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Australia’s federal Parliament, established in 1901, consists of two houses: the House of Representatives and the Senate.  Members and senators are elected under different preferential or ranked voting systems.  Senators are elected for a six-year term, with half of the Senate elected every three years, and the House of Representatives sits for a maximum of three years. 

Australia is characterized as a constitutional monarchy, with the British monarch, represented by the Governor-General, as the head of state.  The parliamentary system of government is largely based on the Westminster system of the United Kingdom, while the federal system, including the role and composition of the Senate, was influenced by that in place in the United States. 

The legislative powers of the Parliament are set out in the Australian Constitution, which also provides for the roles of the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate.  The legislative process includes debates and voting over three main stages in the House and a similar process in the Senate.  Both houses operate committee systems to examine bills in detail and inquire into other policy matters or government administration. 

I.  Background

A.  Establishment of the Federal Parliament

The federal Parliament of Australia was established in 1901, following the passage, by the British Parliament, of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900.[1]  Prior to the enactment of the Constitution, the country that is now Australia was a collection of six separate, self-governing British colonies, each with their own constitution, parliament, and laws.[2]  The colonies held referendums on the draft Constitution between 1898 and 1900.  The Constitution came into effect on January 1, 1901, at which point the colonies becoming states in the federation called the Commonwealth of Australia.  The Parliament first convened on May 9, 1901.

In addition to the six founding states, the Commonwealth of Australia now includes three self-governing territories; two on the mainland (Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory (ACT)) and one external (Norfolk Island).  Seven other external territories are non-self-governing.[3]

B.  Location of the Parliament

Between 1901 and 1927, the Commonwealth Parliament met in the Victorian Parliament House in Melbourne.  This was not intended to be the permanent location of the Parliament; in fact, the Constitution stated that the seat of federal government should be in New South Wales, within 100 miles of Sydney.  In 1908, the Parliament voted for a new federal capital to be established at Canberra,[4] which was then located in southern New South Wales but is now in the ACT.  The Provisional Parliament House (now known as Old Parliament House) was opened in Canberra in 1927, with Parliament sitting in that building until 1988, when it moved to a permanent building on Capital Hill.[5] 

Canberra is a planned city.  There was an international contest to design the capital city, which was won by two architects from Chicago.  Construction of the city commenced in 1913.[6] 

The design of the current Parliament House is based on the shape of two boomerangs.  There is a large flag pole on the top of the building.  The building contains 4,700 rooms.  The Senate chamber is decorated in red, while the House chamber is decorated in green.  The building contains a Ministerial Wing, which houses the offices of the prime minister and other ministers.[7]

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II.  Constitutional Status and Role

A.  Australian System of Government

Australia is characterized as being “a constitutional monarchy, a parliamentary democracy and a federation.”[8]  The Constitution established Australia as a constitutional monarchy, with the head of state being the British monarch (“the Queen”[9]), represented in Australia by the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia.[10] The parliamentary system of government in Australia is based on the Westminster system of the United Kingdom, while the federal system was influenced by the model established under the Constitution of the United States.[11] 

Under the parliamentary system, members of the federal executive, including the Prime Minister, who is the head of the executive branch of government, are drawn from those elected to the Parliament.  In essence, “the party or coalition of parties which commands the support of a majority in the House assumes the Government and the largest minority party (or coalition of parties) the Opposition.”[12]  The Prime Minister is the leader of the majority party or coalition, as selected by that group, and is commissioned by the Governor-General. 

Both members and senators can be appointed as “Ministers of State” by the Governor-General on the advice of the Prime Minister;[13] in fact, “in recent decades senators have usually comprised approximately one quarter to one third of the ministry.”[14]  The full group of ministers (“the ministry”), or a select group of ministers, “becomes the principal policy and decision-making group of government which is commonly known as the Cabinet.”[15]   The decisions of Cabinet are given legal effect upon their formal ratification by the Federal Executive Council, which comprises all ministers with the Governor-General presiding.[16]  The Governor-General acts on the advice of the ministry “on virtually all matters.”[17]

The Prime Minister and the rest of the ministry are accountable to the Parliament through various mechanisms.[18] Under the Westminster-based system, the “Opposition” has “the officially recognized function, established by convention, of opposing the Government.”[19]  In addition to having equal time for expressing views on legislation and other matters initiated by the government, members of the opposition (and other nongovernment members of the House and Senate) are able to question ministers directly during “question time,” as well as by submitting written questions for written response.[20]  Question time takes place at 2:00 p.m. each sitting day in both houses, with individual ministers being questioned, mostly without notice, on matters for which they are responsible.

