How state and federal laws interact

How state and federal laws interact


In Australia there are both federal laws covering everyone, and local laws covering people in a particular state or territory.

Some state or territory laws cover areas where there is no federal law or their laws can be in line with federal law. If there is a clash between federal and state or territory laws, the federal law overrides them.

The Federal Government can only pass laws under the power of the Constitution of Australia. The Constitution gives the Commonwealth the power to make laws with respect to 'external affairs', which include international treaties such as the United Nations' human rights conventions.

Once the Commonwealth signs an international treaty, the Federal Government is obliged to make Australian laws based on the principles in the treaty.

There are five federal laws that have been made to give effect to international treaties signed by Australia. Like state and territory laws in the equal opportunity area, they apply to how people are treated in their public lives, not in private.
The federal laws are: