Australian electoral system

From Academic Kids

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A How-to-Vote Card from the 2001 Australian federal election. Most Australian voters follow these cards when casting their vote

The Australian electoral system has evolved over nearly 150 years of continuous democratic government, and has a number of distinctive features including compulsory voting, preferential voting (known elsewhere as instant runoff voting) and the use of proportional voting to elect the upper house, the Australian Senate. This article deals with elections to the Australian Parliament. Different systems are used for the states and territories.

In this article, distinctive terms which are widely used in the Australian electoral system are shown in italics.


Compulsory voting

Australia is one of the few countries in which it is compulsory to vote. It is also compulsory to enrol (register) to vote. Compulsory voting was introduced in 1924 [1] ( It was felt that since 60,000 Australians (about 1.3% of the national population) had died in World War I defending freedom, Australians had a duty to use the freedoms so dearly bought. The immediate impetus for compulsory voting at federal level was the low voter turnout (59.38%) [2] ( in the federal elections of 1922. Voting is compulsory both at federal elections and at elections for the state and territory legislatures. In some states voting at municipal elections is also compulsory. Although about 5% of enrolled voters fail to vote at most elections, prosecutions for failure to vote are rare and the fine is nominal.

It is commonly (but wrongly) claimed that it is only compulsory to attend a polling place and have one's name checked against the electoral roll. In fact, Section 245 of the Electoral Act [3] ( says that "It shall be the duty of every elector to vote at each election... The Electoral Commissioner must, after polling day at each election, prepare for each Division a list of the names and addresses of the electors who appear to have failed to vote at the election." Such electors are then required to offer an acceptable explanation (for example, illness or religious prohibition), or pay a fine.

In practice, while illegal, informal voting - going through the motions of voting without actually filling in a valid ballot - is near-impossible to prosecute, given the secret nature of the ballot. Over 95% of eligible Australians attend polling, and in both 2001 and 2004 only around 5% of Representatives votes were informal[4] ([5] (

Some political scientists believe that compulsory voting benefits the Australian Labor Party, while others dispute this. It is argued that most of the social groups who would tend not to vote if voting were voluntary are more inclined to vote Labor (people from the ethnic and immigrant communities, indigenous Australians, and people with lower levels of education). Occasionally conservative politicians or libertarian intellectuals argue for the abolition of compulsory voting on philosophical grounds, but no government has ever attempted to abolish it.

Following the 2004 federal elections, at which the Liberal-National coalition government won a majority in both Houses, a senior minister, Senator Nick Minchin, said that he favoured the abolition of compulsory voting. The government has given no indication, however, that it would legislate to this effect. Some prominent Liberals, such as Petro Georgiou, former chair of the Parliament's Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, have spoken in favour of compulsory voting.

Preferential voting

Australia uses various forms of preferential voting for almost all elections. Under this system, voters number the candidates on the ballot paper in the order of their preference. The preferential system was introduced in 1918, in response to the rise of the Country Party, a party representing small farmers. The Country Party split the anti-Labor vote in conservative country areas, allowing Labor candidates to win on a minority vote. The conservative government of Billy Hughes introduced preferential voting as a means of allowing competition between the two conservative parties without putting seats at risk. It was first used at the Corangamite by-election of December 1918 ([6] ( It had previously introduced as a result of the work of Thomas Hare and Andrew Inglis Clark in the Tasmanian House of Assembly.

Preferential voting has gradually extended to both upper and lower houses, in the federal, state and territory legislatures, and is also used in municipal elections, and most other kinds of elections as well, such as internal political party elections, trade union elections, church elections, elections to company boards and elections in voluntary bodies such as football clubs.

With the exception of an experiment with voting machines in the Australian Capital Territory[7] (, all Australian elections are carried out using paper ballots.

Gerrymandering and malapportionment

Gerrymandering is the drawing up of electoral boundaries in such a way as to favour one party at the expense of another. (The word comes from the American politician Elbridge Gerry, who designed an electoral district in Massachusetts which was said to resemble a salamander.)

