the land or undeveloped hills and ridge-lines (which form part of the Canberra Nature Park). The national government also retains a level of control over the Territory Assembly through the provisions of the Australian Capital Territory (Self-Government) Act 1988. This Act of the national Parliament is the constitution for the ACT and limits the range of matters upon which the Assembly can legislate.

The Australian Federal Police provides all of the police services of a state police force under a contractual agreement with the Australian Capital Territory Government. People who have been charged with offences are tried either in the ACT Magistrate’s Court or, for more severe offences, the ACT Supreme Court. Prisoners can be held in remand at the Belconnen Remand Centre in the ACT. As at 2008 there is no prison in the ACT, so people who have been sentenced to imprisonment serve their sentence in NSW; a new prison, the Alexander Maconochie Centre, is currently under construction. Courts such as a Small Claims Tribunal and a Family Court exist for civil law actions and other non-criminal legal matters.



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