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Style Manual

Government terms

Use the correct term and follow the rules for capitalising government terms. People find it easier to understand content that has a consistent style.

Use initial capitals for formal names and titles

Use initial capitals only for the formal names and titles of government entities and office holders. Use lower case for generic references.

These are rules for general content. There might be exceptions if you are writing specialist legal content using terms defined in legislation.

This page orders guidance for common government terms alphabetically.

Australian Government

Refer to the national government of Australia as the ‘Australian Government’. Use an initial capital for both words only when they occur together.

Example

The Australian Government coordinates emergency management with the states.

Australian Government Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources

Bench

In general content, use lower case for the ‘bench’ and ‘full bench’.

Example

She was elevated to the bench.

The High Court hears cases that require a full bench.

Budget

Use an initial capital for ‘the Budget’ to show the difference from the generic reference.

Example

People on lower incomes will receive tax relief in this year’s Budget.

Use lower case for ‘budget’ when it is used as an adjective or as a plural.

Example

budget provisions

the budgetary process

successive federal budgets

Cabinet

Always use an initial capital for ‘the Cabinet’ to show the difference from its generic reference.

Example

It was a decision by the Cabinet.

Commonwealth

‘The Commonwealth of Australia’ is the name of Australia in the Constitution. Use an initial capital for ‘Commonwealth’.

Do not use the phrase ‘Commonwealth government’ to mean ‘Australian Government’. 

Write this

Defence is an Australian Government responsibility under the Constitution.

The Commonwealth marine area is any part of the sea between 3 and 200 nautical miles from the coast.

Not this

Defence is a Commonwealth government responsibility under the Constitution.

Crown

Always use an initial capital for ‘the Crown’ to show the difference from its generic reference.

Example

The Governor-General is appointed by the Crown.

Departments and agencies

Use initial capital letters only for the formal names of government departments and agencies. Check the names of departments and agencies in the government online directory.

Don’t use capital letters for generic mentions. For example, use:

  • ‘the agency’ instead of ‘the Agency’
  • ‘the authority’ instead of ‘the Authority’
  • ‘the commission’ instead of ‘the Commission’
  • ‘the department’ instead of ‘the Department’.

Use a shortened form of the name only if the department or agency uses it regularly in their own content.

If you cite a source written by an organisation that has since changed its name, use the name published in the source. This might be not be the organisation’s current name.

Write this

The Department of Finance owns the policy. The department has been working on it for months.

Not this

The Department of Finance owns the policy. The Department has been working on it for months.

Always use an initial capital for ‘the Treasury’ to show the difference from its generic reference.

Example

The Treasury conducts itself to the highest standards.

Use initial capitals for the formal names of areas in a department or agency's organisational structure. Don't use initial capitals for generic mentions of parts of the formal names.

Example

The Budget Policy Division is part of Treasury’s Fiscal Group. The division coordinates the delivery of the Budget and other fiscal reports.

Federal

Use an initial capital letter for ‘federal’ when it forms part of a formal name. Don’t capitalise it when it is used as an adjective.

Example

the Federal Court of Australia

federal issues

Federation

Use an initial capital for the word ‘federation’ only when referring to Australia’s Federation in 1901.

Example

The design of Australia’s national flag is the result of a competition announced to coincide with Federation in 1901.

The type of architecture popular between 1890 and 1915 is known as Federation style architecture.

Government

Use an initial capital for the word ‘government’ if it is part of a formal name. Use lower case everywhere else.

Example

the Victorian Government

the Australian and New Zealand governments

the governments of South Australia and Tasmania

Road maintenance is a local government responsibility.

Government programs and agreements

Use initial capitals for the full names of:

  • government programs
  • treaties
  • protocols and similar agreements.

Use initial capitals for abbreviations that remain specific but not for generic references or abbreviations.

Example

the Greater Artesian Basin Sustainability Initiative

the Artesian Basin Initiative

the initiative

Heads of state and prime ministers

Use initial capitals for the formal and abbreviated titles of current heads of state.

Example

The Prime Minister announced the new initiative this morning.

The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom chairs Cabinet meetings.

The Sultan of Oman comes from a dynasty of rulers. The Sultan met with the Prime Minister last week.

You do not need to use capitals for generic references to the position or when referring to previous incumbents.

Example

Sir Edmund Barton was the first prime minister of Australia.

Justin Trudeau is the eldest son of former Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau.

Legislation

Use government sources to check the titles of legislation, especially:

Follow the guidance in this manual to use the correct title for legislation.

Use initial capitals for these terms when referring to specific legislation:

  • Act
  • Ordinance
  • Regulation
  • Bill.

Use lower case for generic references to bills, regulations and ordinances. Use initial capitals for all references to Acts.

Follow detailed rules for references to delegated legislation.

Example

The Act separated legal ties between the 2 entities. [A short-hand reference to an Act]

The bills were rejected for the second time. [A generic reference to a set of bills]

Ministers and departmental secretaries

Use initial capitals for the official titles of ministers and departmental secretaries. Use lower case for generic references.

Write this

The Minister for Education announced the new policy. Education groups met with the minister to present their views.

The Secretary of the Department of Social Services gave the opening address. Several secretaries attended the forum.