Malapportionment is the allocation of more electoral districts to one part of a country or state than its population would merit, and conversely the allocation of fewer electoral districts to another part.

Australian political history has seen very little gerrymandering of electoral boundaries, which have nearly always been drawn up by civil servants or independent boundary commissioners. But Australia has seen systematic malapportionment of electorates, and indeed until fairly recently this was considered a perfectly natural and defensible practice in some states.

All the colonial legislatures before Federation, and the federal parliament after it, saw country districts allocated more representation than their populations merited. This was justified on several grounds: that country people had to contend with greater distances and hardships and thus deserved greater representation; that country people (and specifically farmers) produced most of the nation's real wealth, and thus deserved greater representation; and that greater country representation was necessary to balance the radical tendencies of the urban population.

In the 19th century these assertions usually reflected genuinely held beliefs. By the 20th century, and especially after the rise of the Labor Party, they became increasingly self-serving rationalisations by politicians (usually conservatives) who benefitted from the malapportionment. In the later 20th century these arguments were increasingly and usually successfully challenged, and the malapportionment was reduced and finally abolished in all states.

The most conspicuous examples of malapportionment were in South Australia and Queensland.

In South Australia the 1856 Constitution stipulated that there must be two rural constituencies for every urban constituency, and this remained in force until 1968, by which time the urban-rural voter ratio was almost exactly reversed: that is, there were two urban voters for every rural voter. As a result, rural seats had on average one-quarter the number of voters that urban seats had. This gross distortion enabled Sir Thomas Playford to hold office as Liberal premier of South Australia from 1938 to 1965, despite losing several elections by wide margins in terms of votes. This arrangement was popularly called "the Playmander," although it was not strictly speaking a gerrymander.

In Queensland the malapportionment initially benefitted the Labor Party, since many small rural constituencies were dominated by rural workers organised into the powerful Australian Workers Union. But after 1957, the Country Party / National Party governments of Sir Frank Nicklin and Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen were able to manipulate the electoral system so that the National Party could win elections with only a quarter of the vote. This "Bjelke-mander" was not overcome until the final defeat of the Nationals in 1989.

On 20 May2005, the Western Australian parliament passed a modification to its electoral laws, removing the previous malapportionment that existed in the state. Under the previous system, votes in the country were worth up to four times the value of votes in urban areas surrounding Perth, the state's capital city. As of 2005, electorates must have a population of 21,343, with a tolerated margin of error of 10%. However, electorates with a land area of more than 100,000km² (40,000 mi²), are permitted to have a margin of error of 20%, to account for large areas of Western Australia that are sparsely populated.[[8] (]

The Parliament

The Parliament of Australia is a bicameral (two-house) Parliament. It combines some of the features of the Parliament of the United Kingdom with some features of the United States Congress. This is because the authors of the Australian Constitution had two objectives: to reproduce as faithfully as possible the Westminster system of parliamentary government, while creating a federation in which there would be a division of powers between the national government and the states, regulated by a written Constitution.

In structure, the Australian Parliament resembles the United States Congress. There is a House of Representatives elected from single-member constituencies of approximately equal population, and there is a Senate consisting of an equal number of Senators from each state, regardless of population (there are also Senators representing the two federal territories).

But in function, the Australian Parliament follows the Westminster system. The Prime Minister holds office because he can command the support of the majority of the House of Representatives, and must resign if the House passes a vote of no confidence in his administration. All ministers must be members of Parliament.

The House of Representatives

The Australian House of Representatives has 150 members elected from single-member constituencies (usually called seats or electorates in Australia (see Australian electorates) for three-year terms. Voters must fill out the ballot paper by numbering all the candidates in order of their preference. Failure to number all the candidates, or an error in numbering, renders the ballot informal (invalid) [9] ( The average number of candidates has tended to increase in recent years: there are frequently 10 or 12 candidates in a seat, and at the Wills by-election ( in April 1992 there were 22 candidates. This has made voting increasingly onerous, but the rate of informal voting has increased only slightly.

