Glossary of terms used in Australian Government and Politics

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About the database INFORMATION IN THE DATABASE

This website has been created by researchers associated with the University of Western Australia (see Credits) and is intended for anyone who wants to find out general information about Australian parliamentary politics and elections (note the Disclaimer for information displayed on this website).

A description of this website and the database on which it is based can be found in the publication by Campbell Sharman, 'A Web-based Database on Australian Government and Politics', Australian Journal of Political Science, 37(2) July 2002, 347-351. Many of the terms used in the website are explained in the Glossary.

But the best way of finding out the kind of material in the database is to explore the various web pages. The information in the database can be roughly summarized under a number of headings.

1. Elections

Summary details of the results of state assembly (lower house) general elections since 1890 (New South Wales and Tasmania since 1856), and territory assembly general elections since the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory gained self-government.

Summary details of legislative council (upper house) elections for New South Wales, Tasmania and Western Australia (South Australia and Victoria to follow).

Summary details of Commonwealth Parliamentary general elections for the House of Representatives and the Senate since federation in 1901, showing nation wide and state wide election results.

2. Parties

Summary information on parties which have won more than 2 percent of the vote or won a seat at any of the general elections listed above (for full details, see listed party), showing their share of votes and seats, and the various electoral forums in which they have run candidates.

3. Governments, premiers and prime ministers

Summary information on governments based on the periods in office of premiers and prime minister showing such details as the dates on which the premier or prime minister gained and lost office, the reasons for the beginning and end of the period in office, the number of ministers in the government, and the party and parliamentary support for the government.

4. Representation in parliament

Summary information on the party composition of the lower houses of state, territory and Commonwealth parliaments after each general election, and the composition of the upper houses of New South Wales, Tasmania and Western Australia (South Australia and Victoria to follow), and the Commonwealth Senate.

5. Glossary

A description of terms used in the database is provided together with general information on key Australian institutions of government related to the database and associated web pages.

6. Search function

A comprehensive search function is provided for access to the information in the database.

7. Additional information on New South Wales, Tasmania and Western Australia

The entries for these three states have been enhanced by including results for assembly (lower house) elections since they were established in 1856 for New South Wales and Tasmania, and legislative council (upper house) elections since they became directly elected chambers (1856 for Tasmania, 1894 for Western Australia and 1978 for NSW). The notes and references for these states have also been expanded. Work on similar enhancements is planed for the remaining states.

Work in progress

In addition to correcting errors and omission in the database, new information and search functions are planned, and the database will be updated as elections and changes of government occur.

Comments on the database are welcome (see Contact).

Linked publication

Essays on each of the components of the Australian federation can be found in Jeremy Moon and Campbell Sharman (eds), Australian Politics and Government: The Commonwealth, the States and the Territories, (Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, 2003) ISBN 0 521 53205 1 (paperback), 0 521 82507 5 (hardback).


Campbell Sharman, 27 March 2016
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above the line voting Above the line voting—sometimes referred to as group ticket voting—is a way of designing a ballot paper for proportional representation by STV so that voters can mark a single party box for their preferred party rather than rank all the candidates on the ballot paper (or a specified minimum number) in a preferred order. If the party box is marked—a so-called above the line vote because of the design of the ballot paper—all the candidates on the ballot paper are automatically ranked in the order preferred by the party grouping contesting the election. The party preferred order for ranking the candidates is set out by each party in a schedule which must be lodged with the relevant electoral commission before election day.

Voters who choose to ignore the 'above the line' box and rank individual candidates in the voter's preferred order, are said to vote 'below the line'.

Above the line voting was first introduced for Senate elections as one of the changes to Commonwealth electoral law which applied to the 1984 federal elections. It has since been adopted, sometimes with modifications, by all state legislative councils (upper houses) which use proportional representation by STV for electing their members (on some ballots, ‘above the line’ is to one side of the ballot paper).

Where above the line voting has been adopted, it has proved popular with voters but makes STV, as a candidate based system of proportional representation, work in much the same way as party list systems of proportional representation.

An electoral system which permits above the line voting can be seen as discriminating against Independent candidates because it denies supporters of individual candidates the opportunity to vote 'above the line' (see ungrouped candidates). Some candidates who would otherwise have run as Independent candidates for Senate or similar elections, get around this problem by forming a group with another candidate and register their name as a party grouping. When these groups meet any of the criteria to be a listed party in this database, they are listed in the appropriate election summaries; for example, ‘Brian Harradine Group’ (Senate elections 1984-2001, national and Tasmanian summaries), and ‘Pauline’s United Australia Party’ (Senate election 2007, Queensland summary). If such a party grouping does not meet the criteria for listing, its votes are included under ‘Independents’ in Senate election summaries, or ‘other than listed parties’, if the representation or total vote share for Independents falls below the threshold for listing in the relevant summary.

At the 2007 Senate election in South Australia, Nick Xenophon ran with another candidate as a party grouping without a name (Group S on the ballot paper) and campaigned as an Independent. He was elected to the Senate, but his votes are included in the 'Independents' total in both national and South Australian summaries of the Senate election in this database. A note for both summaries indicates the number of votes and vote share gained by Xenophon's group.
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ACT Abbreviation for Australian Capital Territory. Top

address in reply At the opening of each session of parliament, the government prepares a statement (read by the governor general or governor) setting out the government's program for the coming session. The 'address in reply', is a motion introduced by the government in the lower house to support the statement of the government's program. If this motion is defeated or amended by the opposition, the government must resign, and a new government commissioned; see also confidence motion.

In the nineteenth century before the emergence of disciplined mass parties, the address in reply was an opportunity to test the support for the government at the start of a new parliamentary session. This was especially the case where there had been a general election after which it was not clear who would be able to form a government which had the support of a majority in the lower house. In this circumstance, the 'address in reply' motion was a way of determining whether the government in office before the election had enough support in the lower house to continue in government.
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adjournment motion A motion moved by the government in the lower house of a parliament for the adjournment of parliament (the termination of a sitting) is a confidence vote and, if defeated, the government must resign or request the dissolution of the lower house for a general election. Top

administrator See governor.

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adult franchise See franchise. Top

after election The phrase 'after election' is used in this database to refer to governments, premiers and prime ministers who assume office as a consequence of an election for the lower house of a parliament. Currently, the delay between an election where there is a clear result for a change of government and a new government's taking office may only be a few days. Where the result of an election is unclear or where no party has a majority, the delay may be much longer.

Government in office after election: Until the 1920s, it was not unusual for the delay between a general election and a change of government to be several months until parliament had met and a firm parliamentary majority supporting a government had been established. This was particularly the case if there were negotiations after the election for the formation of a coalition or minority government. As a consequence, if there is clear link between a change in government and the result of a general election, this database refers to the 'government after election' so formed even if there was some delay between the election and the new government's taking office.

If the delay was especially long or if there was some complication about the transfer to a new government, this is recorded in a note at the bottom of the web page for the general election. The dates at which a change of government occurred can also be checked by searching under 'Periods in office' for the name of the new premier or prime minister.

Premier in office after election: If, after an election, there is a change of government there will, in almost all cases, be a change of premier. But if the governing party remains in office after an election, there may still be a change of premier soon after the election. Whether this was the direct result of the election or for some other reason is sometimes difficult to decide. In this database, if the premier's party continues in government after the election, and the premier retains his office, even for a short period after the election, a subsequent resignation from the office is not regarded as the termination of a period in office caused by the election.

The reason for such a resignation can often be traced to the premier's unwillingness to continue as leader of the governing party once he or she discovers the new conditions created by the election, or to a decision forced on the premier by the governing party or coalition; in both these cases, the change of premier did not necessarily follow from the election result. In those states which have enhanced notes for their premiers' periods in office and lower house elections, notes will provide some background and explanation for the change of premier.

Before the emergence of disciplined parties, governments were supported in parliament by factions and groups of independents whose changing loyalties could lead to the defeat of the government in parliament (see ministerialist). Before the 1890s, governments and premiers were more likely to change as a result of defeat in parliament than as a consequence of the result of an election.

Note that senators elected at regular Senate elections do not take their seats until 1 July after the Senate election; see terms of senators.
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alternative vote (AV) See preferential voting.

