The Australian Government has an upper and lower house named the Senate and the House of Representatives, respectively.
The Senate comprises of 76 senators, 12 from each state and two from each territory. Senators represent the whole state or territory, which is why they are typically more famous than members of the Lower House. Queensland currently has six Coalition Senators, three Labor, Larissa Waters from the Greens, Pauline Hanson and Fraser Anning.
Fun Fact: Queensland government doesn’t have a senate.
The House of Representatives comprises of 150 Members of Parliament. These people are the representatives you’ll be voting for in your electorate. Each electorate has one person represent them in Parliament, hence the name. For example, Scott Morrison is the Member for Cook, an electorate in NSW.
A government is formed when a party or a coalition of parties gain a majority of the seats in the House of Representatives.
Voting and Preferencing
At the voting booths, you’ll be given two pieces of paper with boxes to number in order of how you like them, with your most favoured candidate as number 1. The upper and lower house have a ballot paper, and voting is a little different for each.
For the House of Representatives, you’ll see a list of candidates for your electorate in a randomised order. If there are seven candidates, you number them 1-7, with the last being your least favourite. You MUST number every box for your vote to be counted.
For the Senate, you get the choice of voting for a party (above the line) or for individual candidates (below the line). The reference to the line is literal, with a horizontal list of parties above the line and a vertical list of their candidates below the line. The candidate at the top of the list is the lead candidate for that party.
When voting for a party above the line, you MUST number at least 1-6. When voting below the line, you MUST number at least 1-12.
Practise Senate voting here.
Numbering the candidates shows your preference. The candidate or party you number as 1 gets your vote. If they don’t win, your second choice will get your vote instead, and so on. This is a crucial part of making sure everyone’s voice is heard in a democracy and allows people to vote for smaller parties and candidates without feeling like they’re wasting their vote.
Parties also like to hand out how-to-vote cards. These include suggestions of how they’d like you to preference the other candidates. You DO NOT have to follow their suggestion.