This is because of what appears to be a uniquely Australian institution, the How-to-Vote Card. On election day, volunteers from all the political parties stand outside every polling place in the country, handing every voter a card which advises them how to cast their vote for their respective party. Thus, if a voter wishes to vote for the Liberal Party, they will take the Liberal How-to-Vote Card and follow its instructions very carefully. Australian voters show a high degree of party loyalty in following their party's Card.

The challenge of numbering the ballot paper leads a certain number of voters to simply number the candidates from 1 to 10 (or whatever) straight down the ballot paper. This is called the donkey vote. It gives some advantage (perhaps 1 or 2%) to the candidate at the top of the ballot paper. Before 1984, candidates appeared in alphabetical order, which led to a profusion of Aaronses and Abbotts contesting elections. (The most famous example of this was the 1937 election, in which the Labor Senate ticket in New South Wales consisted of candidates named Armour, Ashley, Armstrong and Arthur: all were elected.) Since 1984 ballot paper order has been decided by lot.

The House Count

The form of preferential voting used in the House of Representatives is technically known as instant runoff voting, IRV or the alternative ballot. These terms are not used in Australia.

When the polls close at 6pm on election day, the votes are counted. The count is conducted by officers of the Australian Electoral Commission (, watched by nominated volunteer observers from the political parties, called scrutineers. If one of the candidates has more than 50% of the vote, then she or he is declared elected. Australian politics are class-based. In strong working-class seats, the Labor Party will poll up to 80% of the vote. In strongly middle-class seats, the Liberals will usually poll over 60%. In some rural seats the National Party will poll 60%.

In the remaining seats, no single candidate will have a majority of the primary votes (or first-preference votes). A hypothetical result might look like this:

White (Democrat)     6,000   06.0%
Smith (Labor)       45,000   45.0%
Jones (Liberal)     35,000   35.0%
Johnson (Green)     10,000   10.0%
Davies (Ind)         4,000   04.0%

In this case, the candidate with the smallest vote, Davies, will be eliminated, and his or her preferences will be distributed: that is, his or her 4,000 votes will be allocated to the remaining candidates according to which candidate received the number 2 vote on their ballot papers. Suppose Davies's preferences split 50/50 between Smith and Jones. Smith would then have 47% and Jones 37%. White would then be eliminated. Suppose all of White's preferences went to Smith. Smith would then have 53% and would be declared elected. Johnson's votes would not need to be distributed.

Here is a real example of the operation of preferential voting in Australia, from the federal election of 1990: Charles Blunt was the leader of the conservative National Party of Australia, representing Richmond, a traditional National Party seat in northern New South Wales. The intervention of the anti-nuclear campaigner, Dr Helen Caldicott, allowed the Labor candidate, Neville Newell, to win the seat despite polling only 27% of the primary vote. Note that Caldicott also had a good chance of winning the seat - if all of Gibbs' preferences had gone to her as directed on the How-to-Vote card, she would drawn ahead of Newell and won on his preferences.