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annual periodic elections Elections for the Tasmanian Legislative Council are staggered so that there are currently two or three elections held every year. This pattern of annual periodic elections took its current form in 1888 replacing a mixed pattern of periodic elections established after the grant of responsible government to Tasmania in 1856. For more information, see the entries for Tasmanian Legislative Council elections, and note periodic elections. Top

assembly In this database, the term 'assembly' is used to refer to the lower house of all state and territory parliaments even though their official names vary slightly. These lower houses are the chambers in which the government must retain a majority to remain in office. Assemblies are the critical components of parliamentary government and are the basis for broad based popular representation in the governmental process. In South Australia and Tasmania the chamber is called the House of Assembly, but in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia, it is called the Legislative Assembly. The lower house of the Commonwealth Parliament is called the House of Representatives.

The parliaments of the two self-governing territories, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, have been unicameral since their establishment. In both territories the single chamber is called the Legislative Assembly and performs the same function as the lower house in state parliaments.

All state (formerly colonial) parliaments had two chambers when the Australian colonies gained self-government in the late 1850s (Western Australia in 1890), the upper house being called the Legislative Council and being elected (or nominated) from a restricted section of the community. All states except Queensland remain bicameral (Queensland abolished its upper house in 1922) and these chambers have been reformed so that they have the same franchise as the lower house and are an important component of the law making process. This database does not yet contain information on all state upper houses. The Senate is the upper house of the Commonwealth Parliament and information on Senate elections is contained in this database.
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at election The phrase 'at election' is used in the database to refer to governments, premiers and prime ministers who are in office at the date of an election. If there has been a change of government, premier or prime minister for some other reason than the result of an election -- loss of support for the government in the lower house of parliament, for example -- the government, premier or prime minister may not be the same as the ones which won the preceding election.

On two occasions since 1890, governments have been dismissed by the head of state; Premier Lang's government in New South Wales was dismissed by Governor Game in May 1932, and Prime Minister Whitlam's government was dismissed by Governor General Kerr in November 1975. On these two occasions, the government 'at election' was the caretaker government of Stevens in New South Wales, and that of Fraser for the Commonwealth. Both caretaker governments were returned at the subsequent election.
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at large election An election held 'at large' is one in which the whole body of voters vote as one electoral district for all the candidates to be elected. At large elections are usually associated with electoral systems using proportional representation; see also multimember district, single member district.

Only two at large general elections have been held for the lower house of an Australian parliament during the period covered in this database -- the elections of 1989 and 1992 for the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly.

At large elections for upper houses are currently in use for New South Wales and South Australian Legislative Council elections. This database has information on New South Wales Legislative Council elections since the state adopted direct elections for the Legislative Council in 1978. It is planned to add information on the legislative council elections in other states.
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Australian Capital Territory The Australian Capital Territory was established under the Commonwealth Constitution as the area for the national capital (Canberra) and was transferred from New South Wales to the Commonwealth in 1909. The Australian Capital Territory achieved representative self-government as a territory of the Commonwealth in 1989. It has a unicameral parliament, the single chamber being called the Legislative Assembly. Summary information on all general elections for the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly since 1989 can be found in this database together with information about parties, representation and governments.

The residents of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory did not regain full representation in the Commonwealth House of Representatives until 1966, and in the Commonwealth Senate until 1975. Territory summaries of national elections for the House of Representatives and the Senate are included in this database from these dates. The terms of the two senators from each of the territories is limited to the period between elections for the House of Representatives, Senate elections for territory senators occurring at every House of Representatives election.

A survey of politics and government in the Australian Capital Territory can be found in a chapter of a recently published book related to this website: see John Warhurst, 'Australian Capital Territory', in Jeremy Moon and Campbell Sharman (eds), Australian Politics and Government: The Commonwealth, the States and the Territories, (Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, 2003) ISBN 0 521 53205 1 (paperback), 0 521 82507 5 (hardback).

General information on Australian political institutions can be found in the Glossary of this database.
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Australian Democrats See party type. Top

Australian Labor Party See party name and party type. Top

AV AV is an abbreviation for the alternative vote. Outside Australia, the alternative vote is the common name for what Australians call preferential voting. Top

ballots Ballots are the papers on which votes are recorded. A vote can be a single mark, or one or more marks or numbers to elect one or more candidates; see electoral system. The term ballot can also be used to refer to the process of casting votes.

At some elections, voters could mark ballots with more than one vote, giving the result that there were more votes cast than voters. For example, this system was used for elections for the South Australian House of Assembly until 1927 and was common at lower house elections in the Australian colonies before 1900. Such a system precludes the usual way of counting informal votes, and a separate entry is provided in this database for informal ballots multiple votes.
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below the line voting See above the line voting. Top

bicameralism A bicameral parliament is one which has two chambers, a lower house and an upper house (see assembly).

All state (formerly colonial) parliaments had two chambers when the Australian colonies gained self-government in the late 1850s (Western Australia in 1890), the upper house being called the legislative louncil and being elected (or nominated in the case of New South Wales and Queensland) from a restricted section of the community. All states except Queensland remain bicameral; Queensland abolished its upper house in 1922 and several attempts were made to abolish the New South Wales Legislative Council until it became a directly elected chamber in 1978.

Legislative councils have been reformed so that they have the same franchise as the lower house and all except the Tasmanian Legislative Council are elected by systems of proportional representation; since 1909, Tasmania has used a system of modified preferential voting in single member districts with staggered six year terms, one or more members retiring at annual periodic elections. Upper houses are an important component of the law making process and parliament's ability to scrutinize the actions of government.

This database does not yet contain details of representation in all state upper houses; information on elections in available for the New South Wales Legislative Council since direct elections for the Council were adopted in 1978, and for the Tasmanian Legislative Council since 1856, with other states to follow. The Senate is the upper house of the Commonwealth Parliament and information on Senate elections since the establishment of the Commonwealth in 1901 is contained in this database.
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block vote Block voting is the name often given to first past the post (plurality) voting to elect members from a multimember electoral district. Electors vote for as many candidates as there are members to be elected. If voting for fewer candidates than the number of members to be elected is permitted, such a system is said to permit plumping. Top

by-election A by-election is an election held between general elections for one or more electoral districts caused by the death or resignation of a sitting member of parliament. With the exception of the Tasmanian Legislative Council, information on by-elections is not included in this database unless a by-election leads to a change in partisan support for a premier or prime minister.

The absence of general elections for the Tasmanian Legislative Council has meant that the results for by-elections are included in this database as a necessary supplement to the Council's annual periodic elections; see the notes to entries for Tasmanian Legislative Council elections for details.

Some parliaments have electoral laws which do not provide for by-elections; currently, for example, the Tasmanian House of Assembly fills occasional vacancies using proportional representation by STV to recount votes cast at the previous general election. Vacancies in the Senate since the Commonwealth Constitutional amendment of 1977 are filled by a person chosen by the government of the state in which the vacancy occurs from the party of the senator who has died or resigned.

See also ministerial by-election.
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cabinet See minister. Top

casual vacancy A casual vacancy is a vacancy in the membership of a parliamentary chamber caused by the death, resignation or disqualification of a member of that chamber before his or her term has expired. Such a vacancy is usually filled by a by-election but may be filled by the appointment of a new member (the Senate), or by choosing a new member from a recount of the votes cast at the previous general election using proportional representation by STV (the Tasmanian House of Assembly). Top

caucus The members of a parliamentary party are collectively known as the caucus of the party. The caucus may meet on a regular basis to discuss party policy and parliamentary tactics and, for most Australian parties, is the body that selects the leader of the party.

For some parties, the caucus also chooses the members who will become ministers, a practice often followed in the Australian Labor Party, but the assignment of portfolios, is a matter for the leader of the party.

Occasionally, an independent member or a member of a related small party may be included in caucus meetings.
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centre parties See party type. Top

change from previous election In this database, the presentation of election results under 'Votes and seats won' includes a column heading 'change from previous election'. This heading indicates the change in first preference vote won by a party at a given election when compared with the previous election, expressed as the difference between the percentage first preference vote shares. Note that the party must be listed in the database for both elections (see listed party) for a figure to appear in the column. If the party was a listed party in the previous election but ran candidates under a difference name, no figure for changed vote share will appear (see party name).

The change in vote shares between elections is sometimes known as swing but the way swing is calculated may not always correspond with its usage in this database.
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change of coalition party leader This entry in the government database refers to one of the reasons why a period in office of a premier or prime minister starts or ends. This entry describes the circumstances which have occurred when a premier or prime minister of a coalition government has died in office and the deputy premier or deputy prime minister becomes premier or prime minister even though the deputy is leader of the minor partner in the coalition. The office of premier or prime minister is held only until the major party in the coalition has selected a new party leader who then takes over the office of premier or prime minister.

