1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2009–10  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 04/06/2010   
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Contents >> Government >> Commonwealth elections


Generally, the 150 members of the House of Representatives, half of the 72 state senators and the four territory senators are elected approximately every three years.

Voting methods

Members of the House of Representatives are elected by voters using the alternative vote electoral system (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.

Parliamentary terms

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 42 Commonwealth elections, six have been ‘double dissolution’ elections, the most recent of which occurred in 1987.

There have been 42 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 42nd Parliament was required to meet within 30 days of the day appointed for the return of the electoral writs in the 24 November 2007 election. Parliament commenced on 12 February 2008. For details of the 2007 election, see <http://www.aec.gov.au>.


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 4.3). 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.


Electors enrolled

New South Wales
4 554 311
3 490 260
2 688 131
Western Australia
1 350 559
South Australia
1 087 233
356 065
Northern Territory
120 530
Australian Capital Territory
245 473
13 892 562

Source: Australian Electoral Commission.

2007 election

The House of Representatives was dissolved on 17 October 2007. Elections for the House of Representatives and half of the Senate were held on 24 November 2007.

The Australian Labor Party gained control of the House of Representatives but did not gain control of the Senate. The Labor Party formed Australia’s 60th Commonwealth Government.

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