Surveillance programmes for hospital-acquired infections differ amongst the Australian states. Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia have recent substantial initiatives in development of statewide programmes. Whilst the definitions for surgical site infections (SSIs) and bloodstream infections (BSI) developed by the Australian Infection Control Association (AICA) do not differ from the US National Nosocomial Infection Surveillance (NNIS) programme definitions for SSI and intensive care unit (ICU) acquired central line-associated BSI, only two states use NNIS risk adjustment methods in reporting infection rates. Differences exist in the surgical procedures under surveillance, ICU surveillance, hospital-wide BSI surveillance, staff health immunization surveillance, process measures such us surgical antibiotic prophylaxis and small hospital programmes. Only in the area of antibiotic use surveillance has national consensus been reached. In Victoria, NNIS risk adjustment had limited usefulness in predicting SSIs, especially after coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery. Ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP) surveillance had limited acceptance, and is not undertaken in other states. Regular reporting of surgical antibiotic prophylaxis data has been followed by improvement in choice of antibiotic in some procedures. The South Australian programme for the surveillance of multiresistant organisms (MROs) has documented substantial improvement in meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) morbidity over time coincident with the introduction of hand hygiene programmes and other measures. In Queensland, statewide monitoring of needlestick injuries is established. In Victoria, the small hospital programme concentrated on process measures, and in Queensland with a standardized investigation pathways for "signal" events. Data quality presented substantial challenges in small Victorian hospitals. Whilst state-based programmes have facilitated communication between hospitals and their coordinating centre, Australia still lacks national coordination and a national database on hospital infections. The differing approaches of the states illustrate many of the fundamental questions facing hospital infection surveillance today.