Members of the House of Representatives are elected by voters using the voting method known as the alternative vote (known in Australia as ‘preferential voting’); Senators are elected by voters using the voting method known as proportional representation (single transferable vote variant).
Any Australian citizen aged 18 years and over, or British subject who was on the Commonwealth Roll as at 25 January 1984, is qualified to enrol and vote at Commonwealth elections. Residence in a particular electorate for at least a period of one month is also a requirement. Enrolment and attendance at a polling place on polling day (except under certain lawful exceptions) are compulsory for all eligible persons.
Members of the House of Representatives are elected for a maximum term of three years, though elections may be called earlier. Senators have fixed terms of six years. Normally half the Senate retires every three years, and half-Senate elections are usually held at the same time as elections for the House of Representatives, though they need not be. The most recent separate elections for each house occurred in 1970 (Senate) and 1972 (House of Representatives).
At times of disagreement between the House of Representatives and the Senate, the two houses may be dissolved and an election called for both. Of the 41 Commonwealth elections, six have been ‘double dissolution’ elections, the most recent of which occurred in 1987.
There have been 41 parliaments since Federation. The longest parliament was the third, which ran from 20 February 1907 to 19 February 1910, and the shortest was the eleventh, which ran from 6 February to 16 September 1929. The 41st Parliament first met on 16 November 2004.
For the purpose of House of Representatives elections each state or territory is divided into single-member electorates according to the number of members of the House of Representatives to which the state or territory is entitled (table 2.4). The article Drawing House of Representatives electorate boundaries which discusses electoral redistributions in detail is in Year Book Australia 2005. In Senate elections the whole state or territory constitutes a single electorate.
The House of Representatives was dissolved on 31 August 2004. Elections for the House of Representatives and half of the Senate were held on 9 October 2004.
The Liberal-Nationals coalition retained control of the House of Representatives and gained control of the Senate. The coalition therefore formed Australia’s 59th Commonwealth government. The state of the parties in the Commonwealth Parliament following the election is shown in table 2.5. For details of the 2004 election, see: <http://www.aec.gov.au>.
2.4 ENROLMENT AND ELECTORATES - June 2006
|New South Wales|
|Australian Capital Territory|
|Source: Australian Electoral Commission.|