This has occurred only twice since 1890. When Liberal Party Prime Minister Holt disappeared presumed drowned in December 1967, his deputy, McEwen from the Country Party was commissioned to form a Country Party and Liberal Party coalition government until Gorton was chosen as leader of the Liberal Party and became prime minister of a Liberal Party and Country Party coalition government in January 1968. The second occasion was prompted by the death of Queensland Country Party Premier Pizzey in August 1968. His deputy, Chalk, the leader of the Liberal Party was commissioned to form a Liberal Party and Country Party coalition government which lasted a week until Bjelke-Petersen was chosen as leader of the Country Party and became premier of a Country Party and Liberal Party coalition government.
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change of partisan support This entry in the government database refers to one of the reasons why a period in office of a premier or prime minister started or ended. The event described occurs when the same premier or prime minister continues has head of a new government but there is a change in the nature or the parliamentary support for the government. This can be a move from a minority government to a coalition government, from a coalition government to a majority government, or a move to or from any or these kinds of parliamentary support. Top

change of party leader This entry in the government database refers to one of the reasons why a period in office of a premier or prime minister starts or ends. The event described occurs when the party or parties in government remain the same, but the party of the premier or prime minister chooses a new party leader who becomes the new premier or prime minister.

With the exception of the death of a premier or prime minister in office, this database only contains information on the political context of a change in party leader for those states with enhanced notes and references.
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chief minister Chief minister (or first minister) is the name given to the head of government in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory and is equivalent office to that of a premier of a state or to the prime minister of the Commonwealth. In this database, the term premier usually includes the chief ministers of the territories in the years since the territories have been self-governing.

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chief secretary At the start of responsible government in the Australian colonies in the 1850s, the office of chief secretary was the formal position often taken by the premier as head of government, since no department of the premier existed.

It remained an important portfolio in the states until after federation in 1901 but premiers had increasingly chosen to hold the Treasury portfolio, with chief secretary becoming the portfolio responsible for government activities not explicitly assigned to other ministries. The growth of premiers' departments from the 1960s and the proliferation of other ministries diminished the relevance of the office of chief secretary and the portfolio would now be regarded as an anachronism.
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Citation When using or referring to the information on this website, please give the citation as:

Australian Politics and Elections Database, University of Western Australia (http://elections.uwa.edu.au/).
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coalition A coalition is a group of two or more parties which agree to work together to form a government. A coalition government is one supported in the parliament by two or more parties which share the various portfolios in the government. That is, the ministers in a coalition government are drawn from the parties which form the coalition and not just one party. In the database, the party of the premier or prime minister is shown first, and the other party or parties as 'coalition partner 1' and 'coalition partner 2'.

The difference between a coalition government which holds a majority of seats in the lower house of a parliament and a minority government kept in office by the support of one or more parties or groups of independents in the lower house is that, in a coalition government, all the parties in the coalition have ministers in the government. In a minority government, the parties or independent members keeping the government in office do not have ministers in the government.

Coalition governments can also be formed when the party of the premier or prime minister has a majority in the lower house of the parliament but has chosen to bring into the government a coalition partner because of longer term political considerations or because the coalition partner's support is needed in the upper house.

On a few occasions there have been minority coalition governments kept in power by the parliamentary support of other parties or independents in the lower house.

In commentaries on Australian politics, the term 'the Coalition' is used to refer to the long-standing relationship between the Liberal Party and the National Party (and their predecessors) which has led these parties to form coalition governments in some states and at the national level. Use of this term implies that politics in Australia can be seen as a contest between the Labor Party and 'the Coalition' as a synonym for anti-Labor parties. While this is largely true for the formation of governments, it obscures the importance of the National Party as an independent political actor, and the variety of party groups for which a significant proportion of the Australian electorate cast their votes.
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colony The six largely self-governing political communities which had grown from British settlement of Australia after 1788 were called colonies -- New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia. When the six colonies joined in a federal union in 1901, their political institutions were unchanged and most of their law making powers remained intact but, as components of a federation, their name was changed from colony to state. For the sake of simplicity, the term state is used in this database to include the period before 1901 when the term 'colony' or 'colonial' would be the technically correct term. Top

commission Governments are formed when the governor (or governor general) commissions a premier (or prime minister) to form a government. This is the date of the official beginning of a government's term of office. The term ends when the commission is surrendered or, very rarely, terminated. Even if the premier or prime minister continues in office, governments are recommissioned whenever there is a major change in the composition of the ministry. The arrangement for the formation of governments in the self-governing territories is similar.

Ministers are also commissioned by the governor or governor general to be responsible for the administration of specified portfolios. A minister's commission can be terminated by the governor or governor general on the advice of the premier or prime minister.

In this database, the dates of the period in office of a premier or prime minister have sometimes been modified to correspond with the dates of elections and are not necessarily the same as the precise period during which his or her government held a commission.
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Commonwealth The official name for the Australian federation is the Commonwealth of Australia. The Australian Commonwealth came into existence on 1 January 1901 after referendums in each of the six Australian colonies agreeing to a federal union.

The national government is usually called the Commonwealth government or the federal government. In this database, the terms Commonwealth House of Representatives, Commonwealth Parliament, and Commonwealth Senate are used to distinguish these institutions from ones in the states and other countries.

Summary information on all general elections for the House of Representatives and the Senate can be found in this database together with information about parties, representation and governments.

A survey of national politics and government can be found in a chapter of a recently published book related to this website: see Patrick Weller and Jenny Fleming, 'The Commonwealth', in Jeremy Moon and Campbell Sharman (eds), Australian Politics and Government: The Commonwealth, the States and the Territories, (Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, 2003) ISBN 0 521 53205 1 (paperback), 0 521 82507 5 (hardback).

General information on Australian political institutions can be found in the Glossary of this database.
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compulsory enrolment See voter registration. Top

compulsory preferences In this database, a requirement that a voter must rank all candidates on the ballot paper under a system of preferential voting, is referred to as 'compulsory preferences'. Top

compulsory voting Voting at all parliamentary elections in Australia is now compulsory. Technically, voters registered on the electoral roll are not required to cast a valid vote, but to attend a polling place (or complete a postal ballot), have their attendance marked by an electoral official, and dispose of the ballot by placing it in a ballot box (this process may be modified by electronic or online voting). The ballot paper can be left blank or spoilt.

Failure to vote will prompt an inquiry from an electoral official and, if no adequate explanation is provided, a fine is payable (currently $20 for federal elections). A court challenge to the fine may result in a larger fine (currently $50 for federal elections) and the payment of court costs. Compulsory voting has resulted in turnout at recent Australian parliamentary general elections usually being in the range of 85 to 95 percent; see also voter registration.

History
Compulsory voting was introduced for Australian lower house elections over the period between 1914 and 1941 (date of first election with compulsory voting):

Queensland 1914 (1915)
Commonwealth 1924 (1925)
Victoria 1926 (1927)
New South Wales 1928 (1930)
Tasmania 1928 (1931)
Western Australia 1936 (1939)
South Australia 1941 (1944)

For discussion of compulsory voting in Australia, see David M Farrell and Ian McAllister, The Australian Electoral System: Origins, Variations and Consequences, pp 121-146, (Sydney: University of New South Wales Press, 2006, ISBN 0868408581).

State upper houses
For those Australian states with elected upper houses (legislative councils) since the granting of responsible government, compulsory voting was introduced over a much longer period; the Tasmanian Legislative Council in 1928, the Victorian Legislative Council in 1935, the Western Australian Legislative Council in 1964, and the South Australian Legislative Council in 1985. The introduction of compulsory voting for some these chambers was complicated by a property franchise, plural voting, and voter registration for upper houses. Information on these changes is shown in this database only for Tasmania and Western Australia, with South Australia and Victoria to follow.

Compulsory voting in this database:
Those states with extended notes, list 'compulsory voting' in the 'Electoral system' entry in 'Enrolment and voting' table if compulsory voting applies to that election. There may also be information on compulsory voting in the notes. It is planned to included extended notes for all state and territory elections.
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confidence motion In British derived parliamentary systems, the government must have the ‘confidence’ of the assembly (lower house of parliament) in the sense that the government must have the support of majority of members of the assembly to remain in office. While this support is usually secured by the government having the support of enough members of a single party or a coalition of parties in the assembly to provide a majority, it can also be provided by independent members or members of minor parties who are willing to keep a minority government in office even though these members may help to defeat individual pieces of legislation introduced by the government.

Motions of no-confidence in the government or in a particular minister are often moved in the assembly by the opposition as a way of prompting a debate in parliament and expressing the opposition’s dissatisfaction with government policies. In recent times, where a government has a partisan or coalition majority, these motions are usually amended by the government majority to become votes of confidence in the government, and pass with the support of government members.

