Australia is a federation of states with an English style, legal and parliamentary system. This basic fact has a number of implications for a company expanding into Australia.
Australia combines some nine major jurisdictions, including six separate states: (i) New South Wales, (ii) Victoria, (iii) Queensland, (iv) Western Australia, (v) South Australia, (vi) Tasmania. There are also two Australian Territories within mainland Australia: (i) Northern Territory, (ii) Australian Capital Territory. The final jurisdiction is the Australian Commonwealth Government.
As per the Australian constitution, each state may make laws on almost any topic they wish. While the Commonwealth government can make laws on topics that fall within the powers granted it under the constitution. Where there is overlap between the powers of the individual States and the Commonwealth government, the States may still make laws, but those laws cannot contradict laws passed by the Commonwealth government.
Both of Australia’s two mainland territories also have their own parliaments, although the powers of such have no constitutional guarantee, and the Commonwealth government can legislate on any topic it wishes with regards to the territories.
It is worth noting that Australia also administers a range of small non-mainland territories. These include, but are not limited to: (i) Ashmore and Cartier Islands, (ii) Australian Antarctic Territory, (iii) Christmas Island, (iv) Cocos (Keeling) Islands, (v) Heard Island, (vi) McDonald Islands, (vii) Norfolk Island. Most of these are directly administered by the Commonwealth Government, each of them are likely to have explicit laws which may affect the way business is conducted.
There are a few practical consequences that this legal division creates for businesses expanding into Australia. In particular:
By and large, Australia has a legal system derived from the English common law, or ‘case law’ system, meaning that law is predominantly based on legislation, which is interpreted in the same method, and the same outcome is to be drawn, as it was in cases of a similar factual nature.
Australia has three basic types of law that are likely to affect the operation of business:
Australia also has a complex system of courts. In basic the rule is that issues that are legislated on under commonwealth law are brought before the Federal Court system, issues that are legislated on under State law are brought before the State Court system. However, there are some three levels of courts within the Federal legal system and some four within the State legal system, each with its own original and appellate legal jurisdiction. Furthermore, most State courts can exercise the federal jurisdiction in particular instances.
Finally, most issues of Administrative law are generally dealt with within a separate tribunal system. A tribunal is not a court, but exercises power which, at least to the lay person, looks very similar.
n effect, the intricacies of the Australian legal system are significant, and you really must obtain legal advice, before deciding what to do, or where it needs to be done.
PLEASE NOTE: The following information has not been produced by a lawyer and is only for the purposes of guidance, it is not legal advice.