Australia: Country and Foreign Investment
Two mainland territories and six states compose the federated Commonwealth of Australia. The territories are the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. The states are New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania.
The Commonwealth of Australia is a parliamentary state (formerly a constitutional monarchy) based on a federal division of powers.
The bicameral Commonwealth Parliament consists of the Senate (the upper house) of 76 senators, and a House of Representatives (the lower house) of 150 members. Elections for both chambers are normally held every three years, simultaneously. The party with majority support in the House of Representatives forms the government and its leader becomes Prime Minister. Voting is compulsory.
Politics has generally been a contest between the Australian Labor Party (ALP) and other non-labour parties. The ALP has been in power since the November 2007 election, with Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister until 2010 when he was replaced by Julia Gillard. Rudd again became Prime Minister in June 2013 following the result of a leadership spill.
The legal system is based on English common law. The administration of the law is largely in the hands of the states, each with a series of courts, culminating in a supreme court. The High Court of Australia, the federal supreme court, has general appellate jurisdiction over the state courts; its justices are appointed by the Governor-General.