In federal elections on May 21, Australians will choose Members of Parliament, who will represent their views and interests, to sit in the Senate and House of Representatives. The latter then chooses the Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister is the head of the Australian government. By convention and tradition, the Constitution does not even mention the office of Prime Minister, the Prime Minister, a member of the House of Representatives, leads the parliamentary party or the coalition of parties (with the support of the majority of the members of the House) to exercise executive power. As he is not elected but appointed and he can be replaced at any time during the current mandate.
The right and duty to vote
Voting has been compulsory since 1925 for Australian citizens aged 18 and registration on the electoral rolls. It is also compulsory to go to a polling station on election day or to vote by post.
All foreign persons receiving Australian citizenship are registered on the electoral lists.
Everything is done to make voting accessible to everyone:
- It is possible to vote at any polling station in Australia regardless of where you live.
- It is possible to vote in advance, some polling stations open for a short period before the elections.
- People abroad on election day can either go to the consulate of the country where they are or vote by post.
- The Australian Electoral Commission’s (AEC) mobile polling teams visit many voters unable to reach a polling station (residing in some residential care facilities and in remote areas of Australia).
- Mobile polling stations are held across Australia during the election period.
Federal elections are organized and administered by the Australian Electoral Commission, which ensures that elections are free, fair and legal. The Commonwealth Electoral Act of 1918 and the Australian Constitution define the conditions for the organization of elections.
People who do not vote will be fined $20.
Election of members of the House of Representatives
Section 28 of the Australian Constitution states that elections for the House of Representatives must be held at least every 3 years.
The Prime Minister decides the date of the elections. This can take place at any time during the 3-year term.
There are 151 elected members of the House of Representatives – one for each of Australia’s 151 constituencies. There are approximately the same number of voters in each of them.
The voting system for the election of the House of Representatives
Each member of the House of Representatives is elected under a preferential voting system, designed to elect a single member with an absolute majority for each constituency.
Voters write a number in the box next to each name on the ballot: 1″ for their first preference, “2” for their second preference, and so on, until all the boxes are numbered. If a candidate obtains an absolute majority of the first preference votes, he wins the seat.
If no candidate obtains an absolute majority, the candidate with the fewest votes is excluded and his votes are redistributed according to the second preferences. The process of redistributing votes according to preferences continues until a candidate receives more than 50% of the votes and is then elected.
The election of senators
The Senate is made up of 76 members. Twelve senators are elected to represent each of the 6 states and 2 senators are elected to represent each territory. State senators are elected for a period of 6 years according to a rotation system which guarantees that only half of the state senators complete their term every 3 years. The senators of the territories are elected for a period of 3 years at the same time as the members of the House of Representatives and half of the Senate.
Half-Senate elections are usually held at the same time as the House of Representatives elections, but it is not mandatory.
Method of voting for the election of the Senate
Senators are elected by a preferential voting system (proportional voting) which is designed to allocate seats to candidates in proportion to the votes cast in an election. A wide range of political parties and/or independents are often elected to the Senate.
Voters have the choice of voting above or below the line:
- Voting above the line requires voters to number at least 6 boxes from 1 to 6 for the parties or groups they have chosen. Voters’ preferences are distributed in the order in which the candidates of the chosen parties or groups are listed below the line. The preferences are distributed to the first choice party or group, then to the second choice and so on, until all the preferences are distributed.
- Voting below the line requires voters to number at least 12 boxes from 1 to 12 for individual candidates of their choice (same preference management system).
To win a seat, a senator must obtain a quota of first and second preference votes.
For a state senator in a half-senate election, this equals 14.3% of the total state vote, while a territory senator must get 33.3% of the total vote. of the territory.
The counting procedure for a Senate election is more complicated than the system used for the House of Representatives – it sometimes takes several weeks after an election to count all the Senate votes and finalize the result.
Finalization of the result
Once the election results are finalized, the elected candidates are declared and the mandates are given to the Governor General for the House of Representatives and to the State Governors for the Senate.
The Governor General of Australia is the representative of Her Majesty The Queen. In practice, he is Australia’s head of state and performs a range of constitutional and ceremonial duties. The Governor General is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Defense Force.
The governors of the Australian states are the representatives of the monarch. They are the nominal chief executives of the states, performing the same constitutional and ceremonial duties at the state level as the Governor-General of Australia at the national or federal level. State governors are not subject to the constitutional authority of the governor general, but are directly responsible to the monarch. In practice, with a few notable exceptions, governors are generally required by convention to act on the advice of state prime ministers or other members of a state’s cabinet.
By-elections and occasional holidays
A by-election is a mini-election held for an electorate of the House of Representatives if a member resigns, becomes ineligible, or dies between two federal elections.
While in the Senate, a fortuitous vacancy occurs (for the same reasons) between two federal elections. The senator will be replaced by a candidate from the same political party, chosen by the parliament or legislature of that state/territory.