Not this

The Minister for Education announced the new policy. Education groups met with the Minister to present their views.

The Secretary of the Department of Social Services gave the opening address. Several Secretaries attended the forum.

Apply this rule to the titles of other government office holders and department officials.

Example

Our local member is Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister.

Assistant ministers are designated as parliamentary secretaries under the Ministers of State Act 1952.

The Deputy Secretary of Policy and Programs was one of 5 deputy secretaries to attend the interdepartmental committee meeting.

She will take on the role of first assistant secretary responsible for overseeing engagement with external stakeholders.

Correct prepositions

Always use ‘for’ (not ‘of’) for a minister’s portfolio.

Generally, use ‘of’ for anyone working at a department or agency.

Write this

the Minister for Education

Secretary of the Department of Health.

Not this

the Minister of Education

Secretary for the Department of Health

Principals of Australian institutions

In many cases, you need to use initial capitals for the official titles of the principals and chief executives of Australian institutions. Check a dictionary or reliable reference if you are unsure of the correct title and format.

Example

the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia

the Attorney-General

the Vice Chancellor and President of the University of Queensland

The Secretary of the Department of Social Services

the Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Queensland

the Premier of New South Wales

the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory

Use lower case for most of these titles in general references that do not refer to a specific person.

Example

The average salaries of vice-chancellors have reached a new high.

Several attorneys-general met to discuss the issue last week.

The premiers of New South Wales and Victoria met to discuss health reforms.

States and territories

To refer to an Australian state or territory:

  • Use initial capitals for words in the formal name.
  • Use lower case for generic or plural references.
Example

The Australian Capital Territory includes Jervis Bay. The territory’s total area is more than 2,000 square kilometres.

The South Australian Government started the project. The government will meet regularly to review progress.

The states and territories are responsible for health care and education.

Few situations will require you to use the shortened form for a state or territory.

‘Territory’ is an exception when used for the Northern Territory

‘Territory’ is a semi-official term for the Northern Territory. Use a capital T when using Territory instead of the full name for the Northern Territory. Use lower case for generic references.

Example

The Northern Territory road toll is a concern to the territory. [Initial capitals for the full name; lower case for a generic reference]

The Territory is a common destination for overseas tourists. [The semi-official term instead of the full name]

Parliamentary terms

Use initial capitals for formal names connected with parliament. Generic references are in lower case.

Example

Parliament House

the Parliamentary Library

The problem was raised in the Queensland Parliament.

There was a change to parliamentary procedures.

Use initial capitals for the formal titles of parliamentary office holders. These include:

  • Clerk of the House
  • Clerk of the Senate
  • Leader of the Government in the Senate
  • Manager of Opposition Business
  • President of the Senate
  • Speaker of the House
  • Serjeant-at-Arms
  • Usher of the Black Rod.
Example

Senator Lines is the Deputy President and Chair of Committees in the 46th Parliament.

Use initial capitals for the formal titles of current members of parliament.

Example

Mr Adam Bandt MP

Senator Pauline Hanson

They met with Senator Griff.

Use lower case for parliamentary terms that are not formal titles. These words include:

  • member of parliament; members of parliament
  • senator; senators
  • member; members
  • frontbench; frontbencher
  • backbench; backbencher
  • crossbench; crossbencher.
Example

She moved from the backbench to take the new ministerial portfolio.

He was a former senator for Tasmania, serving from 1947 to 1951.

The houses of the Australian, state and territory parliaments

Always use initial capital letters to refer to:

  • the Senate
  • the House of Representatives
  • the corresponding bodies in the states and territories.
Example

The Senate referred the matter to the Senate Community Affairs References Committee.

The Legislative Assembly will vote on the matter tomorrow. The Assembly has been debating the matter for months.

The Senate and the House of Representatives are the ‘houses of parliament’, in lower case.

Use ‘the House’, ‘this House’, ‘lower house’ or ‘people’s house’ to refer to the House of Representatives.

Use ‘this house’, ‘upper house’, ‘house of review’ or ‘states’ house’ to refer to the Senate.

Release notes

The digital edition consolidates the advice from the sixth edition and provides updated examples.

The capitalisation of ‘house’ used in the parliamentary context has changed. Style in the digital edition is consistent with Hansard style for the Australian Parliament.

The digital edition prefers ‘Cth’ over ‘Cwlth’ as the contraction for ‘Commonwealth’. This reflects a departure from the sixth edition based on a corpus check with the Australian National Dictionary Centre.

The Content Guide had brief advice on government names, consistent with the sixth edition.

About this page

Evidence

Parliament of Australia (2020) Hansard style guide [internal style guide, version 8.1], Department of Parliamentary Services, Canberra.

References

APSC (Australian Public Service Commission) (2020) APS agency listing: agencies covered by the Public Service Act 1999, APSC website, accessed 14 June 2020.

Australian Government (2020) Directory, Australian Government Directory website, accessed 14 June 2020.

Office of the Legislative Assembly (2017) Hansard style manual, Legislative Assembly for the Australian Capital Territory accessed 14 June 2020.

Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (2020) Parliamentary information, PM&C website, accessed 14 June 2020.

This page was updated Thursday 24 September 2020.

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