Forming federal Government

The members of both these houses are elected by the citizens of Australia as a representative democracy, to make decisions and laws on our behalf.

House of Representatives

At a federal election you will vote for a person to represent your geographic area—known as an electorate, electoral division or seat—in the House of Representatives (often called the ‘people’s house’). There are 151 federal electoral divisions. These electorates are population based, and each state or territory is divided into electorates which contain similar numbers of voters.

The House of Representatives is made up of people who have successfully stood for election for a House of Representatives  electorate, known as Members of Parliament (MPs). A candidate must gain more than 50 per cent of the formal votes at a federal election (or by-election) to win their seat.

Poster: Counting House of Representatives votes

The political party (or coalition of parties) that forms Government is the one that has won the majority of seats in the House of Representatives.

The Prime Minister is chosen by a vote of the members of the political party that has successfully formed Government at an election.

The Senate

The Senate is also called the ‘States’ House’ or the ‘House of review’. There are 76 senators in the Senate.

All states are equally represented in the Senate regardless of their size or population. Each state elects 12 senators, and the ACT and NT elect two senators each. A candidate must gain a designated quota of votes to be elected to represent their state or territory.

The Senate - along with the House of Representatives - reviews, debates and votes on proposed laws.

Poster: Counting Senate votes

Updated: 3 December 2019