B.  Legislative Role of the Parliament Under the Constitution

Section 1 of the Constitution states that the legislative power of the Commonwealth is vested in three components: the Queen, the Senate, and the House of Representatives.[21]  Subject to the Constitution, the Parliament is empowered to make laws for the “peace, order, and good governance of the Commonwealth.”[22]  The principle legislative powers of the Parliament are set out in sections 51 and 52 of the Constitution.  However, “the legislative powers of these sections cannot be regarded in isolation as other constitutional provisions extend, limit, restrict or qualify their provisions.”[23]

Section 52 determines areas within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Parliament, including the seat of government of the Commonwealth, matters relating to any Commonwealth government department, and other matters declared by the Constitution.[24]  Section 51 sets out 39 “heads of power” under which the Parliament can make laws.  Some of these itemized powers may be regarded as exclusive to the Commonwealth Parliament and some are concurrently exercised with state legislatures.  Areas not specified in this section are regarded as remaining within the jurisdiction of the states and are known as “residual powers.”[25]  Where a state legislates in an area for which the federal Parliament has concurrent powers, such legislation is subject to section 109 of the Constitution, which states that in the case of any inconsistency between a state law and Commonwealth law, the Commonwealth law shall prevail to the extent of the inconsistency.[26]

Matters on which the federal Parliament can make laws include “international and interstate trade; foreign affairs; defence; immigration; taxation; banking; insurance; marriage and divorce; currency and weights and measures; post and telecommunications; and invalid and old age pensions.”[27]  However, the Commonwealth has “increasingly extended its legislative competence” through its use of section 96 of the Constitution, which relates to financial assistance to the states.[28]  Examples of this are seen in areas such as health, education, and transport.

The Australian Constitution provides the Senate with virtually the same power to legislate as the House of Representatives.  However, the House has greater legislative powers than the Senate with regard to “the collection and expenditure of public money.”[29]  Appropriation and taxation bills cannot originate in the Senate, and the Senate cannot amend taxation bills and some types of appropriations bills, although it can ask the House to make amendments.

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III.  Structure and Composition

A.  House and Senate Membership

Today, the House of Representatives is comprised of 150 members, with each member representing an electoral division.[30]  Each House is elected for a period of up to three years.

Similar to the federal system in the United States, the Constitution requires that each state has an equal number of senators, being no less than six, regardless of the population of the different states.[31]  There are currently 76 senators: twelve for each of the six states, along with two each from ACT and Northern Territory.  State senators are elected for a term of six years, with a rotation system ensuring that half the Senate retires every three years.  The four senators from the two territories are elected every three years.[32]

The two houses of Parliament are elected under different voting systems, as discussed in Part IV, below.

B.  Political Parties

There are currently three main political parties represented in the House of Representatives: the Australian Labor Party, the Liberal Party of Australia, and the Nationals (previously called the National Party of Australia).[33]  There are four other smaller parties with representatives in the current House as well as two independent members.[34]

At various times since 1949, there have been official coalition agreements between the parties now called the Liberal Party of Australia and the Nationals, as well as other state-level center-right parties.[35]  The center-right Liberal-Nationals Coalition (the Coalition) gained a majority of the seats in the House of Representatives in the 2013 federal election and is therefore currently running a coalition government.  As the major nongoverning party in the House, the center-left Australian Labor Party currently forms the official Opposition.

The division of seats in the House of Representatives as at October 2015 is as follows:[36]

  • Coalition: 90 (Liberal Party of Australia, 74; Nationals, 15; Country Liberal Party, 1)
  • Australian Labor Party: 55
  • Australian Greens: 1
  • Katter’s Australian Party: 1
  • Palmer United Party: 1
  • Independents: 2

The party composition of the Senate is as follows:

  • Coalition: 33 (Liberal Party of Australia, 27; Nationals, 5; Country Liberal Party, 1)
  • Australian Labor Party: 25
  • Australian Greens: 10
  • Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party: 1
  • Family First Party: 1
  • Liberal Democratic Party: 1
  • Palmer United Party: 3
  • Independents: 4

