Adam Carr's guide to
The 2007 Australian federal election

About Australian elections

The House of Representatives

The House of Representatives has 150 members, elected from single-member constituencies of approximately equal population, by the single-transferable vote system (known in Australia as preferential voting). Thus, in any seat where no candidate polls 50% of the vote, the candidates of minor parties are eliminated and their votes distributed to the major parties in accordance with the preferences indicated by the voter. In each seat there is therefore a "two-party majority" - the majority obtained by the winning candidate after the distribution of preferences.

At the 2004 election the coalition of the Liberal Party of Australia and The Nationals won 87 seats (75 Liberals and 12 Nationals). The Australian Labor Party won 60. Three independents were elected. One of the independents is not re-contesting his seat in 2007 and I am assigning that seat to the Nationals, although it could elect another independent. Labor thus needs to gain 16 seats to win 76 seats and a one-seat majority in the House of Representatives. If Labor gains 14 or 15 seats, and the two independents are re-elected, then those independents will have the balance of power in the House and will be able to determine who can form a government.

The Senate

The Senate has 76 members: 12 from each of the six states and two from each of the self-governing territories. The Senators from the states are elected for six-year terms, with half the Senate (six from each state) coming up for election at each three-yearly election. The Senate is elected by proportional representation: a quota for election is one-seventh of the vote or 14.3%. Voting is by the single transferable vote system, known in Australia as preferential voting. The Senators for the territories serve three-year terms, with all territory Senators facing re-election at each election. After the 2004 election, the coalition of the Liberal Party and The Nationals had 39 seats (33 Liberals and six Nationals). The Australian Labor Party had 28 seats, the Australian Democrats and the Australian Greens had four seats each, and Family First had one seat.

At this election, six Senators from each state will be facing re-election, as will the four territory Senators. Those facing re-election from the states are those elected in 2001: 21 Coalition Senators (19 Liberals and two Nationals), 12 Labor Senators, four Australian Democrat Senators and two Australian Greens Senators. Those from the terrotories are two Coalition Senators (one Liberal and one from the Northern Territory Country Liberal Party, who is counted as a National) and two Labor Senators.

For the Coalition to lose its Senate majority at this election, it would need to lose two seats to the other parties. This is considered unlikely. It is considered likely that the Democrats will lose all of their four Senate seats: these are likely to go either to Labor or the Greens.

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