RICHMOND, NSW                  73,794 enrolled, 70,571 (95.6%) voted
North Coast NSW: Byron Bay, Lismore, Murwillumbah, Tweed Heads
1987 two-party majority: NPA over ALP 06.6
Stan Gibbs                      AD       4,346   06.3  (-00.8)
Neville Newell                  ALP     18,423   26.7  (-08.5)
Gavin Baillie                              187   00.3   
Alan Sims                       CTA      1,032   01.5   
Ian Paterson                               445   00.6   
Dudley Leggett                             279   00.4   
Charles Blunt *                 NPA     28,257   40.9  (-10.2)
Dr Helen Caldicott                      16,072   23.3
1,530 (02.2%) informal                  69,041
Caldicott was an independent Green candidate.
2nd count: Baillie's 187 votes distributed
Gibbs                 34 (18.4)          4,380   06.3
Newell                44 (23.8)         18,467   26.7
Sims                  21 (11.4)          1,053   01.5
Paterson              35 (18.9)            480   00.7
Leggett               15 (08.1)            294   00.4
Blunt *               17 (09.2)         28,274   41.0
Caldicott             19 (10.3)         16,091   23.3
(exhausted             2                     2                     )
>                    187                69,041
3rd count: Leggett's 294 votes distributed
Gibbs                 40 (13.9)          4,420   06.4
Newell                17 (05.9)         18,484   26.8
Sims                   6 (02.1)          1,059   01.5
Paterson              50 (17.4)            530   00.8
Blunt *               29 (10.1)         28,303   41.0
Caldicott            146 (50.7)         16,237   23.5
(exhausted             6                     8                     )
>                    294                69,041
4th count: Paterson's 530 votes distributed
Gibbs                 84 (16.3)          4,504   06.5
Newell                60 (11.7)         18,544   26.9
Sims                  57 (11.1)          1,116   01.6
Blunt *              113 (21.9)         28,416   41.2
Caldicott            201 (39.0)         16,438   23.8
(exhausted            15                    23                     )
>                    530                69,041
5th count: Sims's 1,116 votes distributed
Gibbs                179 (16.3)          4,683   06.8
Newell               139 (12.6)         18,683   27.1
Blunt *              562 (51.1)         28,978   42.0
Caldicott            220 (20.0)         16,658   24.1
(exhausted            16                    39                     )
>                  1,116                69,041
6th count: Gibbs's 4,683 votes distributed
Newell             1,555 (33.8)         20,238   29.4
Blunt *              800 (17.4)         29,778   43.2
Caldicott          2,245 (48.8)         18,903   27.4
(exhausted            83                   122                     )
>                  4,683                69,041
7th count: Caldicott's 18,903 votes distributed
NEWELL            14,426 (77.4)         34,664   50.5
Blunt *            4,202 (22.6)         33,980   49.5
(exhausted           275                   397                     )
>                 18,903                69,041   00.5    07.1 to ALP

The exhausted counts correspond to votes that ought to be informal, if strictly following the rules above, but were deemed to have expressed some valid preferences. The Electoral Act has since been amended to almost eliminate exhausted votes.

Two-party majorities, swings and pendulums

Since 1984 the preferences of all candidates in House of Representatives seats have been distributed, even if this is not necessary to determine the winner of the seat. This is done to determine the percentage of the votes obtained by the winning candidate after the distribution of all preferences. This is called the two-party preferred vote. For example, if (in the example given above), Smith finished with 58% of the vote after the distribution of Johnson's preferences, Smith's two-party vote would be 58% and the seat would be said to have a two-party majority of 8%. It would therefore need a two-party swing of 8% to be lost to the other side of politics at the next election.

Once the two-party majorities in all seats are known, they can then be arranged in a table to show the order in which they would be lost in the event of an adverse swing at the next election. Such tables frequently appear in the Australian media and are called election pendulums or sometimes Mackerras pendulums after the political scientist Malcolm Mackerras, who popularised the idea of the two-party vote in his 1972 book Australian General Elections.

Here is a sample of the federal election pendulum from the 2001 election, showing some of the seats held by the Liberal-National Party coalition government, in order of their two-party majority. A seat with a small two-party majority is said to be a marginal seat or a swinging seat. A seat with a large two-party majority is said to be a safe seat, although "safe" seats have been known to change hands in the event of a large swing.