C.  Role of the Speaker of the House of Representatives

Under section 35 of the Constitution, the House of Representatives must elect a member to be the Speaker of the House.  The Speaker is commonly referred to as the “presiding officer” as he or she chairs meetings of the House.  The Speaker is also the spokesperson for the House in relation to the other parts of the Parliament, the other branches of government, and outside entities.  He or she has ultimate responsibility for the administration of the House, “with a similar role to that of a Minister of State in relation to a government department.”[37]

The speakership in Australia is seen as an impartial role.  The Parliament website states that “Members are entitled to expect that, even though the Speaker belongs to and is nominated to the position by a political party, his or her functions will be carried out impartially. At the same time, a Speaker is entitled to expect support from all Members regardless of their party.”[38]

The Speaker cannot vote on a matter before the House unless the vote is tied, in which case he or she casts a deciding vote.

D.  Role of the President of the Senate

The counterpart of the Speaker in the Senate is the President of the Senate.  Section 17 of the Constitution requires the Senate to choose a senator to be the President of the Senate.  In practice, the President is elected by secret ballot, and the current convention is that presidents are elected from the governing party, even if the government does not have a majority in the Senate.  However, the duties of the President, both within and outside the chamber, must be carried out in an impartial manner.[39] 

As with the Speaker of the House, the President of the Senate has duties as the presiding officer in meetings of the Senate, as well as having administrative responsibilities in relation to the Department of the Senate.[40]  Section 23 of the Constitution states that “[t]he President shall in all cases be entitled to a vote; and when the votes are equal the question shall pass in the negative.”  This means that the President’s vote carries the same weight as all other senators, thereby maintaining the equal representation of the states in the Senate.

E.  Other Parliamentary Officers

In addition to the two presiding officers, there are a range of parliamentary officers in the House and Senate.  In the House, this includes the Leader of the House, who is a minister with “overall charge of the arrangement and management of government business in the House.”[41]  There are also government and opposition whips, who ensure attendance of members and arrange the number and order of their party’s speakers in debates. 

In terms of nonmembers, key parliamentary officials include the Clerk of the House, “the only non-member to have a speaking role in the proceedings of the House.”[42]  The Clerk has various procedural functions in the chamber and provides advice to the Speaker and members on “the interpretation of the standing orders, parliamentary practice and precedent, and the requirements of the Constitution and the law affecting the Parliament and the House.”[43]  Other staff include the Serjeant-at-Arms (who has administrative and security functions), chamber attendants (who distribute bills and other documents to members in the chamber), and Hansard staff (who are responsible for producing a written record of proceedings).[44]

In the Senate, nonmember parliamentary officers include the Clerk of the Senate and the Usher of the Black Rod.[45]  This latter position is responsible for various procedural, administrative, and security matters.[46]

F.  Parliamentary Committees

1.  Overview

Both government and nongovernment members of the two houses are appointed to various parliamentary committees, which are tasked with investigating “specific matters of policy or government administration or performance.”[47] 

There are two broad types of committee: select committees, which are created by resolution as required “to inquire into and report on” a specific issue, and standing committees, which are appointed at the beginning of each Parliament.[48]  In the House of Representatives, there are several standing “investigative committees,” which “carry out inquiries on matters of public policy or government administration.”[49]  In the Senate, there is a system involving “legislative scrutiny” standing committees and “legislative and general purpose” standing committees.  These latter committees are currently structured in pairs—a references committee and a legislation committee—for each subject area.[50]  In addition, the standing committees of both houses include domestic or internal committees, which are concerned with the internal operations of the relevant house.  Other types of committees are estimates committees and joint committees.

The general committee process involves the development of terms of reference for each committee “inquiry”; these may be referred to the committee by the relevant house, by a minister, by a law, or developed by the committee itself, depending on the type of committee.   The terms of reference are then publicized and the committee invites people and organizations to send in “submissions.”  The committee may invite submitters to attend a public hearing where they will discuss their submissions and answer questions.  Public hearings “are often held away from Canberra, in State capitals and regional centres and sometimes by videoconference.”[51]  After considering the evidence, the committee prepares a report containing conclusions and recommendations, which is presented to the relevant house.  Dissenting views of members may be included in a minority or dissenting report attached to the main report.

