Territory V's States

As a self-governing Territory with its own elected Legislative Assembly the Northern Territory has substantial degree of independence.  However, there are three crucial differences between a State and a Territory:

1. Final Power: 

The Commonwealth has a lot of legal control over a Territory.  The States have final authority, or autonomy, within their areas of constitutional responsibility.  The Territories do not.  Even when a Territory is self-governing, it is subject to the Commonwealth Parliament as a matter of law.  The Commonwealth Parliament can change the powers of a Territory Government and Legislature by altering its Self-Government Act.  The Commonwealth Parliament cannot change the powers of the States without altering the Australian Constitution, which requires approval at referendum.

2. Representation:

The Australian Constitution guarantees all the original states the same number of Senators in the Federal Parliament.  For example Tasmania as one of the original states has 12 Senators.  This is equal to the number representing the most populous state, New South Wales.  In 1974, the Northern Territory was granted two Senate seats.  This grant was twice unsuccessfully challenged by the states.  There is no constitutional guarantee that the Territory will always retain two Senate seats or indeed any Senate seats.  State senators serve a term of six years but Territory Senators serve a term of three years.

The Australian Constitution guarantees all original states at least five members of the Commonwealth House of Representatives (MHRs).  Beyond this level, the number depends upon the population of the State.  Tasmania has 5 representatives while the most populous state, NSW, has 48.  The Northern Territory has two MHRs.  The number of MHRs for the Northern Territory is based on population.  In the past it has been proposed that the Territory could be returned to having just one MHR.  There is no constitutional guarantee of any federal parliamentary representation for the Northern Territory.

3. Referendums:  

While people living in the Northern Territory can vote in referendums to change the Australian Constitution, their vote is counted for the purpose of working out whether the majority of       Australians support the change.  The Territory itself is not counted as State, however, for the purpose of the second requirement in the Australian Constitution, the approval of a majority of voters in a majority of States.