An introduction to the Australian Senate and its procedures.
Please note this guide has not been updated to reflect the composition of the Senate resulting from the May 2022 federal election. For contact details for Senators see How to Contact Australian Members of Parliament.
Introduction to the Australian Senate
This guide is intended to be an introduction to the Senate and its procedures rather than a comprehensive resource. It is designed to give NGO staff an understanding of the basics of the Senate and how to best achieve policy and campaigning goals.
More information on Senate practice and procedure can be found on the Australian Parliament House site.
The Role of the Senate
The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, or the federal Parliament, is made up of two houses— the House of Representatives and the Senate. Both are directly elected by the people of Australia.
The functions of the Senate are to represent the states equally and to review the proposals and decisions of the House of Representatives and the executive government.
Equal representation of the states was intended by the framers of the Constitution to protect the less-populous states, Western Australia, Tasmania, South Australia and Queensland, against the possible domination of the more prosperous and more populous states of Victoria and New South Wales.
Who’s in the Senate?
There are 76 Senators; 12 from each state & 2 from each territory.
Senators are elected for a 6 year term. There is a half-Senate election every federal election.
The House of Representatives
The House of Representatives is generally considered the main game in politics for most of the media and the public, because the Government is formed in the Lower House. Most Government Bills originate in the House, and it is a requirement for appropriation Bills to originate in the House. Until recently, independents and minor parties have not had a significant foothold in the House, and as such NGOs have more chance of influencing policy outcomes through the Senate.
- INTRODUCTION TO THE SENATE 3
- THE LEGISLATIVE PROCESS 6
- The Stages of a Bill 6
- TOOLS OF THE SENATE 8
- Motions 8
- Order of Production of Documents 8
- Disallowance 9
- Matter of Public Importance Speeches – MPI (Daily Debate on an Urgent Issue/s) 9
- Private Senator’s Bills 9
- Questions without Notice 9
- Adjournment Speeches 10
- Consideration of Documents, Committee Reports, Ministerial Statements and Government Responses 10
- Suspension of Standing Orders 10
- Petitions 10
- OUTSIDE THE CHAMBER 11
- Committees 11
- Estimates 12
- GLOSSARY 13
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