2.  House Committees

Current House committees include standing investigative committees on agriculture and industry; appropriations and administration; communications and the arts; economics; education and employment; the environment; health; indigenous affairs; infrastructure, transport and cities; petitions; social policy and legal affairs; and tax and revenue.[52]  There are internal standing committees for privileges and members’ interests, procedure, publications, and selection (a committee established to “determine the program of business for committee and delegation business and private Members’ business for each sitting Monday, to select bills for referral to committees, and set speaking times for second reading debates.”[53]).

3.  Senate Committees

The two Senate legislative scrutiny committees are the Scrutiny of Bills Committee and the Regulations and Ordinances Committee.  All bills and subordinate legislative instruments that come before Parliament are scrutinized by one of these committees “to ensure they conform to certain principles mainly concerned with civil liberties.”[54]

The subject areas for the standing legislative and general purpose committees are community affairs; economics; education and employment; environment and communications; finance and public administration; foreign affairs, defense and trade; health; legal and constitutional affairs; and rural and regional affairs and transport.[55]  As noted above, for each subject there is a legislation committee and a references committee.

The domestic committees cover privileges; procedure; publications; selection of bills; senators’ interests; appropriations and staffing; and library.[56]  There are currently three Senate select committees, on the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, the National Broadband Network, and unconventional gas mining.

4.  Joint Committees

There are currently nineteen joint committees.  Joint standing committees include those covering electoral matters; foreign affairs, defense and trade; migration; the national capital and external territories; the National Disability Insurance Scheme; the parliamentary library; public accounts and audit; public works; and treaties.[57]  Under resolutions of the current Parliament, joint select committees have been established on the Australia Fund Establishment, Northern Australia, and trade and investment growth.  There are several joint committees that have been established pursuant to specific legislative provisions, including committees on the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity, broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings, corporations and financial services, human rights, intelligence and security, and law enforcement.

5.  Estimates Committees

There are eight Senate legislation committees to which the government’s estimates of proposed annual expenditure of government departments are referred for examination.  This referral occurs twice per year—after the introduction of appropriation bills in the House in May and then later in the year when additional estimates are introduced into Parliament.[58]  The committees are established at the beginning of each Parliament and consist of three government members, two opposition members, and a member from the minority parties or independent senators.  They hold hearings over several days, during which ministers and officials from the relevant department or agency answer questions from the committee.  The committees then present their reports to the Senate.

The House of Representatives does not have equivalent committees to the Senate estimates committees.  Instead, it “considers the proposed expenditures in the House itself during the consideration in detail stage and does not question government officials directly.”[59]

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IV.  Elections

A.  Overview

Elections for the federal Parliament take place every three years, at which time all of the members of the House are elected, and half of the Senate.  While state senators have a fixed term of six years, starting on July 1 and ending on June 30 six years later, each House of Representatives has a maximum term of three years from its first meeting after an election but may be dissolved at any time by the Governor-General, acting on the advice of the Prime Minister.[60]  Therefore, an early dissolution of the House can lead to the Senate and House elections being desynchronized.  This happened between 1963 and 1974 but has since been avoided.[61]  Depending on the timing of the elections, there can be some delay before the new Senate commences on July 1.

The Prime Minister decides the date for a House of Representatives election.  Once the term of the House expires or the House is dissolved, the Governor-General issues the “writs” for the election.  Electoral writs command “an electoral officer to hold an election and contains dates for the close of rolls, the close of nominations, polling day and the return of the writ.”[62]

Federal elections are run by the Australian Electoral Commission.  The most recent federal elections for the House and Senate took place on September 7, 2013.[63]  The next House of Representatives election must be held before January 14, 2017.  The Australian Election Commission further explains that

[t]he terms of senators elected for six years in 2010 expire on 30 June 2017. The earliest possible date for the next half-Senate election is 6 August 2016 and the latest possible date is 13 May 2017.