In the case of a minority government, a motion of no-confidence can threaten the existence of the government. If a vote of no confidence is passed in the lower house—or if a government initiated motion of confidence is defeated—the government must resign or request the dissolution of the lower house for a general election.

Some measures, such as budget legislation and supply bills, are regarded as matters of confidence, even if a motion of confidence has not been formally moved. The same is true if motion to support the 'address in reply' (the government's program set out at the opening of a new session of parliament) is defeated, or a motion moved by the government for an adjournment of parliament (the termination of a sitting) is defeated. In addition, a government can specify that defeat on a particular measure which is critical to government policy will be regarded as a lack of confidence in the government.

Before the emergence of disciplined political parties in Australia in the 1890s, a common way of changing governments was by the defeat of the government on a matter of confidence on the floor of the assembly (see defeat in parliament), and the commissioning of a new government which had obtained the necessary parliamentary support. Now, motions of no confidence in a minority government are usually prompted by desire on the part of all non-government members of the assembly to force a general election, or by the government itself to demonstrate that it maintains enough parliamentary support to remain in office.
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Contact Please contact us if:

... you wish to correct an error or have suggestions about how information could be better displayed in the web pages.

... you are having trouble working with the web site. Note that there is useful information on how to use the database in the About section of this web site. But if the problem you are having is not covered, please get in touch.

... you would like access to data sets on parties, elections, representation, or periods in office for Australian or comparative research purposes. We welcome use of the database to advance research.

... you think the web site is really good!

In all these cases, please get in touch with Campbell Sharman, University of Western Australia, (campbell.sharman@uwa.edu.au).

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contingent voting This can be thought of as a form of preferential voting (AV) with compulsory or optional preferences which permits the voter to vote for one or two candidates, but no more than two, by indicating a first choice candidate and, if the voter wishes, a second choice candidate. If a candidate gains more than 50 percent of the first preference votes cast in an electoral district, he or she is declared elected. If there is no such candidate, the second preferences shown on the ballot papers of all but the two candidates with the most first preference votes are divided between the top two candidates. After this assignment, the candidate with the most votes is declared the winner.

This system has been used in general elections for the Queensland Legislative Assembly from 1893 until 1941 (in single and multimember districts until 1909), and for the New South Wales Legislative Assembly in 1928. It was also used for the first direct election of the Mayor of London in 2000 where it was called supplementary voting.

For a discussion of contingent voting, see David M Farrell and Ian McAllister, The Australian Electoral System: Origins, Variations and Consequences, pp 25, 52-54 (Sydney: University of New South Wales Press, 2006, ISBN 0868408581).
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Country and Democratic League See party name. Top

Country Liberal Party See party name. Top

Country Party See party name and party type. Top

Credits and Acknowledgments This web version of the Australian Politics and Elections Database was first launched in October 2001 at the University of Western Australia. Major upgrades have been undertaken in 2005-2006, 2009-2010 and 2016-2017 funded by the University of Western Australia, and work is continuing to add information and update entries.

Additional material was added on New South Wales government and politics in 2006 under a grant from the Sesquicentenary of Responsible Government History Project set up by the government of New South Wales, and major additions were made to the entries for Tasmania with funding from the Tasmanian Parliament in 2008-2009.

Similar additions were completed for Western Australia in 2009-2010 under an Australian Research Council Linkage, Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities (LIEF) grant administered through the University of Western Australia, with other states and territories to follow.

Project coordinator

Campbell Sharman

Database and web design

Alan Dodds
Campbell Sharman

Acknowledgments

Without the pioneering work done by Colin Hughes and his associates during his time at the Research School of Social Sciences, Australian National University, in collecting information on Australian government and politics, this database would not have been possible. The book A Handbook of Australian Government and Politics, 1890-1964 by Colin Hughes and Bruce Graham (Canberra: Australian National University Press, 1968) and its supplements were the inspiration for the production of this database as an electronic version of information on Australian government and politics which would be widely available to any interested person.

In preparing information for the expanded entries for New South Wales and Tasmania, we are indebted to David Clune, former Manager of the Research Service of the New South Wales Parliamentary Library for his frequent help in finding information on parliamentary representation in New South Wales, and to Bryan Stait, Terry Newman and Vena Bowman of the Tasmanian Parliamentary Research Service for their extensive assistance in providing material on representation in the Tasmanian Parliament.

Financial support

The database was established by a grant to the University of Western Australia from the Australian Research Council (1995-1997), and the website created by a grant from the National Council for the Centenary of Federation (1999-2001).

The database and website have been maintained and upgraded since 1997 with generous support from the Discipline of Political Science and International Relations, the School of Social Sciences, the Faculty of Arts, and the Vice-Chancellery of the University of Western Australia. Funds for designing and entering additional material on New South Wales government and politics were provided by grant from the Sesquicentenary of Responsible Government History Project set up by the government of New South Wales (2005-2006), and similar work on Tasmanian parliamentary representation was funded by the Tasmanian Parliament. Additions to the Western Australian components of the website in 2009-2010 were funded by an Australian Research Council Linkage, Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities (LIEF) grant administered through the University of Western Australia,

Administrative support

Administrative support has been provided by the School of Social Sciences and the Executive Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Business, Law and Education. Special thanks are due to Linley Hill, the former Administrative Officer of Political Science and International Relations at the University of Western Australia

First version of the database and website, 1996-2001

Jeremy Moon, now at the Department of Intercultural Communication and Management in the Copenhagen Business School, was joint investigator for the original database project until 2001. Imogen Fountain, Richard Miles, and Anthony Sayers made major contributions to the operation of the first version of the database as research associates in the period between 1996 and 1999, and Anne McNevin, Narelle Miragliotta, and Simon Thackrah provided valuable research assistance from 1999 to 2001.

We would also like to thank a number of people and institutions who provided information and advice on the first version of the database and website: David Denemark; Robert Hymus; Graeme Rymill; Bruce Stone; electoral commissions and offices around Australia; the parliaments and parliamentary libraries of the Commonwealth, states and territories; and the Department of the Senate.

Campbell Sharman
University of Western Australia
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Crown The executive power of governments in Australia is exercised by governors and governors general in the name of the Crown as the symbolic head of state of the Australian federation and its state components.

It reflects the fact that Australian state and Commonwealth governments are monarchical in form with Queen Elizabeth the Second as 'Queen of Australia and Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth' (see Royal Style and Titles Act 1973 (Commonwealth), schedule, available at: http://www.foundingdocs.gov.au/item.asp?sdID=99).

For a survey and comparative analysis of the role of the Crown's representatives in Australia, see Peter Boyce, The Queen's Other Realms: The Crown and Its Legacy in Australia, Canada and New Zealand, (Sydney: Federation Press, 2008, ISBN 9781862877009).
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defeat in parliament This entry in the government database refers to one of the reasons why period in office of a premier or prime minister started or ended. In a parliamentary system, a government can survive only as long as it maintains majority support in the lower house of the parliament (see assembly). If the governing party or coalition loses a vote in the lower house of parliament specifically designed to test the support for the government (a motion of confidence) or loses a vote granting funds to the government (see supply bill) or on a matter which the government has said it will regard as a matter of confidence, the premier or prime minister is expected to hand in his or her commission to the governor or governor general and resign the office of head of government. Once a premier or prime minister hands in his or her commission, the commissions of all other members of the government are terminated.

Before the current system of well disciplined political parties emerged between 1910 and 1920, changes of government were frequently prompted by defeat in parliament. Since then, change in the party or coalition in government are usually associated with the loss of an election.
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Disclaimer While the information in the Australian Politics and Elections Database website is as accurate as the compilers can make it, we do not guarantee that the information it contains is correct or complete. The database and website contain summary information for general research purposes (see About this database) which is not intended to be a substitute for authoritative information from the appropriate official source.

In particular, the names of parties have sometimes been edited for clarity and consistency of display, and the dates of periods in office of premiers and prime ministers have sometimes been adjusted to fit election dates (see Glossary). Information on the period before 1910 is often difficult to summarize and should be treated with caution. We welcome the correction of errors and omissions, and suggestions for the more accurate or helpful display of information (see Contact).
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dismissal by governor general The entry 'Prime minister dismissed by governor general' in this database refers to one of the reasons why a period in office of a prime minister started or ended; see also at election, commission, governor general.

The only time this has happened was the dismissal of E G Whitlam as prime minister in November 1975; see also, premier dismissed by governor.
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dissolution When a session of the lower house of a parliament is ended by requiring the members to submit themselves to a general election, the house is said to be dissolved. The power to dissolve the lower house of a state parliament is vested in the governor of the state or, for the House of Representatives, in the governor-general. A lower house will be dissolved for an election when it has run its full term (or at the expiry of a fixed term) but may be dissolved earlier.

