State government

State government

A state government (provincial government in Canada) is the government of a subnational entity in states with federal forms of government, which shares political power with the federal or national government. A state government may have some level of political autonomy, or be subject to the direct control of the federal government. This relationship may be defined by a constitution.

The reference to "state" denotes subnational entities which are officially or widely known as "states", and should not be confused with "State". Provinces are usually divisions of unitary States. Their governments, which are also provincial governments, are not the subject of this article.

The United States and Australia are the main examples of federal systems in which the term "state" is used for the subnational components of the federation. In addition, the Canadian provinces fulfil a similar role. The term for subnational units in non-English-speaking federal countries may also often be translated as "state", e.g. States of Germany (German Länder).


The Commonwealth of Australia is a federal nation with six states (and two mainland territories). Section 51 of the Australian Constitution sets out the division of legislative power between the states and the Commonwealth government. The Commonwealth government is given a variety of legislative powers, including control of foreign affairs, taxation (although this cannot discriminate between states or parts of states), and regulation of interstate commerce and corporations. Since the original ratification of the constitution, the High Court of Australia has settled a number of disputes concerning the extent of the Commonwealth's legislative powers, some of which have been controversial and extensively criticised; these included a dispute in 1982 over whether the Commonwealth was entitled to designate land for national heritage purposes under United Nations agreements, as well as numerous disputes over the extent of the Commonwealth's power over trade union and industrial relations legislation.

One difference between the Australian and United States models of federalism is that, in Australia, the Commonwealth Parliament has explicit constitutional power over marriage legislation; this has been a focal point for recent controversies over same-sex marriage.

Government structure

Each state of Australia has a Governor, who represents the Queen of Australia (currently Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom) and performs the ceremonial duties of a head of state. Every state also has a parliament; most states have a bicameral parliament, except for Queensland, where the upper chamber (the Legislative Council) was abolished in 1922. Unlike their United States counterparts, Australian states have a Westminster system of parliamentary government; the head of government, known in each state as a Premier, is drawn from the state parliament.


In India, the state governments are the level of government below the central government.

United States

Under the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, all governmental powers not granted to the federal government by the Constitution are reserved for the states. The governments of the 13 colonies which formed the original union under the Constitution trace their history back to the royal charters which established them during the year of colonialism.


See also

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