The earliest possible date for the next simultaneous House of Representatives and half-Senate election is 6 August 2016 and the latest possible date is 14 January 2017.[64]

There are no limits on the number of times senators and members (including a Prime Minister) may stand for election to the federal Parliament.[65]

All eligible Australian citizens aged eighteen years and over are required to enroll to vote.  In addition, voting in federal elections is compulsory for all enrolled voters.[66]  As a result, voter turnout is very high.  In the 2013 elections, turnout was 93.88% and 93.23% for the Senate and House elections respectively.[67]

B.  Elections for the House of Representatives

As noted above, there are 150 electoral divisions in Australia, each of which elects one member of the House of Representatives.  Each division has an average population of 150,000 citizens, with an average of 100,000 voters.[68]

Elections for the House of Representatives utilize a full preferential voting system, which involves voters ranking all candidates standing in their electoral division in order of preference.  This is done by placing numbers in the boxes opposite the candidates’ names, which are listed in random order.  To be successful, “a candidate must be supported by a majority (that is, more than half) of voters.”[69]  The vote counting works as follows:

First, all of the number ‘1’ votes are counted for each candidate. If a candidate gets more than half the total first preference votes, that candidate will be elected.

If no candidate has more than half of the votes, the candidate with the fewest votes is excluded. This candidate’s votes are transferred to the other candidates according to the second preferences of voters on the ballot papers for the excluded candidate. If still no candidate has more than half the votes, the candidate who now has the fewest votes is excluded and the votes are transferred according to the next preference shown. This process continues until one candidate has more than half the total number of formal votes and is elected.[70]

C.  Elections for the Senate

Since 1948, senators have also been elected using a preferential or ranked voting system.  However, different from those for the House of Representatives, Senate elections utilize a more complicated single transferable vote system to achieve proportional representation.  This system “ensures that political parties gain representation in proportion to their share of the vote.”[71]  The twelve candidates elected from each state are the ones that have “obtained a number of votes equal to or exceeding a required quota (or proportion of votes) necessary for election.”[72]  The system may be summarized as follows:

The quota is obtained by dividing the total number of formal votes by one more than the number of candidates to be elected, and adding one to the result. Thus, if the total of formal votes in a state at an election for six senators is 700 000, the quota is 100 001. That is, a candidate will need to win at least 100 001 votes to be elected.

Candidates receiving votes in excess of the quota, which is a proportion rather than a majority of the total vote, have their surplus votes distributed according to their electors’ ranking of preferences. If all the positions have not then been filled by candidates obtaining quotas by this means, then the next preferences of the voters for the least successful candidates are distributed, until all vacancies are filled by candidates obtaining quotas. The end result is a constituency with several candidates elected, each representing a proportion or quota of the total vote.[73]

The counting of first preferences begins on election night; however, “the full count cannot be completed until several weeks after the election.”[74]

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V.  Legislative Process

A.  Standard Process

For standard government bills, not related to appropriations or taxation, the policies may originate from different sources.  Regardless of the source, legislative proposals are considered by the Cabinet or the Prime Minister.  If a proposal is agreed to, the responsible minister directs the relevant government department to arrange preparation of the bill.  All government bills are drafted by the Office of Parliamentary Counsel based on detailed instructions developed by a department.[75]

Where a government bill is to be introduced in the House, as in the great majority of cases, the responsible minister gives written notice to the Clerk of the House of his or her intention to introduce the bill.  It is then included on the Notice Paper for the next sitting day.  The following steps are taken in introducing, debating, and passing a government bill:

