1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2006  
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Contents >> Chapter 2 - Government >> Commonwealth elections

COMMONWEALTH ELECTIONS

VOTING METHODS

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).

FRANCHISE

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 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 11th, which ran from 6 February to 16 September 1929. The 41st Parliament first met on 16 November 2004.

ELECTORATE

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', Year Book 2005, discusses electoral redistributions. In Senate elections the whole state or territory constitutes a single electorate.

2.4 ENROLMENT AND ELECTORATES, October 2004 election

Electors enrolled
Electorates

New South Wales
4,329,115
50
Victoria
3,309,800
37
Queensland
2,475,611
28
Western Australia
1,051,923
15
South Australia
1,248,732
11
Tasmania
342,809
5
Northern Territory
112,930
2
Australian Capital Territory
227,541
2
Total
13,098,461
150

Source: Library of the Commonwealth Parliament.


2004 ELECTION

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 number of electors enrolled at the time of the election is shown in table 2.4.

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>.

2.5 STATE OF THE PARTIES, Commonwealth Parliament - September 2005

House of Representatives
Liberal Party
74
Nationals
12
Country Liberal Party
1
Government parties
87
Australian Labor Party
60
Independent
3
Total
150
Senate
Liberal Party
32
Nationals
6
Country Liberal Party
1
Government parties
39
Australian Labor Party
28
Australian Democrats
4
The Greens
4
Family First Party
1
Total
76

Source: Library of the Commonwealth Parliament.

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