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Chapter I: The Parliament

Part II – The Senate

The Senate

The Senate shall be composed of senators for each State, directly chosen by the people of the State, voting, until the Parliament otherwise provides, as one electorate.

But until the Parliament of the Commonwealth otherwise provides, the Parliament of the State of Queensland, if that State be an Original State, may make laws dividing the State into divisions and determining the number of senators to be chosen for each division, and in the absence of such provision the State shall be one electorate.

Until the Parliament otherwise provides there shall be six senators for each Original State. The Parliament may make laws increasing or diminishing the number of senators for each State5, but so that equal representation of the several Original States shall be maintained and that no Original State shall have less than six senators.

The senators shall be chosen for a term of six years, and the names of the senators chosen for each State shall be certified by the Governor to the Governor-General.

Qualification of electors

The qualification of electors of senators shall be in each State that which is prescribed by this Constitution, or by the Parliament, as the qualification for electors of members of the House of Representatives; but in the choosing of senators each elector shall vote only once.

Method of election of senators

The Parliament of the Commonwealth may make laws prescribing the method of choosing senators, but so that the method shall be uniform for all the States. Subject to any such law, the Parliament of each State may make laws6 prescribing the method of choosing the senators for that State.

Times and places

The Parliament of a State may make laws6 for determining the times and places of elections of senators for the State.

Application of State laws

Until the Parliament otherwise provides, but subject to this Constitution, the laws in force in each State, for the time being, relating to elections for the more numerous House of the Parliament of the State shall, as nearly as practicable, apply to elections of senators for the State.

Failure to choose senators

The Senate may proceed to the despatch of business, notwithstanding the failure of any State to provide for its representation in the Senate.

Issue of writs

The Governor of any State may cause writs to be issued for elections of senators for the State. In case of the dissolution of the Senate the writs shall be issued within ten days from the proclamation of such dissolution.

Rotation of senators7

As soon as may be after the Senate first meets, and after each first meeting of the Senate following a dissolution thereof, the Senate shall divide the senators chosen for each State into two classes, as nearly equal in number as practicable; and the places of the senators of the first class shall become vacant at the expiration of three years, and the places of those of the second class at the expiration of six years, from the beginning of their term of service; and afterwards the places of senators shall become vacant at the expiration of six years from the beginning of their term of service.

The election to fill vacant places shall be made within one year before the places are to become vacant.

For the purposes of this section the term of service of a senator shall be taken to begin on the first day of July following the day of his election, except in the cases of the first election and of the election next after any dissolution of the Senate, when it shall be taken to begin on the first day of July preceding the day of his election.

Further provision for rotation

Whenever the number of senators for a State is increased or diminished, the Parliament of the Commonwealth may make such provision for the vacating of the places of senators for the State as it deems necessary to maintain regularity in the rotation.8

Casual vacancies9

If the place of a senator becomes vacant before the expiration of his term of service, the Houses of Parliament of the State for which he was chosen, sitting and voting together, or, if there is only one House of that Parliament, that House, shall choose a person to hold the place until the expiration of the term. But if the Parliament of the State is not in session when the vacancy is notified, the Governor of the State, with the advice of the Executive Council thereof, may appoint a person to hold the place until the expiration of fourteen days from the beginning of the next session of the Parliament of the State or the expiration of the term, whichever first happens.

Where a vacancy has at any time occurred in the place of a senator chosen by the people of a State and, at the time when he was so chosen, he was publicly recognized by a particular political party as being an endorsed candidate of that party and publicly represented himself to be such a candidate, a person chosen or appointed under this section in consequence of that vacancy, or in consequence of that vacancy and a subsequent vacancy or vacancies, shall, unless there is no member of that party available to be chosen or appointed, be a member of that party.

Where:

  1. in accordance with the last preceding paragraph, a member of a particular political party is chosen or appointed to hold the place of a senator whose place had become vacant; and
  2. before taking his seat he ceases to be a member of that party (otherwise than by reason of the party having ceased to exist);

he shall be deemed not to have been so chosen or appointed and the vacancy shall be again notified in accordance with section twenty-one of this Constitution.