An early dissolution is granted by the governor (or governor-general) on the advice of the premier (or prime minister). While the reason for an early dissolution may be the result of a government's defeat on a vote of confidence in the lower house, for those lower houses without a fixed term, the reason is often the political convenience of the governing party or coalition.

For lower houses with fixed terms, general elections may still be held before the due date if the government loses a confidence motion, or some other critical event intervenes, but the presumption is that parliaments will last their full term.

Until the 1920s, it was not unusual for a governor to refuse to accept a premier's advice for a dissolution but such a refusal would now require exceptional circumstances for its justification.

Upper houses whose terms are not tied to the term of the lower house, or whose members have fixed terms, staggered elections or periodic elections, cannot be dissolved in the same way as lower houses, or require exceptional procedures specified in their constitutions (see double dissolution election). The sessions of such chambers are terminated by proroguing parliament.
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double dissolution election Under some circumstances, when there is a disagreement over legislation between the government majority in the House of Representatives and a majority in the Senate, a government may request the governor general to dissolve both houses of the Commonwealth Parliament (see section 57 of the Commonwealth Constitution). After a double dissolution election, special provisions apply to the terms of senators, half of whom have six year terms and the remainder three year terms to run from the 1 July preceding the double dissolution election; see terms of senators.

There have been seven so-called double dissolution elections since federation: 1914, 1951, 1974, 1975, 1983, 1987 and 2016.
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election date General elections are usually held on one specified date. Some elections early in the period covered by the database were spread over several days. In these circumstances, the first date of polling is used as the election date. Top

elections in New South Wales, 1859 to 1887 This extract from an article by Nairn gives a good idea of the style of electioneering in New South Wales in the period between the elections of 1859 to the emergence of political parties in the late 1880s, and the electoral reforms of 1893; N B Nairn, 'The Political Mastery of Sir Henry Parkes: New South Wales Politics 1871-1891', Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, volume 53 (1), March 1967, pp. 1-51, at pp. 7-8 (footnotes are omitted); for details of individual elections in this period, see the entries for New South Wales Legislative Assembly general elections in this website.

'... The suffrage was based on manhood subject to six months residence and property. Neither voting nor registration of voters was compulsory. The rolls were not regularly and systematically maintained; they were completed locally either by police or paid collectors appointed by magistrates; this scheme gave some scope for fictitious names to be paced on the rolls as the sources of information included lodging-house keepers, publicans and club secretaries. Voting for the various seats extended over two to three weeks, which gave the government some advantage as it could so arrange the polls to facilitate a second, or even a third attempt by individual supporters who might lose the first time. Voting was by secret ballot; there were many complaints about blunt pencils and the use of unplaned boards for voting benches. Ballot papers were often printed privately making spurious voting possible. Votes were cast by scoring out the names of the unwanted candidates. 'Plumping', i.e. confining one's vote to one candidate in a multiple-member seats, was possible. The 1880 Electoral Act provided for 72 electorates and 108 members, with provision for expansion in multiple-member seats (there were 141 members in 1891). The percentage of votes cast from 1858 to 1887 ranged from 37.45 (1861) to 57.93 (1887).

Candidates were nominated publicly at the hustings, a temporary platform arranged by the returning officer. This system had some advantages but essentially it supplemented candidates' and members' 'independence'. False candidates were sometimes nominated, occasionally by publicans anxious for the extra trade elections brought to country towns. The order of nomination was fixed by lot, and the result determined the order of names on the ballot paper. Each candidate made a speech at the hustings and could be questioned and pledged by the voters present; then those present were asked to vote by raising their hands; the returning officer would judge and announce the winner(s), whereupon a poll would be demanded and he would fix a date for the election. There was no party organisation to help in the elections, but there were local organisations some of which had limited regional affiliations and were prepared to help approved candidates; chief of these were religious associations, notably the Loyal Orange Lodge, and temperance groups. Usually a candidate had his own local committees to help. Often they had nominal memberships of 100-200. A major task for the candidate and his helpers was organising transport for voters; in the city most voting took place at lunch-time as polling day was not a public holiday. Large employers, including the government, could influence elections more or less by granting time off, or making it difficult for their employees to vote. Booths usually opened at 9 a.m. and closed at 4 p.m. In the city, booths were set up to handle voters with names beginning with certain letters of the alphabet, e.g. A-K and so on; these were not necessarily located together, so voting could be a tiring chore, and the possibilities of skulduggery were increased. 'How to vote' cards were used only to a small extent, usually where certain candidates 'bunched', i.e., when they agreed to recommend that their individual supporters confine their votes to the picked team in a multiple-member seat.

Poll supervision was inadequate, srutineers hard to arrange, but the Loyal Orange Lodge at the height of its influence, 1866-1871, had a reasonably efficient booth and vehicle organisation, especially in the city. Personation, i.e., impersonating a genuine voter, was rife and unlawful, though, if fictitious names could be enrolled it was not unlawful to impersonate 'them'. Double and even triple voting were allegedly common in suburban electorates, where a good horseman could safely cover more than one booth. It was claimed that specially chartered harbour ferries made multiple voting a simple matter in the St Leonard's electorate.

The electoral system was thus primitive and boisterous, even allowing for the possibility of exaggeration of the extent of abuses. ...'
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electoral district In this database, the geographical area from which one or more representatives is chosen at an election is called an electoral district. Electoral districts are also called electorates but, as the term electorate also refers to the whole body of voters across a political system, the term electoral district has been used in this database to keep the distinction clear; see also at large election, multimember district, single member district Top

electoral roll The electoral roll is the list of voters who are registered to vote at an election. All voters who are eligible to vote for a parliamentary election in Australia, state or federal, are now required by law to be registered with the appropriate electoral agency (see voter registration, and note the partial exception of South Australia). Electoral rolls in Australia are continuous, that is, they are kept up to date between elections, rather than compiled as soon as an election is called.

State and territory electoral agencies collaborate with the national Australian Electoral Commission in preparing electoral rolls for Commonwalth, state and territory elections, although there can be variations in the eligibility of voters under state and Commonwealth law; see also compulsory voting.
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electoral system The electoral system is the set of rules which specifies how elections are organized and how votes are cast and counted at an election. The broad category of electoral system used to elect members at an election is shown in the database, and the entries are indexed in this database under the name of each electoral system.

Australia has been adventurous in its experimentation with electoral rules and electoral law. It is planned to add more information on Australian electoral rules to the database.

See the glossary entries for: AV, compulsory voting, contingent voting, first past the post, informal ballots multiple votes, multimember district, preferential voting, proportional representation, registration of voters, single member district.

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electorate The term electorate is used in this database to refer to the whole body of voters voting at a general election; see also electoral district. Top

enrolment See registration of voters. Top

executive The institutions of government have traditionally been classified under three heads: the legislature which makes laws; the judiciary which interprets laws and applies them to particular cases; and the executive which administers laws made by the legislature. The biggest of these components is the executive because it includes most of the activities we associate with government—all government departments and public servants as well as the premier , the cabinet and ministers are part of the executive.

It can be helpful to subdivide the executive into three components: the formal executive, head of state which, in the Australia is the governor (state governments) or the governor-general (national government), acting in the name of the Crown; the political executive which is the premier or prime minister, ministers and the cabinet acting as the key decision makers for steering government; and the public service and government agencies which administer the laws of the states and the national government.
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Federal Labor Party See party name Top

federation The federation of the Commonwealth of Australia came into existence on 1 January 1901. The six colonies which had formed the federation continued after 1901 and became states in the new federal union. Federation entailed the creation of a national governmental structure which included a bicameral national parliament (see assembly) with a lower house called the House of Representatives and an upper house called the Senate.

See the Glossary in this database for more information about Australian government and politics.
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first minister See chief minister. Top

first past the post See plurality voting. Top

first preference vote Preferential voting requires a voter to rank candidates on the ballot paper in the order of the voter's choice. A voter's most preferred candidate is the one against whose name the voter has written '1' on the ballot paper. This candidate represents the voter's first preference vote. This definition also applies to voting under systems of proportional representation. Where a first past the post (plurality) electoral system is used, the first preference vote refers to the number of ticks or crosses gained by each candidate.

