By-Elections

A by-election is held in a particular House of Representatives electorate whenever a vacancy occurs.

This may occur when:

  1. A member dies. This last occurred in 2015 in Canning (WA), following the death of Don Randall, and in 2001 in Aston (Vic), following the death of Peter Nugent.
  2. A member resigns. This may occur because a member wishes to retire or has been appointed to a government or non-government post. Resignations are covered by Section 37 of the Constitution which states: “A member may by writing addressed to the Speaker, or to the Governor- General if there is no Speaker or if the Speaker is absent from the Commonwealth, resign his place, which there-upon shall become vacant.
  3. A member is absent. Section 38 of the Constitution states: “The place of a member shall become vacant if for two consecutive months of any session of the Parliament he, without the permission of the House, fails to attend the House.” This has never occurred in the House of Representatives.
  4. A member may be disqualified under Section 44 of the Constitution. Section 44 allows for members to be disqualified if they have foreign allegiance or citizenship, if they are “attainted of treason”, are undischarged bankrupts, hold an office of profit under the Crown, or have a pecuniary interest conflict. Phil Cleary was disqualified as the member for Wills in 1992 because he held an office of profit as a Victorian government school teacher. In 1999, Heather Hill was disqualified from taking up her seat as a Queensland One Nation senator because she held dual citizenship with the UK.
  5. A member is expelled by the House of Representatives. This has happened just once, in 1920, when Hugh Mahon, the member for Kalgoorlie, was expelled for “seditious and disloyal utterances”. The Parliamentary Privileges Act has since been amended and the House no longer has the power to expel members.

Archived Posts

Print Friendly