Seat          State     Majority     Member                Party
HINKLER       Qld       00.0         Paul Neville          NPA
SOLOMON       NT        00.1         Dave Tollner          Lib
ADELAIDE      SA        00.2         Hon Trish Worth       Lib
CANNING       WA        00.4         Don Randall           Lib
DOBELL        NSW       00.4         Ken Ticehurst         Lib
PARRAMATTA    NSW       01.1         Ross Cameron          Lib
McEWEN        Vic       01.2         Fran Bailey           Lib
PATERSON      NSW       01.4         Bob Baldwin           Lib
HERBERT       Qld       01.6         Peter Lindsay         Lib
RICHMOND      NSW       01.6         Hon Larry Anthony     NPA
DEAKIN        Vic       01.7         Philip Barresi        Lib
EDEN-MONARO   NSW       01.7         Gary Nairn            Lib
HINDMARSH     SA        01.9         Hon Christine Gallus  Lib


The boundaries of Australian electoral constituencies are drawn up by the Australian Electoral Commission (, an independent statutory authority, completely independent of political considerations. Members of Parliament and political parties may make submissions to the Commission on proposed new boundaries, but any interference with the Commission's deliberations would be a serious offence.

The Electoral Act requires that all seats have approximately equal numbers of enrolled voters. When the Commission determines that population shifts within a state have caused some seats to have too many or too few voters, new boundaries are drawn up. This is called a redistribution. Redistributions are also held when the Commission determines (following a formula laid down in the Act) that the distribution of seats among the states and territories must be changed because some states are growing faster than others.

In 2003, for example, redistributions were held in Victoria, Queensland and South Australia. South Australia lost one seat, while Queensland gained a seat. Victoria kept the same number of seats, but one seat was abolished and one new seat created.

The Senate

The Australian Senate has 76 members: each of the six states elects 12 Senators, and each of the two federal territories elects two Senators. Senators for the states serve six-year terms, with half the Senators from each state being elected at each federal election. The territory Senators serve three-year terms, and are elected at each federal election.

The Senate is elected both proportionately and preferentially. In each state, political parties which are registered with the Electoral Commission present lists of candidates, which appear as a group on the Senate ballot paper. Independents and members of unregistered parties can also nominate, but they cannot appear on ballot paper as a group.

Voters can vote for the Senate in one of two ways. They can number all the candidates, as they would with a House of Representatives ballot: but since there may be 50 or 60 candidates on the ballot paper, few voters do this. This is called below the line voting. Or they can simply tick a box indicating which party list they wish to vote for. This is called above the line voting. Over 95% of voters cast their votes above the line.

The Senate Count

The form of preferential voting used in the Senate is technically known as the single transferable vote or STV. These terms are not used in Australia.

The system for counting Senate votes is very complicated, and a final result is sometimes not known for several weeks. When the Senate vote is counted, a quota for election is determined. This is the number of valid votes cast, divided by the number of Senators to be elected plus one.

For example, here is the Senate result for the state of New South Wales from the 1998 federal election. For greater clarity the votes cast for 50 minor party and independent candidates have been excluded.

The quota for election was 3,755,725 divided by seven, or 536,533.

Enrolment:                              4,031,749
Turnout:                                3,884,333 (96.3%)
Informal votes:                           128,608 (03.3%)
Formal votes:                           3,755,725
Quota for election:                       536,533
Steve HUTCHINS                  ALP     1,446,231   38.5  ELECTED 1
Hon John Faulkner *             ALP         2,914   00.1  Group H
Michael Forshaw *               ALP           864   00.0  Q:2.7073
Ursula Stephens                 ALP         2,551   00.1  
David Oldfield                  ON        359,654   09.6  Group K
Brian Burston                   ON            570   00.0  Q:0.6729
Bevan O'Regan                   ON            785   00.0
Bill HEFFERNAN *                Lib     1,371,578   36.5  ELECTED 2
Dr John Tierney *               Lib         1,441   00.0  Group L
Sandy Macdonald *               NPA         1,689   00.0  Q:2.5638
Concetta Fierravanti-Wells      Lib           855   00.0  
Aden Ridgeway                   AD        272,481   07.3  Group M
Matthew Baird                   AD            457   00.0  Q:0.5142
Suzzanne Reddy                  AD          2,163   00.1  
David Mendelssohn               AD            809   00.0
John Sutton                     Grn        80,073   02.1  Group U
Catherine Moore                 Grn           748   00.0  Q:0.1521
Lee Rhiannon                    Grn           249   00.0
Suzie Russell                   Grn           542   00.0
128,608 (03.3%) informal                3,755,725