  • First Reading: After the Clerk announces the item on the Notice Paper and reads the title of the bill, the minister stands and says “I present the . . . Bill” and hands a signed copy of the bill to the Clerk.  All government bills are accompanied by an explanatory memorandum, which explains the reasons for the bill and provides an outline of its provisions.  The Clerk then stands and reads out the “long title” of the bill, which “sets out in very broad terms the purpose or scope of the bill.”  This is called the “first reading.”[76]
  • Second Reading: Usually immediately after the first reading, the minister moves that the bill “now be read a second time.”  He or she then “makes a speech (second reading speech) explaining the purpose, general principles and effect of the bill.”  Debate on the bill is then adjourned and “set down as an item of business for a future sitting.”[77]
  • Second Reading Debate: The second reading debate usually takes place after several sitting days, depending on the government’s legislative program and negotiation with the opposition.  When the debate resumes, an opposition member outlines the opposition’s position on the bill, then government and opposition members speak in turn.  The second reading debate “is normally the most substantial debate that takes place on a bill.”[78]  At the end of the debate, the minister moves the motion “that this bill be now read a second time.”  A vote is taken to determine whether the House agrees with the bill in principle, thus completing the second reading.
  • Reference to a Committee: A bill may be referred to the relevant House committee for consideration and preparation of an advisory report.  The committee can only recommend amendments; it cannot amend the bill itself.  If the recommendations are accepted by the government they are incorporated into any government amendments that are moved during the “consideration in detail” stage of the process.
  • Consideration in Detail: At this stage, the text of the bill is considered in detail, clause by clause. This involves brief speeches on individual or groups of clauses, and on any amendments moved by members.  Votes are taken at various points during the proceedings to indicate whether there is agreement to clauses and amendments. 
  • Third Reading: In practice, following the consideration-in-detail stage, the minister is able to move the motion “that this bill be read a third time.”  There is rarely debate at this stage.  When the motion is agreed to, the Clerk reads out the long title of the bill, signifying that the bill has passed the House.
  • Transmission to the Senate: After the bill has passed the House, the bill is transmitted to the Senate, with appropriate messages by the Clerk or the Speaker attached. 
  • Senate Proceedings: The bill also goes through three readings in the Senate.  The process involves the first reading; second reading policy debate; reference to a legislation committee (at any point), which reports recommendations back to the Senate; detailed consideration of the bill (this stage is referred to as the Committee of the Whole Senate, or just “committee of the whole”); and third reading (signifying final agreement).[79]
  • Royal Assent: After a bill has been passed by the House and Senate in identical form it is presented to the Governor-General for assent.  The Constitution does allow the Governor-General to withhold assent, “but in practice a bill passed by both houses is always assented to.”[80]

Where there is disagreement between the two houses regarding a bill, “messages may pass between the two Houses to reach agreement as to the bill’s final form.”[81]  Where the negotiations on amendments resolve the disagreement, the bill is voted on in both houses.  If there is no agreement, the bill may be laid aside and not proceeded with.  It is possible, though very rare, for a disagreement to trigger a “double dissolution,” whereby both houses are dissolved and general elections held.[82]  The conditions that must be satisfied for this to occur are set out in section 57 of the Constitution.  After the election, if the same bill is introduced again and fails to pass the Senate, a joint sitting of both houses, where they vote as one house, may be held.[83]

Note that in the Australian party system, in accordance with the Westminster tradition, members of Parliament “nearly always vote along party lines.”[84]  The main exception is where the major parties decide to allow members a “conscience vote,” where individual members can vote freely according to their own judgment or belief (also called a “free vote”).[85]  This is used for bills on a small number of moral or social issues, such as abortion and euthanasia.  It is also possible for members to “cross the floor” to vote with the opposing parties, or to abstain from voting.  Such actions are very rare.

B.  Private Members’ and Senators’ Bills

Time is allocated in the House and Senate for various nongovernment business.  This includes the introduction and debate of private members’ or senators’ bills, which are prepared by opposition or nonaligned members and by government members outside the party’s formal approval mechanisms. They must go through the same legislative stages as government bills. Private members’ bills are “a small proportion of legislation dealt with by the House” and rarely pass;[86] this is similar in the Senate.  They are used by members to signify that they consider debate and legislative action is necessary on an issue.  Some may lead to matters being addressed in government bills.

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Prepared by Kelly Buchanan
Chief, Foreign, Comparative, and International Law Division I
January 2016

[1] Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900 (9 July 1900) (U.K.) (original),, archived at; Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900 (Cth) (current) (Australian Constitution),, archived at

[2] The Colonial Parliaments of Australia, Parliamentary Education Office, (last visited Nov. 27, 2015), archived at

[3] State and Territory Government, Australian Government, (last visited Nov. 30, 2015), archived at

[4] History of the Capital, National Capital Authority, history-of-the-capital (last updated Jan. 12, 2015), archived at

[5] Parliamentary Education Office, A Short History of Parliament 10, docs/closer-look/CloserLook_Short-History-of-Parliament.pdf (last visited Nov. 27, 2015), archived at

[6] Canberra – Australia’s Capital City, Australian Government, (last updated Sept. 14, 2015), archived at

[7] Architecture and Architect, Parliament of Australia, Building/Architecture_and_the_Architect (last visited Nov. 27, 2015), archived at; Parliament House, Parliamentary Education Office, (last visited Nov. 27, 2015), archived at

[8] House of Representatives Practice, ch. 1 (“Composition”) (6th ed., Sept. 2012), About_Parliament/House_of_Representatives/Powers_practice_and_procedure/Practice6/Practice6HTML, archived at

[9] This originally referred to Queen Victoria, with Covering Clause 2 of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act extending the provisions of the Constitution to her successors.

