Protocol Guidelines

15. The Australian Government

15.1 Head of State and Governor-General

Australia's Head of State is the Queen of Australia, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Under the Australian Constitution, the executive power of the Commonwealth is vested in the Queen and is exercised by the Governor-General as the Queen's representative. The Governor-General is appointed by the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister of Australia. The Prime Minister is Head of Government.

A biography for the Governor-General can be found on the Governor-General's website, and also on the Parliament of Australia website (see Appendix 13).

15.2 System of government

Australia has a federal system of government. The Australian Constitution allocates certain powers to the Commonwealth Government (the national government, located in Canberra) and some powers are shared with the States and Territories; powers not allocated to the Commonwealth Government remain with the States and Territories. The States and Territories thus have primary responsibility for a number of fields and, in general, have a significant degree of autonomy; the Commonwealth does not have the formal, legal power to influence many of the decisions made by State and Territory governments and authorities. Each State has a Governor, who is appointed by the Queen on the advice of the Premier (Head of Government) of that State.

Further information about Australia's system of government can be found on the Parliament of Australia website.

15.2.1 The Parliament

The Presiding Officers of the Parliament are the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Their relative precedence is determined by the dates of their appointment. Heads of Mission wishing to call on the Presiding Officers should contact the secretary to the President, tel (02) 6277 3300, and the secretary to the Speaker, tel (02) 6277 4000, at Parliament House. Appointments should be sought for parliamentary sitting weeks as the Presiding Officers are not usually in Canberra at other times.

Biographies for all members of the House of Representatives and the Senate can be found at the Parliament of Australia website.

15.2.2 Access to Parliament House

Persons entering the restricted areas of Parliament House require a pass. A permanent Parliament House photographic identity card may be provided to the Head of Mission and one other member of the mission if a need to visit restricted areas of Parliament House is demonstrated. Applications for the issue of permanent passes should be forwarded to the Pass Office, Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600. tel. 6277 5989. The request should indicate the name and title of the applicant and should be sealed with the official seal of the mission. After receiving the request, the Parliament House Pass Office will contact the applicant to make arrangements for photographs to be taken and the pass to be issued at Parliament House. It will be necessary for the applicant to complete the pass application form and produce a diplomatic identity card prior to the issue of the pass. Permanent passes should be returned to the Pass Office on completion of the holder's posting. Temporary visitor passes to Parliament House are also available. These can be issued at all entrances to Parliament House. Passes are not required for entry to the public galleries, giving unlimited access to sittings of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

15.2.3 House of Representatives Chamber - Diplomatic Gallery

Five seats in the Speaker's Gallery have been allocated by the Speaker of the House of Representatives to be the Diplomatic Gallery for Heads of Mission or their representatives to observe the proceedings of the House. As it may not be possible to meet all requests on some occasions, missions should reserve their seats in advance. This can be done through the secretary to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, tel (02) 6277 4000. Tickets for booked seats should be collected from the Gallery Ticket Office which is located on the first floor of the Members' Hall.

When the Diplomatic Gallery is fully booked, it may be possible to provide members of the Diplomatic Corps with seats in one of the visitors' galleries to the Chamber.

Inquiries with regard to seats in the Senate Chamber Galleries should be made to the office of the President of the Senate, tel (02) 6277 3300.

15.3 Foreign Affairs and Trade - contact with portfolio Ministers

In writing to Portfolio Ministers, missions should address their communications as follows:

The Hon Julie Bishop MP
Minister for Foreign Affairs
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Ms Bishop’s office can be contacted on (02) 6277 7500, and fax (02) 6273 4406.

The Hon Andrew Robb AO MP
Minister for Trade and Investment
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Mr Robb’s office can be contacted on (02) 6277 7420, and fax (02) 6273 4128.

Senator the Hon Brett Mason, The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Foreign Affairs can be contacted on (02) 6277 3756, and fax (02) 6277 5725.

15.3.1 The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Biographies for members of the Department's Senior Executive also appear on the Department's website. In addition, the Department's website features entries such as Travel Information (including Consular Information and Travel Warnings), Trade, Policy, Geographic Areas and Culture. There are hyperlinks to separate websites for Austrade. Protocol Branch's entry includes the Protocol Guidelines and the contents of the Diplomatic and Consular Lists.

Organisational Chart of the Department's executive structure

15.4 Other Departments and Government Agencies

The Commonwealth Government Directory, updated and published annually, is the official guide to the organisation and personnel of the Commonwealth Government. The Directory is an authoritative source of information on the office of the Governor-General, Federal Executive Council, Commonwealth Parliament, the Courts and the Commonwealth Government. With regard to the latter, each portfolio entry includes details of the relevant Minister/s and staff, a list of enactments or laws administered, the organisation of the Department, and a list of Commonwealth agencies and inter-Government agencies which have Commonwealth representation. The Directory features three indices to facilitate research according to legislation, names of senior personnel, and organisations and subject matter. It includes homepage addresses for most agencies, and Internet addresses for most departments and statutory authorities.

Commonwealth departments' and agencies' homepages are available at Australia Government directories.
Similar information in respect of State and Territory Governments is available on the Internet and in hard copy. Website addresses and sources of hard copy publications are set out at Appendix 17.
For missions in Canberra, contact with the ACT Government can be facilitated by the Senior Manager of the Office of Multicultural Affairs, Department of Disability, Housing and Community Services, tel. (02) 6207 0555 or fax: (02) 6207 5862.