In this table, the Group number allocated to each list is shown at right. Below that is the number of quotas polled by each list. Thus, "Q:2.7073" next to the Labor Party list indicates that the Labor candidates between them polled 2.7073 quotas.

It will be seen that the leading Labor and Liberal candidates, Hutchins and Heffernan, polled more than the quota. They were therefore elected on the first count. Their surplus votes were then distributed. The surplus is the candidate's vote minus the quota. Hutchins's surplus was thus 1,446,231 minus 536,533, or 909,698. These votes were distributed to whichever candidates received the no 2 votes on Hutchins's ballots.

After Hutchins's surplus votes were distributed, the count looked like this:

                     Votes             Total after 
                     distributed       distribution
HUTCHINS                   E              536,533   14.3  ELECTED 1
FAULKNER *           908,567 (99.9)       911,481   24.3  ELECTED 3
Forshaw *                196 (00.0)         1,060   00.0
Stephens                 130 (00.0)         2,681   00.1
Oldfield                 186 (00.0)       359,840   09.6
Burston                    6 (00.0)           576   00.0
O'Regan                    4 (00.0)           789   00.0
HEFFERNAN *                E            1,371,578   36.5  ELECTED 2
Tierney *                 13 (00.0)         1,454   00.0
Macdonald *                1 (00.0)         1,690   00.0
Fierravanti-Wells          1 (00.0)           856   00.0
Ridgeway                 278 (00.0)       272,579   07.3
Baird                      5 (00.0)           462   00.0
Reddy                      3 (00.0)         2,166   00.1
Mendelssohn                4 (00.0)           813   00.0
Sutton                    66 (00.0)        80,139   02.1
Moore                      2 (00.0)           750   00.0
Rhiannon                   1 (00.0)           250   00.0
Russell                    0                  542   00.0
                     909,698            3,755,725

It will be seen that virtually all of Hutchins's surplus votes went to Faulkner, the second candidate on the Labor ticket, and he was then elected. This is because all those voters who voted for the Labor party "above the line" had their second preferences automatically allocated to the second Labor candidate. All parties lodge a copy of their How-to-Vote Card with the Electoral Commission, and the Commission follows this card in allocating the preferences of those who vote "above the line." If a voter wished to vote, for example, Hutchins 1 and Heffernan 2, they would need to vote "below the line" by numbering each of the 69 candidates.

In the third count, Heffernan's surplus was distributed and these votes elected Tierney. Faulkner's surplus was then distributed, but these were insufficient to elect Forshaw. Likewise, Tierney's surplus was insufficient to elect McDonald.

After this stage of the count, the remaining candidates in contention (that is, the leading candidates in the major party tickets) were in the following position:

HUTCHINS                                  536,533   14.3  ELECTED 1
FAULKNER *                                536,533   14.3  ELECTED 3
Forshaw *                                 375,587   10.0
Oldfield                                  360,263   09.6
HEFFERNAN *                               536,533   14.3  ELECTED 2
Tierney *                                 536,533   14.3  ELECTED 4
Macdonald *                               300,313   08.0
Ridgeway                                  273,109   07.3
Sutton                                     80,186   02.1

All the other candidates were then eliminated one by one, starting with the candidates with the smallest number of votes, and their votes were distributed among the candidates remaining in contention in accordance with the preferences expressed on their ballot papers. After this process was completed, the remaining candidates were in the following position:

