1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2012  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/05/2012   
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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.


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.


Members of the House of Representatives are elected for a maximum term of three years, although 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 47 Commonwealth elections, six have been ‘double dissolution’ elections, the most recent of which occurred in 1987.

There have been 43 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 43rd Parliament was required to meet within 30 days of the day appointed for the return of the electoral writs in the 21 August 2010 election. Parliament commenced on 28 September 2010. For details of the 2010 election, see the website of the Australian Electoral Commission.


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, can be found in Year Book Australia 2005. In Senate elections, the whole state or territory constitutes a single electorate.

Electors enrolledElectorates

New South Wales4 610 79548
Victoria3 561 87337
Queensland2 719 36030
Western Australia1 362 53415
South Australia1 104 69811
Tasmania358 6095
Australian Capital Territory247 9412
Northern Territory121 0592
Total14 086 869150

Source: Australian Electoral Commission.


The House of Representatives was dissolved on 19 July 2010. Elections for the House of Representatives and half of the Senate were held on 21 August 2010.

The 2010 federal election resulted in a hung parliament, with both the Australian Labor Party and the Liberal/National Coalition gaining 72 seats. The Australian Labor Party was able to form government with the support of three independents and the Australian Greens member. The Labor Party formed Australia’s 61st Commonwealth Government.

The Australian Labor Party did not gain control of the Senate. The Australian Greens, Family First and independents held the balance of power until 30 June 2011. From 1 July 2011, the Australian Greens held the balance of power in the Senate.


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Statistics contained in the Year Book are the most recent available at the time of preparation. In many cases, the ABS website and the websites of other organisations provide access to more recent data. Each Year Book table or graph and the bibliography at the end of each chapter provides hyperlinks to the most up to date data release where available.