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Australian House of Representatives

Australian House of Representatives
44th Parliament
Coat of arms or logo
Type
Type
Leadership
Bronwyn BishopLiberal
since 12 November 2013
Christopher PyneLiberal
since 18 September 2013
Tony BurkeLabor
since 18 October 2013
Structure
Seats 150
Australian House of Representatives, 44th Parliament.svg
Political groups

Government (90)

Opposition (55)

Crossbench (5)

*16 LNP MPs sit in the Liberal party room and 6 in the National party room
Elections
Full preferential voting
Last election
7 September 2013
Next election
Next federal election
Meeting place
Australian House of Representatives - Parliament of Australia.jpg
House of Representatives chamber
Parliament House
Canberra, ACT, Australia
Website
House of Representatives
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
Australia
House of Representatives' entrance
Inside the House of Representatives

The House of Representatives is one of the two houses (chambers) of the Parliament of Australia. It is referred to as the lower house, with the Senate being referred to as the upper house. The term limit for members of the House of Representatives is a maximum of approximately three years, but may be abridged if an early election is called.

The present Parliament is the 44th Federal Parliament of the Federation. The most recent federal election was held on 7 September 2013 and the House first sat on 12 November. The Liberal/National Coalition won 90 seats out of 150 and formed the government. Labor hold 55 seats and form the opposition. The Australian Greens, Palmer United Party and Katter's Australian Party each hold a single seat, while the remaining two are held by independents.[1]

Contents

  • Origins and role 1
  • Federation Chamber 2
  • The composition of the House 3
    • Final distribution of seats 3.1
  • Primary, TPP and seat results since 1937 4
  • See also 5
  • Notes 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Origins and role

The Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act (Imp.) of 1900 established the House of Representatives as part of the new system of dominion government in newly federated Australia. The House is presided over by the Speaker. The 150 members of the House are elected from single member electorates (geographic districts, commonly referred to as "seats" but officially known as "Divisions of the Australian House of Representatives"). One vote one value legislation requires all electorates to have the same number of voters with a maximum 10 per cent variation. However the baseline quota for the number of voters in an electorate is determined by the number of voters in the state in which that electorate is found. Subsequently, the electorates of the smallest states and territories have more variation in the number of voters in their electorates, with the smallest holding around 60,000 voters and the largest holding around 120,000 voters. Meanwhile the largest states have electorates with more equal voter numbers, with most electorates holding 85,000 to 100,000 voters. Voting is by the 'preferential system', also known as instant-runoff voting. A full allocation of preferences is required for a vote to be considered formal. This allows for a calculation of the two-party-preferred vote.

The number of electorates in each state and territory is determined by population. The parliamentary entitlement of a state or territory is established by the Electoral Commissioner dividing the number of the people of the Commonwealth by twice the number of Senators. The population of each state and territory is then divided by this quota to determine the number of members to which each state and territory is entitled. Under the Australian Constitution all original states are guaranteed at least five members. The Federal Parliament itself has decided that the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory should have at least one member each.

The current formula for determining the size of the House has the disadvantage that it can result in a House with the size being an even number (as it is at present). When the numbers are very close, this can result in both major parties having the same number of members, meaning that neither could govern. A formula setting the size of the House at twice the Senate minus one, and then determining the representation in each State and territory, would avoid this difficulty.

According to the Constitution, the powers of both houses are nearly equal, with the consent of both houses needed to pass legislation. The difference mostly relates to taxation legislation. In practice, by convention, the leader of the party (or coalition of parties) with a majority of members in the lower house is invited by the Governor-General to form the Government. Thus the leader becomes the Prime Minister and some of the other elected members of the government party in both the House and the Senate become ministers responsible for various portfolios and administer government departments. Bills appropriating money (supply bills) can only be introduced in the lower house and thus only the party with a majority in the lower house can govern. In the current Australian party system, this ensures that virtually all contentious votes are along party lines, and the Government always has a majority in those votes.

The Opposition party's main role in the House is to present arguments against the Government's policies and legislation where appropriate, and attempt to hold the Government accountable as much as possible by asking questions of importance during Question Time and during debates on legislation. By contrast, the only period in recent times during which the government of the day has had a majority in the Senate was from July 2005 (following the 2004 election) to December 2007 (following the Coalition's defeat at the federal election that year). Hence, votes in the Senate are usually more meaningful. The House's well-established committee system is not always as prominent as the Senate committee system because of the frequent lack of Senate majority.

In a reflection of the United Kingdom House of Commons, the predominant colour of the furnishings in the House of Representatives is green. However, the colour was tinted slightly in the new Parliament House (opened 1988) to suggest the colour of eucalyptus trees.

