30 Facts About Australian Senate


Australian Senate is the upper house of the bicameral Parliament of Australia, the lower house being the House of Representatives.

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The composition and powers of the Australian Senate are established in Chapter I of the Constitution of Australia.

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Unlike upper houses in other Westminster-style parliamentary systems, the Australian Senate is vested with significant powers, including the capacity to reject all bills, including budget and appropriation bills, initiated by the government in the House of Representatives, making it a distinctive hybrid of British Westminster bicameralism and American-style bicameralism.

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Unlike upper Houses in other Westminster system governments, the Australian Senate is not a vestigial body with limited legislative power.

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Rather than being modeled solely after the House of Lords, as the Senate of Canada was, the Australian Senate was in part modeled after the United States Senate, by giving equal representation to each state and equal powers with the lower house.

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The Australian Senate constitution was enacted before the confrontation in 1909 in Britain between the House of Commons and the House of Lords, which ultimately resulted in the restrictions placed on the powers of the House of Lords by the Parliament Acts 1911 and 1949.

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In practice most legislation in the Australian Senate Parliament is initiated by the Government, which has control over the lower house.

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Australian Senate maintains a number of committees, which engage in a wide variety of inquiries.

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The voting changes make it more difficult for new small parties and independent candidates to be elected to the Australian Senate, but allow a voter to voluntarily "exhaust" preferences — that is, to ensure their vote cannot flow to specific candidates or parties — if none of the voter's candidate preferences are elected.

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Constitution permits the Parliament to increase the number of senators, provided that equal numbers of senators from each original state are maintained; accordingly, in 1948, Australian Senate representation was increased from 6 to 10 senators for each state, increasing the total to 60.

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Latest expansion in Australian Senate numbers took place in 1984, when the number of senators from each state was increased from 10 to 12, resulting in a total of 76 senators.

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The seats of senators representing states elected at a half-Australian Senate election are not contested at the next election, provided it is a half-Australian Senate election.

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However, under some circumstances, the entire Australian Senate is dissolved, in what is known as a double dissolution.

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Section 13 of the Constitution requires the Australian Senate to allocate long and short terms amongst its members.

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Slightly more than half of the Australian Senate is contested at each general election, along with the entire House of Representatives.

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Government does not need the support of the Australian Senate to stay in office; however, the Australian Senate can block or defer supply, an action that precipitated a constitutional crisis in 1975.

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Australian Senate serves as a model for some politicians in Canada, particularly in the Western provinces, who wish to reform the Canadian Senate so that it takes a more active legislative role.

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Australian Senate has a regular schedule that structures its typical working week.

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Australian Senate has detailed rules in its standing orders that govern how a bill is considered at each stage.

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The Constitution provides that if the Australian Senate vote is equal, the question shall pass in the negative.

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Government members argued that the Australian Senate continued to be a forum of vigorous debate, and its committees continued to be active.

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The Opposition leader in the Australian Senate suggested that the government had attenuated the scrutinising activities of the Australian Senate.

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Party discipline in Australian Senate politics is extremely tight, so divisions almost always are decided on party lines.

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Nevertheless, the existence of minor parties holding the balance of power in the Australian Senate has made divisions in that chamber more important and occasionally more dramatic than in the House of Representatives.

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Australian Senate contains an even number of senators, so a tied vote is a real prospect .

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In September 2008, Barnaby Joyce became leader of the Nationals in the Australian Senate, and stated that his party in the upper house would no longer necessarily vote with their Liberal counterparts.

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Australian Senate applied the "elected-order" method following the 1987 double dissolution election.

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Since that time the Australian Senate has passed resolutions on several occasions indicating its intention to use the re-count method to allocate seats at any future double dissolution, which Green describes as a fairer approach but notes could be ignored if a majority of senators opted for the "elected-order" method instead.

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Australian Senate has included representatives from a range of political parties, including several parties that have seldom or never had representation in the House of Representatives, but which have consistently secured a small but significant level of electoral support, as the table shows.

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The full Australian Senate has been contested on eight occasions; the inaugural election and seven double dissolutions.

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