[10] Australian Constitution s 2.  The Governor-General is appointed by the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister.

[11] Senate Brief No. 9 – Origins of the Senate, Parliament of Australia (Sept. 2015), About_Parliament/Senate/Powers_practice_n_procedures/Senate_Briefs/Brief09, archived at

[12] House of Representatives Practice, supra note 8, ch. 1 (“Functions of the House”).

[13] Australian Constitution, s 64. 

[14] Senate Brief No. 14 – Ministers in the Senate, Parliament of Australia (Sept. 2015), About_Parliament/Senate/Powers_practice_n_procedures/Senate_Briefs/Brief14, archived at

[15] House of Representatives Practice, supra note 8, ch. 2 (“Government and Parliament Relationships”).

[16] Parliament and Government, Parliament of Australia, of_the_Parliament/Forming_and_Governing_a_Nation/parl (last visited Nov. 27, 2015), archived at

[17] Id.

[18] House of Representatives Infosheet 1 – Questions, Parliament of Australia (Feb. 2014),
(last visited Nov. 27, 2015), archived at

[19] House of Representatives Infosheet 19 – Government and Opposition, Parliament of Australia (Feb. 2014),
(last visited Nov. 27, 2015), archived at

[20] House of Representatives Infosheet 1 – Questions, supra note 18; Senate Brief No. 12 – Questions, Parliament of Australia (Sept. 2015), Senate_Briefs/Brief12, archived at See also Odgers’ Australian Senate Practice, ch. 19 (13th ed., May 2012), procedures/odgers13, archived at

[21] Australian Constitution s 2.

[22] Id. s 51.

[23] House of Representatives Practice, supra note 8, ch. 1 (“Powers and Jurisdiction of the Houses”).

[24] Australian Constitution s 52.

[25] House of Representatives Practice, supra note 8, ch. 1 (“Powers and Jurisdiction of the Houses”).

[26] Australian Constitution s 109.

[27] House of Representatives Infosheet 7 – Making Laws, Parliament of Australia (Aug. 2014),
(last visited Nov. 27, 2015), archived at

[28] House of Representatives Practice, supra note 8, ch. 1 (“Powers and Jurisdiction of the Houses”).

[29] House of Representatives Infosheet 7 – Making Laws, supra note 27.

[30] About the House of Representatives, Parliament of Australia, Parliament/House_of_Representatives/About_the_House_of_Representatives (last visited Nov. 27, 2015), archived at

[31] Australian Constitution, s 7.

[32] About the Senate, Parliament of Australia, About_the_Senate (last visited Nov. 27, 2015), archived at

[33] House of Representatives Infosheet 22 – Political Parties, Parliament of Australia (Jan. 2014),
, archived at

[34] See Members, Parliament of Australia, (last visited Nov. 27, 2015), archived at

[35] House of Representatives Infosheet 22 – Political Parties, supra note 33.

[36] Statistics for the 44th Parliament, Parliamentary Education Office, parliament-now/statistics.html (statistics as of Oct. 22, 2015), archived at

[38] Id.

[39] Odgers’ Australian Senate Practice, supra note 20, ch. 1 (“The President of the Senate”).

[40] Senate Brief No. 6 – The President of the Senate, Parliament of Australia (July 2014),, archived at

[41] House of Representatives Infosheet 19 – Government and Opposition, supra note 19.

[42] House of Representatives Infosheet 21 – The Clerk and Other Officials, Parliament of Australia (Feb. 2014),
, archived at

[43] Id.

[44] Id.

[45] Senate Brief No. 15 – The Clerk of the Senate and Other Senate Officers, Parliament of Australia (July 2014),, archived at

[46] Senate Brief No. 16 – Usher of the Black Rod, Parliament of Australia (July 2014), About_Parliament/Senate/Powers_practice_n_procedures/Senate_Briefs/Brief16, archived at

[47] House of Representatives Infosheet 4 – Committees, Parliament of Australia(Feb. 2014),
, archived at  

[49] About the House of Representatives, supra note 30.

