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The Australian Parliament

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The Parliament of Australia consists of:

• The Queen represented by Australia’s Governor-General
• The Australian Senate
• The Australian House of Representatives.

The Parliament of Australia (formally named the Parliament of the Commonwealth) is made up of a total of 226 people popularly elected to the Senate and House of Representatives to represent the interests of Australians and to ‘make laws for the peace, order and good government of the nation’ (section 51 Australian Constitution).

What does the Parliament of Australia do?

The Australian Parliament has four main functions:

1. Law-making

o The Parliament makes national laws on behalf of the Australian people.

2. Representation

o The Parliament represents the views and interests of Australian citizens, parties and other groups.

3. Formation of government

o The Parliament forms government from the party (or coalition of parties) which achieve a majority in the House of Representatives following a federal election.

4. Scrutiny

o The Parliament scrutinises the work of executive government; especially its spending of public money.
Where is the Parliament of Australia?

The Parliament of Australia meets at Parliament House Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory. Canberra is the capital of Australia and the centre of Australian governance.

Role of the Senate

Role of the House of Representatives


What happens in the two chambers?

The Senate and the House of Representatives follow a daily agenda respectively called the Order of Business and Daily Program. During sitting weeks chamber routine usually includes:

1. Prayers
2. Government business


    •  Government business usually involves the introduction of bills and/or debating and voting on bills. 
    • Time is set aside on Mondays in the House of Representatives for the introduction of private members’ bills. (Private senators’ bills are treated as government business)


3. Question Time.

    • Question Time usually occurs at 2pm each sitting day. 
    • Question Time gives members and senators the opportunity to question and scrutinise the performance of executive government.

4. Matters of Public Importance (MPI)

    • The MPI session is usually initiated by a non-government party on a current issue.

5. Adjournment debate

    • The adjournment debate consists of a series of short speeches on matters of electoral, state or national interest. The debate is held at the end of the each day.

6. Other business

    • Other business in the chambers may include the presentation of petitions, referral of inquiries to parliamentary committees and tabling of committee reports.
Members of Parliament (MPs)

Members of Parliament are elected to represent the interests of their constituents. This is the principle of representative government and along with responsible government are the foundation stones of the Westminster system.