HUTCHINS                                  536,533   14.3  ELECTED 1
FAULKNER *                                536,533   14.3  ELECTED 3
Forshaw *                                 450,446   12.0
Oldfield                                  402,154   10.7
HEFFERNAN *                               536,533   14.3  ELECTED 2
Tierney *                                 536,533   14.3  ELECTED 4
Macdonald *                               357,572   09.5
Ridgeway                                  286,157   07.6
Sutton                                    112,602   03.0

Sutton was then eliminated. 80% of Sutton's preferences went to Ridgeway, giving Ridgeway more votes than McDonald. McDonald was then eliminated, and 93% of his preferences went to Ridgeway, thus giving him a quota and the fifth Senate seat. Ridgeway's surplus was then distributed, and 96% of his votes went to Forshaw, thus giving him a quota and the sixth seat. Oldfield was the last remaining unsuccessful candidate.

A final point needs to be explained. It was noted above that when a candidate polls more votes than the quota, their suplus vote is distributed to other candidates. Thus, in the example given above, Hutchins's surplus was 909,698, or 1,446,231 (his primary vote) minus 536,533 (the quota). It may be asked: which 909,698 of Hutchins's 1,446,231 primary votes are distributed? Are they chosen at random from among his votes? In fact they are all distributed, but at less than their full value. Since 909,698 is 62.9% of 1,446,231, each of Hutchins's votes is transferred to other candidates as 62.9% of a vote: each vote is said to have a transfer value of 0.629. This avoids any possibility of an unrepresentative sample of his votes being transferred. After each count the candidate's progressive total is rounded down to the nearest whole number. This means that a small number of votes are lost by fractionation in the final count.

Double Dissolutions

Under the Australian Constitution, the House of Representatives and the Senate have equal legislative powers, except that appropriations (money) bills must originate in the House. This means that a government can be seriously frustrated by a Senate majority determined to reject its legislation.

In these circumstances, section 57 of the Constitution allows the government to call a double dissolution election: an election in which the whole House of Representatives and the whole Senate are re-elected.

Section 57 says: "If the House of Representatives passes any proposed law, and the Senate rejects or fails to pass it, or passes it with amendments to which the House of Representatives will not agree, and if after an interval of three months the House of Representatives, in the same or the next session, again passes the proposed law with or without any amendments which have been made, suggested, or agreed to by the Senate, and the Senate rejects or fails to pass it, or passes it with amendments to which the House of Representatives will not agree, the Governor-General may dissolve the Senate and the House of Representatives simultaneously."

Section 57 also provides that if after a double dissolution, the Senate again rejects the bill or bills which were the subject of the dissolution, the government may convene a joint sitting of the two Houses to consider the bill or bills.

There were double dissolution elections in 1914, 1951, 1974, 1975, 1983 and 1987. Only after the 1974 double dissolution was a joint sitting held. In 1914 the Cook government was defeated at the election, and in 1983 the Fraser government was likewise defeated. At the 1951 double dissolution the Menzies government won a majority in both Houses, as did the Fraser government in 1975. The 1987 double dissolution produced a continued Senate deadlock, and the Hawke government decided not to proceed with the bill which was the trigger for the double dissolution and election.

To preserve the balance of power between the two Houses in a joint sitting, Section 24 of the Constitution provides that the number of members of House of Representatives shall be, as nearly as practicable, twice the number of Senators. This is known as the "nexus clause." An attempt to remove it from the Constitution was defeated at a referendum in 1967.

Ballot Access

Candidates for either House must formally nominate with the Electoral Commission. The signature of the Registered Officer of a party registered under the Electoral Act is required for a party-endorsed candidate. A registered party must have at least 500 members. Fifty signatures of eligible voters are required for an independent candidate. A deposit of $350 is required for a candidate for the House, and $700 for a candidate for the Senate; this deposit is refunded if the candidate or group gains 4% of the first preference votes. To receive public funding, a party or candidate must receive at least 4% of the vote.[10] (

Template:Election australia

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