The name of any senator chosen or appointed under this section shall be certified by the Governor of the State to the Governor-General.

If the place of a senator chosen by the people of a State at the election of senators last held before the commencement of the Constitution Alteration (Senate Casual Vacancies) 1977 became vacant before that commencement and, at that commencement, no person chosen by the House or Houses of Parliament of the State, or appointed by the Governor of the State, in consequence of that vacancy, or in consequence of that vacancy and a subsequent vacancy or vacancies, held office, this section applies as if the place of the senator chosen by the people of the State had become vacant after that commencement.

A senator holding office at the commencement of the Constitution Alteration (Senate Casual Vacancies) 1977, being a senator appointed by the Governor of a State in consequence of a vacancy that had at any time occurred in the place of a senator chosen by the people of the State, shall be deemed to have been appointed to hold the place until the expiration of fourteen days after the beginning of the next session of the Parliament of the State that commenced or commences after he was appointed and further action under this section shall be taken as if the vacancy in the place of the senator chosen by the people of the State had occurred after that commencement.

Subject to the next succeeding paragraph, a senator holding office at the commencement of the Constitution Alteration (Senate Casual Vacancies) 1977 who was chosen by the House or Houses of Parliament of a State in consequence of a vacancy that had at any time occurred in the place of a senator chosen by the people of the State shall be deemed to have been chosen to hold office until the expiration of the term of service of the senator elected by the people of the State.

If, at or before the commencement of the Constitution Alteration (Senate Casual Vacancies) 1977, a law to alter the Constitution entitled "Constitution Alteration (Simultaneous Elections) 1977" came into operation,10 a senator holding office at the commencement of that law who was chosen by the House or Houses of Parliament of a State in consequence of a vacancy that had at any time occurred in the place of a senator chosen by the people of the State shall be deemed to have been chosen to hold office:

  1. if the senator elected by the people of the State had a term of service expiring on the thirtieth day of June, One thousand nine hundred and seventy-eight – until the expiration or dissolution of the first House of Representatives to expire or be dissolved after that law came into operation; or
  2. if the senator elected by the people of the State had a term of service expiring on the thirtieth day of June, One thousand nine hundred and eighty-one – until the expiration or dissolution of the second House of Representatives to expire or be dissolved after that law came into operation; or, if there is an earlier dissolution of the Senate, until that dissolution.

Qualifications of senator

The qualifications of a senator shall be the same as those of a member of the House of Representatives.

Election of President

The Senate shall, before proceeding to the despatch of any other business, choose a senator to be the President of the Senate; and as often as the office of President becomes vacant the Senate shall again choose a senator to be the President.

The President shall cease to hold his office if he ceases to be a senator. He may be removed from office by a vote of the Senate, or he may resign his office or his seat by writing addressed to the Governor-General.

Absence of President

Before or during any absence of the President, the Senate may choose a senator to perform his duties in his absence.

Resignation of senator

A senator may, by writing addressed to the President, or to the Governor-General if there is no President or if the President is absent from the Commonwealth, resign his place, which thereupon shall become vacant.

Vacancy by absence

The place of a senator shall become vacant if for two consecutive months of any session of the Parliament he, without the permission of the Senate, fails to attend the Senate.

Vacancy to be notified

Whenever a vacancy happens in the Senate, the President, or if there is no President or if the President is absent from the Commonwealth the Governor-General, shall notify the same to the Governor of the State in the representation of which the vacancy has happened.

Quorum

Until the Parliament otherwise provides, the presence of at least one-third of the whole number of the senators shall be necessary to constitute a meeting of the Senate for the exercise of its powers.

Voting in Senate

Questions arising in the Senate shall be determined by a majority of votes, and each senator shall have one vote. The President shall in all cases be entitled to a vote; and when the votes are equal the question shall pass in the negative.

Note 5

Section 7 – The number of senators for each State was increased to 12 by the Representation Act 1983, s. 3.

