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Overview Of The Australian Parliament

Parliament House

The Australian Parliament is also known as the Commonwealth Parliament, or the Federal Parliament.

It is located in Canberra, in the Australian Capital Territory.

The Australian Parliament comprises two chambers known as houses:

  1. House of Representatives – colloquially known as the “lower house” or “the people’s house”
  2. Senate – also known as the “upper house” or “the States house”

The House of Representatives is denoted by the colour green, whilst the Senate is denoted by the colour red.


House of Representatives

At present, the House is made up of 150 single member electorates, also known as seats, or electoral divisions.

Voters in each electorate choose one MHR – “member of the House of Representatives” – at elections which must be held at least once every three years. The elected member is an MP – “member of parliament”.

Each state and territory has a number of electorates in accordance with their population, although each state must always have at least five electorates.

  • New South Wales – 48
  • Victoria – 37
  • Queensland – 30
  • Western Australia – 15
  • South Australia – 11
  • Tasmania – 5
  • Australian Capital Territory – 2
  • Northern Territory – 2
  • TOTAL – 150



The Senate has 76 members, composed of 12 from each State plus two each from the territories.

Senators from the states are elected for six year terms, twice the length of a normal House of Representatives term. Territory senators serve the same term as members of the House of Representatives.

Half of the senators in each state face an election every three years.

In the event of a double dissolution election, all senate positions are up for election.


The government is drawn from the party or parties that command a majority of seats in the House of Representatives.

Together, the two houses of Parliament comprise the Legislative arm of the Australian political system.

Legislation, in the form of bills, has to pass both houses in order to become law.

The Senate has equal power with the House of Representatives over all legislation, except for appropriation, or money bills, which can only originate in the House. Any bill imposing taxation must originate in the lower house.

Parliament House

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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