In this database, the total of the first preference votes for all the candidates of a party at a general election is that party's first preference vote. This database presents voting results in terms of the first preference vote for listed parties; see also two party preferred vote.
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first preference vote share In this database, the first preference vote share is a party's first preference vote expressed as a percentage of the total valid vote at a general election; see also seat share. Top

fixed term Fixed terms are used in this database to refer to two different, but related, aspects of parliament; members of upper houses whose membership of the chamber expires after a fixed period on a specified date, and parliaments with elections for the lower house set to occur on fixed date.

Members with fixed terms: The members of most Australian upper houses have fixed terms in the sense that their membership of the chamber is set for a fixed period, expiring on a specified date, rather than on the date set by an election for the lower house. Such fixed terms for members were part of the design of upper houses to enhance their status and to reduce the influence that governments could exert on upper houses. Such fixed terms for members do not require that upper house elections are always held on the same date each election year (but note periodic elections for the Tasmanian Legislative Council); provisions can be made to hold elections for members with fixed terms on a date up to twelve months before their terms expire. But the newly elected members cannot take their seats until the terms of sitting members expire. For the rules governing Senate membership, see terms of senators.

Fixed term parliaments: Since responsible government was adopted in Australia after 1856, the lower houses of all Australian parliaments have had term limits in the sense that parliamentary terms could last for a maximum period, after which a general election for all seats in the lower house had to be called. This period has varied from three to five years. But lower houses have often been dissolved before this period has expired, sometimes to reflect the inability of the lower house to agree on a government but, since the advent of political parties, much more often in response to assessments by governments that an early election would enhance the chances of the governing party or coalition being returned.

Since 1995 when New South Wales adopted the measure, a number of state parliaments have amended their constitutions to introduce fixed parliamentary terms, sometimes at the same time as extending the terms of lower houses from three to four years. Such fixed terms set the precise date for assembly elections after a period of four years from the previous election; New South Wales in March (since 1995), South Australia in March (since 2006), and Victoria in November (since 2002). Assembly elections may still be held before the due date if the government loses a confidence motion, or some other critical event intervenes, but the presumption is that parliaments will last their full term.

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franchise The franchise refers to those who are eligible to vote at elections. In Australia, the franchise is now universal for all Australian citizens over 18 years of age (before the change in the definition of adult in the 1970s, the age was 21 years).

This is often referred to as adult or universal suffrage although, even with universal franchise, there may be some who are disqualified from voting for such reasons as serving a sentence for a criminal offense or having been declared of unsound mind. There may also be residency requirements before a person can vote in a particular electoral district.

In the past, the franchise has been restricted in a variety of ways. At the beginning of the period covered in this Database, ownership of property was required to vote at some elections, and most women were disenfranchised. Such restrictions on those eligible to vote were common for upper house elections in the period after the granting of responsible government in 1856 and, in some cases, were not fully removed until the 1960s.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples did not have full voting rights in Commonwealth and some state elections until the 1960s.

See also plural voting.
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general election A general election is an election for all the seats in a house of parliament, or for a fixed proportion of the seats in an upper house (see assembly) such as a half Senate election). Vacancies which occur through the death or resignation of a sitting member of parliament in between general elections in most, but not all, parliamentary chambers, can be filled at a by-election. Top

gerrymander The term gerrymander refers to the existence of one or more electoral districts whose boundaries have been drawn to favour a particular party -- usually the party in government.

The term comes from Governor Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts who manipulated the electoral system for the state senate in 1812 so that '[t]he new boundaries ignored all natural and customary lines and produced constituencies of odd shapes; when one such shape was compared to a salamander, the editor of a local paper replied: 'I call it a Gerrymander' (quoted in Enid Lakeman, How Democracies Vote: A Study of Electoral Systems, 4th edition, London: Faber & Faber, 1974, p. 80).

Gerryandering is often confused with malapportionment; gerrymandering is about drawing boundaries for partisan advantage while malapportionment refers to inequalities in the number of voters in electoral districts. While malapportionment may favour one party over others, the boundaries of malapportioned seats can be set by an independent commission. As the database does not contain information on electoral boundaries, it cannot indicate whether an electoral system has used gerrymandered electoral districts.
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government In everyday language, the government is the label given to the whole structure of state activities but the term also has narrower meanings. Where there is a distinction made between the government and the parliament, government refers to all the officials, elected and appointed, who steer the day to day operation of the public sector as opposed to the law making activities of parliament. Government in this sense has two components: the senior officials in government departments and agencies, and the members of parliament who have commissions as ministers and form what is sometimes called the government of the day.

In this database, the term government is usually restricted to the government of the day; the premier or prime minister and the body of ministers commissioned to implement the policies of the party or parties who have the support of a majority of the members of the lower house of parliament. In political science, the government of the day is usually referred to as the political executive.
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government after election This term is used in the database to refer to the government which is formed as the result of an election; see after election. Top

government at election This term is used in the database to refer to the government which was in office at the date of the election; see at election. Top

governor The governor is the representative of the Crown in each of the six states of the federation. While the head of state of each of the states is nominally Queen Elizabeth II, all the functions of head of state are performed by the governor of the state in the name of the Crown. The powers of the governor are very extensive and include the power to commission governments, to appoint all important executive and judicial officers in the state, to endorse and proclaim all laws passed by the state legislature, and to call dissolve, and prorogue parliaments. These powers are, on almost all occasions, exercised on the advice of the premier or the executive council (a formal meeting of the governor and several ministers).

The governor is appointed (and can be removed) by the monarch on the advice of the premier. The relationships between the governor, the premier, the executive council, ministers, and parliament are not well specified in state constitutional documents and rely heavily on customary practices rather than constitutional law; for further information, see Peter Boyce, The Queen's Other Realms: The Crown and Its Legacy in Australia, Canada and New Zealand (Sydney: Federation Press, 2008).

In the early years of British settlement in Australia, governors played a dominant role in colonial government until the establishment of responsible government after 1856. Early in their history, some colonies used the term lieutenant-governor or administrator for the official who exercised the powers of governor, terms now usually reserved in Australia for an official who is appointed in place of the governor because he or she is absent from the state, is unable to act, or a new governor has yet to be appointed.
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governor general While the head of state of the Commonwealth is nominally Queen Elizabeth II, all the functions of head of state are performed by the governor general in the name of the Crown. The powers of the governor general are very extensive and include the power to commission governments, to appoint all important executive and judicial officers of the Commonwealth, to endorse and proclaim all laws passed by the Commonwealth legislature, and to call dissolve and prorogue parliament. These powers are, on almost all occasions, exercised on the advice of the prime minister or the executive council (a formal meeting of the governor general and several ministers).

The governor general is appointed (and can be removed) by the monarch on the advice of the prime minister. The relationships between the governor, the prime minister, the executive council, ministers, and parliament are not well specified in the Commonwealth Constitution and rely heavily on customary practices rather than constitutional law.
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Green parties See party name and party type. Top

group ticket voting See above the line voting. Top

group voting ticket See joint ticket, seats won by ticket. Top

half Senate - enlarged - election with House of Representatives The Senate has been enlarged from its original 36 members (6 from each of the six states) on two occasions since 1901. At the regular half Senate elections following each enlargement, there were additional senators to be elected from each state. These elections were in 1949 (following the enlargement from 6 senators from each state to 10) and in 1984 (enlargement from 10 senators to 12).

Note that these enlargements do not include the addition of the 2 senators from each of the two territories for the 1975 and subsequent elections; see also terms of senators.
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half Senate election with House of Representatives Senators from the states have fixed 6 year terms, half the senators from each state delegation (currently 6 of 12 senators from each state) retiring every three years. These fixed term elections need not necessarily correspond with elections for the House of Representatives, although governments usually wish to ensure that they occur at the same time. This database records whether a regular half Senate elections occurred at the same time as a general election for the House of Representatives (see also half Senate election without House of Representatives).

The only exception to these regular three yearly elections are the special circumstances of a double dissolution election and the Senate election which follows a double dissolution election.

The two senators from each of the two territories do not have fixed terms, and must run for election to Senate at every House of Representatives election; see also Senate, terms of senators.
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half Senate election without House of Representatives This database notes the 4 occasions since 1901 when a half Senate election has been held at a different time from a general election for the House of Representatives, 1953, 1964, 1967, 1970; see half Senate election with House of Representatives, Senate, terms of senators. Top

Hare-Clark system The Hare-Clark system is a form of proportional representation by the single transferable vote method (STV) used to elect members of the Tasmanian House of Assembly since 1909. For a brief summary of the Hare-Clark system and its context, see David M Farrell and Ian McAllister, The Australian Electoral System: Origins, Variations and Consequences, pp 26-27 (Sydney: University of New South Wales Press, 2006, ISBN 0868408581). Top

head of government In a parliamentary system, executive power is divided between a head of state who represents the formal exercise of executive authority, and the head of government who is the leader of the party or coalition that has majority support in the lower house of parliament.

