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Australian politics can only be properly understood through an awareness of the federal structure.

The essence of federalism is a division of powers between the Federal government and the six State governments. When the federation was formed in 1901 the original states retained their existing constitutions and powers other than those transferred to the federal government.

The federal government is also referred to as the Commonwealth government, the national government, the central government or the Australian government. Its powers are set out in Section 51 of the Constitution.

In practice, the powers of the federal government have been expanded through decisions of the High Court.

The federal government has also gained financial dominance over the States, especially since the States transferred their income taxing powers to Canberra in the 1940s.

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