Australian House of Representatives
name = Australian House of Representatives
session_room = House of Representatives, Parliament House, Canberra.jpg
house_type = Lower house
leader1_type = Speaker of the House
party1 = Labor
election1 = 12 February 2008
members = 150
p_groups = ALP (83)
Liberal Party (55)
National Party (9)
election3 = 24 November 2007
meeting_place = Parliament House,
website = [http://www.aph.gov.au/house/index.htm House of Representatives] The House of Representatives is one of the two houses (chambers) of the
Parliament of Australia; it is the lower house, the upper housebeing the Senate.
Origins and role
The House is presided over by the Speaker.
The 150 members of the House are elected from single-member electorates (geographic districts, sometimes known as "seats" but officially known as "
Divisions of the Australian House of Representatives"). Though one vote one valuelegislation requires all electorates to have the same number of voterswith a maximum 10 per cent variation, some exceptions are made for geographical or practical reasons. Subsequently, the smallest electorate has around 60,000 voters, with the largest holding around 120,000 voters. They are designed to be relatively equal across the state or territory within which the electorate exists. Voting is by the 'preferential system', also known as instant-runoff voting. A full allocation of preferences is required for a vote to be considered formal. This allows for a calculation of the two party preferredvote.
The number of electorates in each state and territory is determined by population. The parliamentary entitlement of a state or territory is established by the Electoral Commissioner dividing the number of the people of the Commonwealth by twice the number of Senators. The population of each state and territory is then divided by this quota to determine the number of members to which each state and territory is entitled. Under the
Australian Constitutionall original states are guaranteed at least five members. The Federal Parliament itself has decided that the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory should have at least one member each.
According to the Australian Constitution, the powers of both houses are nearly equal, with the consent of both houses needed to pass
legislation. The difference mostly relates to taxation legislation. In practice, by convention, the leader of the party (or coalition of parties) with a majority of members in the lower house is invited by the Governor-General to form the Government. Thus the leader becomes the Prime Minister and some of the other elected members of the government party in both the House and the Senate become ministers responsible for various portfolios and administer government departments. Bills appropriating money (supply bills) can only be introduced in the lower house and thus only the party with a majority in the lower house can govern. In the current Australian party system, this ensures that virtually all contentious votes are along party lines, and the Government always has a majority in those votes.
The Opposition party's main role in the House is to present arguments against the Government's policies and legislation, and attempt to hold the Government accountable as much as possible by asking questions of importance during
Question Timeand during debates on legislation. By contrast, the only period of recent times during which the government of day has had a majority in the Senate was from July 2005 (following the 2004 election) to July 2008 (following the 2007 election). Hence, votes in the Senate are usually more meaningful. The House's well-established committee system is not always as prominent as the Senate committee system because of the frequent lack of Senate majority.
In a reflection of the
United Kingdom House of Commons, the predominant colour of the furnishings in the House of Representatives is green. However, the colour was tinted slightly to suggest the colour of eucalyptustrees.
The composition of the House
The election results of the most recent federal election, were as follows: [Australian Electoral Commission, Virtual Tally Room 2007, Senate results, [http://results.aec.gov.au/13745/website/HouseStateFirstPrefsByParty-13745-NAT.htm First preferences by Group] , retrieved January 2008]
Australian House election, 2007 A third independent
Rob Oakeshottwas elected in a 2008 Lyne by-election, reducing the Nationals to nine seats and the coalition total to 64.
Current distribution of seats
eats won by party at Australian elections, 1946ndash 2007
An interesting feature of the Australian House is its Main Committee, designed to be an alternative debating chamber; it is modeled after the
Committee of the Wholethat exists in several different legislatures, particularly the United States House of Representativesand British House of Commons. Matters considered to be relatively uncontroversial can be referred by the entire House to the Main Committee, where substantive debate can take place. The Main Committee cannot, however, initiate nor make a final decision on any parliamentary business, although it can perform all tasks in between. [" [http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/journals/UNSWLJ/2001/55.html The Structure Of The Australian House Of Representatives Over Its First One Hundred Years: The Impact Of Globalisation] ," Ian Harris]
The Main Committee was created in 1994, to relieve some of the burden of the entire House: different matters can be processed in the House at large and in the Main Committee, as they sit simultaneously. It is designed to be less formal, with a quorum of only three members: the Deputy Speaker of the House, one government member, and one non-government member. Decisions must be unanimous: any divided decision sends the question back to the House at large.
The Main Committee was created through the House's Standing Orders: [ [http://www.aph.gov.au/house/pubs/standos/chapter14.htm Standing and Sessional Orders] , House of Representatives] it is thus a subordinate body of the House, and can only be in session while the House itself is in session. When a division vote in the House occurs, members in the Main Committee must return to the House to vote.
The Main Committee is housed in one of the House's committee rooms: the room is customized for this purpose and is laid out to resemble the House chamber. [ [http://www.peo.gov.au/students/fss/fss08.html Main Committee Fact Sheet] , Parliamentary Education Office]
Due to the unique role of the Main Committee, proposals have been made to rename the body to avoid confusion with other parliamentary committees. Proposals include "Second Chamber" [" [http://www.aph.gov.au/House/committee/proc/reports/secondchamber/ The Second Chamber: Enhancing the Main Committee] ", House of Representatives] and "Federation Chamber". [" [http://www.aph.gov.au/House/committee/proc/reports/renamingmc/ Renaming the Main Committee] ", House of Representatives]
The concept of a parallel body to expedite Parliamentary business, based on the Australian Main Committee, was mentioned in a 1998
British House of Commonsreport. [cite web
title=Select Committee on Modernisation of the House of Commons First Report
British House of Commons
7 December 1998
Australian House of Representatives committees
List of members of the Australian House of Representatives
Speaker of the Australian House of Representatives
Clerk of the Australian House of Representatives
List of longest-serving members of the Australian House of Representatives
Women in the Australian House of Representatives
List of Australian federal by-elections
Canberra Press Gallery
* [http://www.aph.gov.au/HOUSE/PUBS/PRACTICE/chapter5.htm House of Representatives Practice: APH]
* [http://www.aph.gov.au/house/committee/index.htm House of Representatives Committees] ndash Parliament of Australia
* [http://webcast.aph.gov.au/livebroadcasting/ Australian Parliamentndash live broadcasting]
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