In Australia, the heads of government are the premiers of each state and the prime minister of the Commonwealth. Although not specified in the constitutional documents of the states and the Commonwealth, premiers and the prime minister are responsible for advising their head of state in using the extensive formal powers of governors and the governor general. These include giving assent to all parliamentary legislation, appointing all senior judges and senior members of the public service, and authorizing a wide range of regulations and administrative orders. It is accepted that the exercise of these powers is the sole responsibility of the head of government and his or her ministry.

In two matters, the relationship between Australian heads of state and their head of government can be contentious; the first is the decision to dissolve parliament and the second is the choice of head of government. The nature of the discretion that an Australian governor or governor general has to exercise these powers without the advice of the head of government has, since the 1920s, become contentious. For a comparative examination of this question, see Peter Boyce, The Queen's Other Realms: The Crown and Its Legacy in Australia, Canada and New Zealand, (Sydney: Federation Press, 2008, ISBN 9781862877009).
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head of state The head of state is the office which represents the formal executive power of the government and, on official occasions, represents the whole political community. While state and Commonwealth governments are nominally monarchical in form, the powers of the Crown as head of state are exercised by the governor of each state, and by the governor general for the Commonwealth.

See also head of government.

A constitutional amendment to set up a republican head of state for the Commonwealth was submitted to the people at a constitutional referendum in 1999. The referendum failed to gain the necessary support largely as a consequence of popular disagreement over the powers and process of selection of a republican head of state for the Commonwealth.
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HoR This abreviation is used for the House of Representatives in some tables in this database. Top

house of assembly See assembly. Top

House of Representatives The House of Representatives is the lower house of the Commonwealth Parliament. Its membership must be 'as nearly as practicable, twice the number of senators.' (section 24 of the Commonwealth Constitution). For example, in 1901 the Senate had 36 members and the House of Representatives had 75 members. The slight difference between 75 and 72 (twice the number of senators) is a result of the formula used to calculate the number of members of the House of Representatives from each state (see section 24 of the Commonwealth Constitution). The territories gained representation in the Senate from 1975 but the senators from the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory are not counted in the calculation for the size of the House of Representatives. Top

how-to-vote card In preferential voting systems, in addition to urging voters to rank their endorsed candidate (or candidates) as the voter's first preference, a political party may wish to indicate the way in which the voter should rank other parties' candidates. To encourage voters to follow the party-preferred order for ranking candidates on the ballot paper, parties often prepare a 'how-to-vote card' showing a facsimile of the ballot paper for each electoral district. The candidate ranking on the how-to-vote card is publicized before the election and the card -- often a sheet of paper -- is frequently handed out by each party's supporters near polling stations in the relevant electoral district.

For smaller parties, the second preferences of their voters may influence which candidate from the larger parties is elected. A smaller party may use the placing of their second preferences as a way to influence the government policy by bargaining with larger parties. This strategy was used with some success by the Democratic Labor Party between 1955 and 1974, and by Green parties since the late 1990s. The more a small party can ensure that its supporters follow the party's how-to-vote card, the greater the potential for the small party's influence.

The distribution of how-to-vote cards is regulated by the electoral rules of the Commonwealth and each state and territory. How-to-vote cards ranking candidates are not permitted for elections for the Tasmanian House of Assembly because they are considered to be inconsistent with the Assembly's Hare-Clark electoral system.
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in office after election See after election Top

independent Candidates who run for office with no party label are called Independents. The total vote for Independents at a general election is included in this database if it meets the conditions for a listed party or if any Independent candidate is elected.

Unfortunately, there are several complications with the presentation of information on Independents in this database.

First, the term Independent has been added to the name of a party such as Independent Liberals, often to distinguish a breakaway group from the main party (see party name). Such groupings are regarded as separate political parties and included in the database if they meet the conditions for being a listed party.

Secondly, in some of the sources used for this database, votes for a few candidates who ran under their own party label are included in the aggregate vote for Independents (note above the line voting).

Thirdly, there can be technical reasons why the vote for Independents may be inflated, particularly in recent elections. The requirement for parties to be registered with electoral commissions before a party name can be included on the ballot paper has meant that some candidates have no party label on the ballot paper even though they have campaigned as a party grouping but failed to register their party name. These candidates are treated as Independents in the database although, where the source permits, there is a note distinguishing those candidates who nominated themselves as Independents from those who simply ran without a party name.

Fourthly, since the introduction of above the line voting for the 1984 Senate election, and its adoption by state upper houses using proportional voting by STV, the distinction between party groupings and Independents has become blurred. Above the line voting provides a strong incentive for Independent candidates to form groups to benefit from the group transfer of preferences.

Notwithstanding these complications, the vote for Independents is important because it indicates the extent to which voters are voting against political parties in favour of a particular individual to represent them; see also above the line voting, ministerialist.
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independents and pre-party groups See pre-party groupings. Top

informal (invalid) ballots multiple votes At some elections, voters could mark ballot papers with more than one vote, giving the result that there were more votes cast than voters (see multiple voting). This was the case, for example, for elections for the South Australian House of Assembly until 1927. Such a system precludes the use of the usual way of counting informal (invalid) votes, and a separate entry is provided in the database table 'Enrolment and voting' for 'informal (invalid) ballots multiple votes'. Top

informal (invalid) vote In this database, an informal (invalid) vote is one which does not follow the electoral rules required for the vote to be counted as a valid vote. The term informal vote can also refer to the total number of informal votes cast at an election. The sum of the total valid votes and the total informal vote will be the total of votes cast at the election. The rate of informal (invalid) voting is calculated by expressing the informal vote as a percentage of the total votes cast at an election; see also See informal (invalid) ballots multiple votes Top

joint ticket This entry in the database indicates that two parties have agreed to run candidates on the same ticket for Senate elections and other state upper house elections with multimember districts using preferential voting systems, especially proportional representation. The agreement between the parties indicates the order in which the candidates are to be elected; negotiating such agreements has often been contentious.

Until 2016, the only parties in this database which have made such agreements are the Liberal Party and the National Party (and the predecessors of these two parties; the UAP (United Australia Party) and Country Party at some elections from 1931, and the National Country Party at some elections elections from 1975).

At the 2016 Senate election, the Help End Marijuana Prohibition (HEMP) Party and the Australian Sex Party ran a joint ticket in the Northern Territory and four states. Even though the ticket did not win any seats, the joint ticket and the individual parties are listed in Senate results if the ticket qualified as a listed party in this database for the particular state or territory Senate contest. This enables a comparison of the previous vote share of either of the individual parties that appeared as a separate listed party in previous elections.

A list of vote and seat shares for each pair of parties running on joint tickets can be found by selecting the 'Parties' page of this website; search for the word 'joint' in the 'OR enter party name or part name' box, and a list of all pairs of parties which have used joint tickets will be displayed. Click on any one of the joint tickets for a list of the vote and search shares of that ticket. The allocation of seats between parties running on a joint ticket can only be seen by looking at the results for each individual election.

Using the 'Parties' page of this website to search for the vote and seat shares of a party which has used joint tickets for Senate and upper house elections will display 'see election details' for those occasions where the party used a joint ticket with another party. To find the vote and seat shares of the joint ticket, search for a particular election, or use the search box as suggested in the previous paragraph.
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Labor Party See party name and party type. Top

left of centre parties See party type. Top

legislative assembly See assembly Top

legislative council The name given to the upper house of bicameral state parliaments; see also assembly.

This Database has information on legislative council elections since the grant of responsible government to the Australian colonies in the 1850s. At the moment, this includes the the Legislative Council of New South Wales since it became a directly elected chamber in 1978, the Tasmanian Legislative Council since 1856, and the Western Australian Legislative Council since its first election in 1894. It is planned to included information on legislative council elections in South Australia and Victoria since 1856.

Queensland had an appointed Legislative Council from 1860 until its abolition in 1922.

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legislature The legislature is another name for parliament. Top

Liberal and Country League See party name. Top

Liberal National Party (Qld) See party name. Top

Liberal Party See party name and party type. Top

lieutenant-governor See governor. Top

listed party Minimum conditions for listing: This database includes electoral information on those parties which have been large enough to have a significant effect on the nation wide or state wide pattern of votes and seats. The threshold for a listed party in this database was originally set at 2 percent of the total valid vote at a general election, with provision for including parties if they won a seat or fulfilled either of two additional conditions relating to a party's electoral performance in the immediately preceding or subsequent general election.