Note 6

Section 9 – The following State Acts have been passed in pursuance of the powers conferred by s. 9:

State Number Short title How affected
New South Wales No. 73, 1900 Federal Elections Act 1900 Ss. 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 and the Schedule repealed by No. 9, 1903; wholly repealed by No. 41, 1912
No. 9, 1903 Senators' Elections Act 1903 (Still in force)
Victoria No. 1715 Federal Elections Act 1900 Repealed by No. 1860
No. 1860 Senate Elections (Times and Places) Act 1903 Repealed by No. 2723
No. 2399 Senate Elections (Times and Places) Act 1912 Repealed by No. 2723
No. 2723 Senate Elections (Times and Places) Act 1915 Repealed by No. 3769
No. 3769 Senate Elections (Times and Places) Act 1928 Repealed by No. 6365
No. 6365 Senate Elections Act 1958 (Still in force)
Queensland 64 Vic. No. 25 The Parliament of the Commonwealth Elections Act and The Elections Acts 1885 to 1898 Amendment Act of 1900 Operation exhausted
3 Edw.VII. No. 6 The Election of Senators Act of 1903 Repealed by 9 Eliz. II. No. 20
9 Eliz. II. No. 20 Senate Elections Act 1960 (Still in force)
South Australia No. 834, 1903 The Election of Senators
Act 1903
(Still in force)
Western Australia No. 11, 1903 Election of Senators Act 1903 (Still in force)
Tasmania 64 Vic. No. 59 The Federal Elections Act 1900 Repealed by
26 Geo. V. No. 3
3 Edw. VII No. 5 The Election of Senators Act 1903 Repealed by
26 Geo. V. No. 3
26 Geo. V No. 3 Senate Elections Act 1935 (Still in force)

Note 7

Section 13 was amended by the Constitution Alteration (Senate Elections) 1906, and previously read as follows:

"13. As soon as may be after the Senate first meets, and after each first meeting of the Senate following a dissolution thereof, the Senate shall divide the senators chosen for each State into two classes, as nearly equal in number as practicable; and the places of the senators of the first class shall become vacant at the expiration of the third year, and the places of those of the second class at the expiration of the sixth year, from the beginning of their term of service; and afterwards the places of senators shall become vacant at the expiration of six years from the beginning of their term of service.

The election to fill vacant places shall be made in the year at the expiration of which the places are to become vacant.

For the purposes of this section the term of service of a senator shall be taken to begin on the first day of January following the day of his election, except in the case of the first election and of the election next after any dissolution of the Senate, when it shall be taken to begin on the first day of January preceding the day of his election."

Note 8

Section 14 – For the provisions applicable upon the increase in the number of senators to 12 made by the Representation Act 1983, see s. 3 of that Act.

Note 9

Section 15 was amended by the Constitution Alteration (Senate Casual Vacancies) 1977, and previously read as follows:

"15. If the place of a senator becomes vacant before the expiration of his term of service, the Houses of Parliament of the State for which he was chosen shall, sitting and voting together, choose a person to hold the place until the expiration of the term, or until the election of a successor as hereinafter provided, whichever first happens. But if the Houses of Parliament of the State are not in session at the time when the vacancy is notified, the Governor of the State, with the advice of the Executive Council thereof, may appoint a person to hold the place until the expiration of fourteen days after the beginning of the next session of the Parliament of the State, or until the election of a successor, whichever first happens.

At the next general election of members of the House of Representatives, or at the next election of senators for the State, whichever first happens, a successor shall, if the term has not then expired, be chosen to hold the place from the date of his election until the expiration of the term.

The name of any senator so chosen or appointed shall be certified by the Governor of the State to the Governor-General."

Note 10

Section 15 – The proposed law to alter the Constitution entitled "Constitution Alteration (Simultaneous Elections) 1977" was submitted to the electors in each State of the Commonwealth on 21 May 1977: it was not approved by a majority of all the electors voting in a majority of the States. See Gazette 1977, No. S100, p. 1.