How people elect parliaments
The Australian federal election had been called.
On the Prime Minister’s advice, the Governor-General of the Commonwealth, Sir Peter Cosgrove, will dissolve both the House of Representatives and the Senate on Monday 9 May. Elections for both houses will be called for Saturday 2 July.
The House is dissolved at each election, but normally the Senate is not formally dissolved.
In a standard election, 40 of the 76 senators (6 for each state and two for each territory) are elected. The 36 newly elected state senators are then ready to take up their seats on the following 1 July for six-year terms. The 4 territory senators however take office when the Parliament resumes after the election, and their tenure is linked to the three-year term of the House.
At this election the Governor-General has taken the rare step of a full dissolution of the Senate, due to the existence of three bills which the Government has twice failed to persuade the Senate to pass. 12 senators will be elected in each state, together with the same two for each territory.
After the election the 12 senators for each state will be divided into two groups of six. One group will serve six year terms backdated to the coming 1 July, while the other will serve three year terms starting on the same date. In this way the two-phase rotation of Senate seats will be restarted.
For a description of how the two groups of senators will be determined, turn to the comprehensive explanation by the ABC’s elections expert Antony Green.
The House of Representatives will be elected in its normal manner. Outlines of the voting systems for the two houses – and their practical outcomes in terms of representation – are set out at at this website’s preview page for the election.
The 8-week campaign will unusually long by Australian standards. To understand and keep track of it, there are several excellent election sites in Australia. Antony Green has published a comprehensive background and preview of the election, including analysis of the states and the key marginal seats.
If you are a Crikey subscriber – which is greatly to be encouraged – William Bowe’s PollBludger will track the polling and predictions for you, as will the Guardian’s new Poll of Polls page. Detailed monitoring of seat prospects and polls will be found from Tasmania’s Kevin Bonham, Ben Rau’s Tallyroom, and Antony Green’s home at the ABC.
This site will focus less on polls and politics, and more on the functioning of the electoral system itself at generating quality representation of the electorate, and the effects that the system has on politics.