House of Representatives
On Saturday 21 August when you go to the polling booth in your electorate you will be handed two voting ballots. One will be a small ballot with a list of names. These are the people who are asking you to vote for them in your electorate, one of them will become your local federal member of Parliament. Some will be people belonging to political parties and the name of their party will be shown next to their names.
Others will be independents and will have the word “independent” against their name which means they do not represent any particular political party.
The person who wins the election in your electorate will be your representative in the House of Representatives in the Parliament.
The Prime Minister is the leader in the parliament of the party, or coalition of parties, which has a majority of seats in the House of Representatives. This majority party or coalition becomes the government, with ministers appointed from both the Senate and the House of Representatives to serve in the Cabinet or outer ministry.
The other major political party or coalition with fewer seats in the House of Representatives is called ‘the opposition’.
Members of the House of Representatives seek re-election each time there is a federal election. Senators are elected for a six-year term and in an ordinary general election only half the senators face the voters. All states and territories have their own parliaments too.
In all Australian parliaments questions can be asked without notice, and there is a strict alternation between government and opposition during the time allotted to asking questions (called ‘Question Time’). The rough and tumble of parliamentary Question Time and debates is publicly broadcast and widely reported. This has helped to establish Australia’s reputation for robust public debate, and serves as an informal check on executive power.
Australia is an independent nation with Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom as its constitutional monarch and head of state. The Queen appoints the Governor-General of Australia to represent her, on the advice of the elected Australian Government. The Governor-General appoints ministers on the advice of the Prime Minister and, by convention, acts only on the advice of ministers on virtually all matters.
Australia has a written Constitution that sets out the functions of the Australian Government, such as foreign relations and trade, defence and immigration. States and territories are responsible for matters not assigned to the federal government. In practice the two levels of government cooperate in many areas. Income and goods and services taxes are levied federally, and debate between the levels of government about access to revenue and duplication of expenditure functions is a perennial feature of Australian politics.
Did you know?
The Australian Constitution can be amended only with the approval of the electorate through a national referendum in which all adults on the electoral roll must participate. Any constitutional changes must be approved by a double majority—a national majority of electors as well as a majority of electors in a majority of the states (at least four of the six). The double majority provision makes alterations to the Constitution difficult, and since Federation in 1901 only eight out of 44 proposals to amend the Constitution have been approved.
A national general election must be held within three years from the first meeting of a new federal Parliament. A Prime Minister can ask the Governor-General to call a general election, however, before the three-year term has been served. Since the first Parliament opened on 9 May 1901, there have been 42 elections to the House of Representatives. The most recent federal election was held on 24 November 2007. The next federal election must be held before 12 February 2010.
Voting is compulsory in Australia and there is a small financial penalty for failing to vote. The turnout at Australian elections has never fallen below 90 per cent since the introduction of compulsory voting in 1924. For federal elections, the country is divided into electoral divisions. Australian voters choose among the candidates who are standing in their local division.
Australia does not use the ‘first-past-the-post’ voting system (where a candidate can be elected with less than 50 per cent of the total vote). Preferential voting is used for elections to the House of Representatives. Australians must put a number against each candidate’s name in order of preference. First, all the number ‘1’ votes are counted for each candidate. If a candidate gets more than 50 per cent (an absolute majority, 50 per cent plus one) of the formal first preference votes, then they are immediately elected. If no candidate has an absolute majority, the candidate with the fewest votes is excluded. These votes are then transferred to the other candidates according to the second preferences shown by voters on the ballot papers. If still no candidate has an absolute majority, again the remaining candidate with the fewest votes is excluded and these votes are transferred. This process will continue until one candidate has more than half the total votes cast and is declared ‘elected’. This voting system has been used in Australian federal elections since 1918.
To help supporters order their preferences, political parties hand out ‘how-to-vote’ cards at polling booths. The preferences that flow from less popular candidates often decide who wins. Distributing preferences can take days or even weeks.
Proportional representation is used in the Senate. Candidates must receive a quota of the voters in state-wide, multiple-seat electorates. Preferences are also used in Senate voting. The Senate currently has 76 members, 12 from each state and two each from the two mainland territories. The House of Representatives currently has 150 members.
As in other democracies, the cost of election campaigns and the source of funds for political activity are subject to public scrutiny. Since 1984, a system of public funding and disclosure for campaigns has been in place. Parties must receive at least 4 per cent of the vote in the elections to receive public funding administered by the Australian Electoral Commission.
Did you know?
Australia pioneered reforms that underpin the electoral practices of modern democracies. In 1855 Victoria introduced the secret ballot, which became known throughout the world as the ‘Australian ballot’. In 1856 South Australia eliminated professional and property qualifications and gave the vote to all men, and in 1892 gave women the vote. In the 1890s the Australian colonies adopted the principle of one vote per person, stopping the practice of multiple voting.
The legal system
The Australian legal system is founded on the concepts of the rule of law, justice and equality before the law. In Australia’s common law system, principles such as procedural fairness, judicial precedent, prospective legislation and the separation of powers are fundamental.
In Australia each of the federal and state systems incorporates the three arms of government: legislative, executive and judicial. A state or territory parliament may make laws on any subject of relevance to it. However, within the powers defined by the Constitution, federal law may override state or territory law.
The judiciary is separate from the legislative and executive arms of government. In interpreting and applying the law, judges act independently of governments. In the case of federal judges, their security of tenure is guaranteed by the Constitution. In the states and territories, legislation provides security of tenure for judges. The High Court of Australia is the final court of appeal on all matters, whether decided in federal or state jurisdictions, and the federal Parliament is empowered under the Constitution to invest state or territory courts with federal jurisdiction.
CARERS ALLIANCE CANDIDATES FOR HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Our how to vote cards are not ready as we are waiting to see who we will preference dependent on policy. Below are our candidates election flyers.
BENNELONG – MARY MOCKLER -Mary Mockler for Bennelong
MACQUARIE – TERRY TREMETHICK – Terry Tremethick for Macquarie
WENTWORTH – STUART NEAL – Stuart Neal for Wentworth