[50] Senate Brief No. 4 – Committees, supra note 48.

[51] House of Representatives Infosheet 4 – Committees, supra note 47.

[52] House of Representatives Committees: House Committees of the 44th Parliament, Parliament of Australia, (last visited Nov. 27, 2015), archived at

[53] Selection Committee, Parliament of Australia, House/Selection (last visited Nov. 27, 2015), archived at

[54] Senate Brief No. 4 – Committees, supra note 48.

[55] Senate Committees, Parliament of Australia, Senate (last visited Nov. 27, 2015), archived at

[56] Odgers’ Australian Senate Practice, supra note 20, ch. 16 (“Standing Domestic Committees”).

[57] Joint Committees, Parliament of Australia, (last visited Nov. 27, 2015), archived at

[58] Senate Brief No. 5 – Consideration of Estimates by the Senate’s Legislation Committees, Parliament of Australia (July 2014), Senate_Briefs/Brief05, archived at

[59] House of Representatives Infosheet 10 – The Budget and Financial Legislation, Parliament of Australia (Feb. 2014),
, archived at

[60] Elections, Parliament of Australia, Elections/Elections (last visited Nov. 27, 2015), archived at

[61] Id.

[62] Federal Election Timetable, Australian Electoral Commission, _electoral_system/electoral_procedures/Federal_Election_Timetable.htm (last updated Mar. 25, 2013), archived at

[63] Federal, State and Territory Election Dates from 1946 to Present, Australian Electoral Commission,
(last updated May 26, 2015), archived at

[64] Elections – Frequently Asked Questions, Australian Electoral Commission, Elections.htm (last updated Aug. 7, 2014), archived at

[65] Martin Lumb, The 43rd Parliament: Traits and Trends, Australian Parliamentary Library (Oct. 2, 2013),
, archived at

[66] Voting, Parliament of Australia, (last updated May 30, 2013), archived at

[67] Who Voted in Previous Referendums and Elections, Australian Electoral Commission, (last updated Sept. 9, 2015), archived at

[68] Federal Elections, Parliamentary Education Office, (last visited Nov. 27, 2015), archived at

[69] House of Representatives Infosheet 8 – Elections for the House of Representatives, Parliament of Australia (Feb. 2014), 00_-_Infosheets/Infosheet_8_-_Elections_for_the_House_of_Representatives, archived at

[70] Counting the Votes for the House of Representatives, Australian Electoral Commission, (last updated July 17, 2015), archived at

[71] Senate Brief No. 1 – Electing Australia’s Senators, Parliament of Australia (July 2014),, archived at

[72] Id.

[73] Id.  See also Odgers’ Australian Senate Practice, supra note 20, ch. 4.

[74] Counting the Votes for the Senate, Australian Electoral Commission, counting/senate_count.htm (last updated July 17, 2015), archived at

[75] House of Representatives Infosheet 7 – Making Laws, supra note 27; House of Representatives Practice, supra note 8, ch. 10.

[76] House of Representatives Infosheet 7 – Making Laws, supra note 27.

[77] Id.

[78] Id.

[79] Senate Brief No. 8 – The Senate and Legislation, Parliament of Australia (Aug. 2015),, archived at; Odgers’ Australian Senate Practice, supra note 20, ch. 12; Brief Guides to Senate Procedure No. 16 – Consideration of Legislation, Parliament of Australia, About_ Parliament/Senate/Powers_practice_n_procedures/Brief_Guides_to_Senate_Procedure/No_16 (last reviewed July 2015), archived at

[80] House of Representatives Infosheet 7 – Making Laws, supra note 27.

[81] Id.

[82] Senate Brief No. 8 – The Senate and Legislation, supra note 79.

[83] Senate Brief No. 7 – Disagreement Between the Houses, Parliament of Australia (Feb. 2013),, archived at

[84] Deidre McKeown & Rob Lundie, Free Votes in Australian and Some Overseas Parliaments (Australian Parliamentary Library, Current Issues Brief No. 1, Aug. 27, 2002), Parliament of Australia,
, archived at

[85] See definition of “Free vote,” Glossary, Parliament of Australia, (last visited Nov. 27, 2015), archived at

[86] House of Representatives Infosheet 6 – Opportunities for Private Members, Parliament of Australia (May 2014),
, archived at

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Last Updated: 02/16/2016