Australia's political system is based on the Westminster system. Westminster is the name given to the system of parliamentary democracy used in countries such as Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand and is named after the area in central London where the Parliament of the United Kingdom is located. All state and territory parliaments in Australia follow the Westminster system.
The essential features of the system are:
- An executive government is determined by a democratically elected lower house.
- The head of government is the Prime Minister, who leads a cabinet which is responsible to the lower house.
- An opposition exists, led by the leader of the party or parties with the second largest number of seats in the lower house.
- The presence of a constitutional monarch who is "above politics" and acts on the advice of the Prime Minister.
- There is a career public service which impartially serves the government of the day.
- The armed services are outside of politics and act on the instructions of the government.
- The rule of law prevails, with an independent judiciary, subject to the Constitution.
There are three recognised branches of government in the Westminster system: the legislature; the executive; and the judiciary.