Australian parliaments are notoriously rowdy, with MPs often trading colourful insults. As a result, the Speaker often has to use the disciplinary powers granted to him or her under Standing Orders.[2]

Federation Chamber

The Federation Chamber is a second debating chamber that considers relatively uncontroversial matters referred by the House. The Federation Chamber cannot, however, initiate or make a final decision on any parliamentary business, although it can perform all tasks in between.[3]

The Federation Chamber was created in 1994 as the Main Committee, to relieve some of the burden of the House: different matters can be processed in the House at large and in the Federation Chamber, as they sit simultaneously. It is designed to be less formal, with a quorum of only three members: the Deputy Speaker of the House, one government member, and one non-government member. Decisions must be unanimous: any divided decision sends the question back to the House at large.

The Federation Chamber was created through the House's Standing Orders:[4] it is thus a subordinate body of the House, and can only be in session while the House itself is in session. When a division vote in the House occurs, members in the Federation Chamber must return to the House to vote.

The Federation Chamber is housed in one of the House's committee rooms; the room is customised for this purpose and is laid out to resemble the House chamber.[5]

Due to the unique role of what was then called the Main Committee, proposals were made to rename the body to avoid confusion with other parliamentary committees, including "Second Chamber"[6] and "Federation Chamber".[7] The House of Representatives later adopted the latter proposal.[8]

The concept of a parallel body to expedite Parliamentary business, based on the Australian Federation Chamber, was mentioned in a 1998 British House of Commons report,[9] which led to the creation of that body's parallel chamber Westminster Hall.[10]

The composition of the House

The 2013 election was held on 7 September 2013, which resulted in the victory of the Coalition led by Tony Abbott with a 90–55 margin, thereby ending the minority government held by the previous Labor Party government.

House of Representatives (IRV) — Turnout 93.23% (CV) —
Informal 5.91%
[11]
Party Votes % Swing Seats Change
  Australian Labor Party 4,311,365 33.38 −4.61 55 −17
  Coalition          
  Liberal Party of Australia 4,134,865 32.02 +1.56 58 +14
  Liberal National Party (QLD) 1,152,217 8.92 −0.20 22 +1
  National Party of Australia 554,268 4.29 +0.56 9 +2
  Country Liberal Party (NT) 41,468 0.32 +0.01 1 0
  Australian Greens 1,116,918 8.65 −3.11 1 0
  Palmer United Party 709,035 5.49 +5.49 1 +1
  Katter's Australian Party 134,226 1.04 +0.73 1 +1
  Independents[1] 177,217 1.37 −0.84 2 −2
  Other 583,348 4.52 +0.41 0 0
  Total 12,914,927     150
Two-party-preferred vote — Turnout 86.60%*[11]
  Liberal/National Coalition 53.45 +3.65 90 +18
  Australian Labor Party 46.55 −3.65 55 −17

Final distribution of seats

Party Seats held Percentage of House
  Liberal/National/LNP/CLP Coalition
90
60%
  Australian Labor Party
55
36.67%
  Independent[1]
2
1.33%
  Australian Greens
1
0.67%
  Palmer United Party
1
0.67%
  Katter's Australian Party
1
0.67%
  Total
150
100%

Primary, TPP and seat results since 1937

ALP = Australian Labor Party, L+NP = grouping of Liberal/National/LNP/CLP Coalition Parties (and predecessors), Oth = other parties and independents.


See also

Notes

References

  1. ^ a b c d The two independents are Andrew Wilkie and Cathy McGowan
  2. ^ Madigan, Michael (27 February 2009). "Barking, biting dog House".  
  3. ^ "The Structure Of The Australian House Of Representatives Over Its First One Hundred Years: The Impact Of Globalisation," Ian Harris
  4. ^ Standing and Sessional Orders, House of Representatives
  5. ^ Main Committee Fact Sheet, Parliamentary Education Office
  6. ^ The Second Chamber: Enhancing the Main Committee, House of Representatives
  7. ^ Renaming the Main Committee, House of Representatives
  8. ^ [House of Representatives Vote and Proceedings], 8 February 2012, Item 8.
  9. ^ "Select Committee on Modernisation of the House of Commons First Report". House of Commons of the United Kingdom. 7 December 1998. Retrieved 20 June 2007. 
  10. ^ House of Commons Standard Note—Modernization: Westminster Hall, SN/PC/3939. Updated 6 March 2006. Retrieved 27 February 2012.
  11. ^ a b "First house preference by party". Virtual Tally Room: 2013 election.  

External links

  • House of Representatives Committees – Parliament of Australia
  • Australian Parliament – live broadcasting
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