Accordingly, the vote share of a party fielding candidates at a general election is listed in the database if it fulfills any one of the following criteria:

1. It gained more than 2 percent of the total valid nation wide or state wide vote at the general election

2. It won a seat at the general election

3. It fielded candidates at both the general election and the subsequent general election for the same chamber at which it crossed the 2 percent threshold or won a seat

4. It was listed as a party in the database for the previous general election for the same chamber (there are some anomalous cases in this category relating to parties which have changed names or split)

Extended conditions for listing for some elections: The four criteria listed above have been used to select 'listed parties' for most of the election results in this database. At recent elections, and for those states with upgraded entries, the criteria have been relaxed to give a more comprehensive picture of the patterns of partisan competition; for some elections, all party groupings are listed, for others, all but the smallest and most ephemeral of party groupings (note the limits on such parties since the introduction of party registration).

Application of conditions to national and state summaries of Commonwealth elections: This database includes information on Commonwealth House of Representatives elections and Senate elections, and presents this information in the form of nation wide summaries and summaries for each State and Territory. The threshold for including a party is applied separately for the nation wide summary and each of the state and territory summaries. For example, a party with 3 percent of the vote in only one state at a House of Representatives election will be listed for the summary of the election for that state, but will not be listed in the nation wide summary unless the party won a seat. The use of a separate state threshold for state and territory summaries of national elections makes it possible to compare state and territory party performance at state and territory assembly elections and elections in the state or territory for the House of Representatives and the Senate.

See also party name, party registration, party type and the ‘Parties’ search facility on this website.
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loss of election This entry in the government database refers to one of the reasons why a period in office of a premier or prime minister started or ended. Top

lower house The lower house is the chamber of a bicameral parliament in which the government must retain a majority to remain in office. The lower house is the critical component of modern parliamentary government and is the basis for broad based popular representation in the governmental process. In South Australia and Tasmania the chamber is called the House of Assembly, but in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia, it is called the Legislative Assembly. The lower house of the Commonwealth Parliament is called the House of Representatives.

The parliaments of the two self-governing territories, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, have been unicameral since their establishment. In both territories -- and Queensland since it abolished its upper house, the Legislative Council, in 1922 -- the single chamber is called the Legislative Assembly and performs the same function as the lower house in bicameral state parliaments; see also assembly and upper house.
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majority government A majority government is one which is supported by a majority of members of the lower house of a parliament, all of whom are members of the same political party.

This is in contrast with:

A coalition government where a parliamentary majority is composed of the members of two (and occasionally more than two) political parties, who have ministers in the government;

A minority government where the governing party is kept in office by the support of one or more parties or groups of representatives of another party in the lower house who do not have ministers in the government; and

A minority coalition government where the government is composed of ministers from two (and occasionally more than two) political parties whose members do not control a majority of seats in the lower house but rely on the support of one or more other parties or groups of representatives of another party (who do not have ministers in the government) to stay in office.
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malapportionment This term refers to inequalities between the number of voters in electoral districts which have the same number of representatives. Voters in electoral districts with a large number of voters have less voting power than voters in electoral districts with only a few voters. For this reason, malapportionment is often referred to as vote weighting.

Malapportionment often reflects the desire of a governing party or coalition to maintain its hold on power by over-representing its supporters in a parliamentary chamber, but malapportionment can occur for other reasons. There may be broad agreement that some regions or communities should be over-represented in parliament. The Senate is malapportioned with Tasmania having less that a tenth of the number of voters in New South Wales even though each state is represented by twelve senators. This malapportionment was the result of each state political community requiring equality of representation in the Senate as a condition for their joining the federation.

Substantial malapportionment has been a feature of most lower houses in Australia at some stage during the period since the granting of responsible government in the 1850s, usually favouring agricultural and mining districts outside metropolitan areas. Malapportionment has been a characteristic of state upper house elections until reforms introduced since the 1970s; the Western Australian Legislative Council remains the only state upper house with substantial malapportionment.

As this database does not contain information on individual electoral districts (except for the Senate and the Tasmanian Legislative Council), it cannot be used to indicate the extent of malapportionment. Nonetheless, where there is a wide discrepancy between the first preference vote share and the seat share of the winning party or coalition, it is possible that malapportionment is present; but it can also be present even though there is a close fit between party vote and seat shares. Malapportionment is essentially a measure of the voting power of individuals rather than fairness in the representation of parties. Even so, it has been widely used as an indicator of the unfairness of electoral systems in Australia. While 'one vote one value' may be a component of fairness, other issues are involved in assessing an electoral system's fairness.

Note that malapportionment and gerrymandering are often confused; they refer to different ways in which electoral representation can be distorted.
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minister A minister is one of the members of the government who is commissioned by the governor (for states) or by the governor general (for the Commonwealth) to be responsible for one or more government departments or areas of government activity. These responsibilities comprise the minister's portfolio or portfolios.

All the ministers in a government, including the premier or prime minister, are known collectively as the ministry. The ministry is usually synonymous with the cabinet -- a meeting of ministers chaired by the premier or prime minister at which key decisions are made about government policy and legislation -- but in some ministries, particularly in Commonwealth governments since the 1960s, only some ministers are eligible to attend cabinet meetings on a regular basis. These cabinet ministers have a higher status than those in the 'outer ministry'. The distinction between these two classes of minister is made by the prime minister as a matter of administrative convenience. As a consequence of their commission, ministers are eligible to attend meetings of the executive council which is a formal meeting of a small number of ministers with the governor or governor general to transact official business of the government

The governor or governor general acts on the advice of the premier or prime minister in the granting or termination of a minister's commission. The ending of the commission of a premier or prime minister terminates the commissions of all the ministers in that government.

It is assumed that ministers will be members of parliament but in some states this is not specified in the state's constitutional documents. Some state constitutional documents limit the number of ministers who may be commissioned in a government, although there is no limit on the number of government departments which may be created or on the number of portfolios which a minister may hold. In spite of the importance of ministers and their position as a link between the machinery of government and parliament, there is very little about their role to be found in Australian constitutional documents. In particular, there is no specification their obligations to parliament, their responsibilities for their departments, or their place in the process of cabinet government and public accountability.

Note also ministerial by-elections.
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ministerial by-election On gaining responsible government, the constitutions of all Australian colonies except South Australia required that members of parliament re-contest their seats when they first became ministers. From the early 1700s the British parliament had been anxious to prevent the Crown from influencing members of parliament by offering them 'offices of profit', and made holding a government position inconsistent with being a member of parliament. As an exception to this rule, ministers were permitted to hold government office -- and be paid for their services -- if they submitted themselves for electoral endorsement at a by-election soon after they had accepted a commission as a minister. Ministers who had already been in office did not have to submit to re-election.

These ministerial by-elections were often uncontested but where partisan passions were strong or local issues were important, ministers were challenged and occasionally defeated, losing their seats in parliament.

The removal of the constitutional requirement for ministerial re-election was abolished in Queensland in 1884, Tasmania in 1901, New South Wales in 1906, Victoria in 1915, and Western Australia in 1947. The Commonwealth Constitution did not provide for ministerial re-election.
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ministerialist The term ministerialist is used in this database to refer to a group of members of parliament who supported a government in office (see minister) but were not bound by tight party discipline. Ministerialists represent loose pre-party groupings who held seats in state parliaments up to 1914. Such members ran for office as independents or under a variety of political labels but saw themselves as linked to other candidates by their support for a particular premier or government. Top

ministry The ministry is the collective name given to all the ministers who make up the government at any given time.

This database organizes governments around the periods in office of premiers and prime ministers. A period in office may include the addition, resignation and replacement of individual ministers as well as one or more major changes to the ministry (cabinet reshuffles). As long as the ministries are led by the same premier or prime minister who has the same partisan support in parliament, there can be several ministries within a period in office. Since the 1960s, it has been common for there to be several ministries within a period in office.
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minority coalition government A minority coalition government is composed of ministers from two (and occasionally more than two) political parties whose members do not control a majority of seats in the lower house but rely on the support of one or more other parties or groups of representatives of another party (who do not have ministers in the government) to stay in office.

An example of such a government arrangement is the Fahey Liberal Party and National Party minority coalition government which was in office in New South Wales from June 1992 to May 1995.

See also: coalition government, majority government, and minority government.
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minority government A minority government is one in which all the members of the ministry belong to a single party that does not control a partisan majority in the lower house of parliament but is dependent on the continuing support of another party or parties -- often independent or minor party members of parliament -- to stay in office. The difference between a minority government and a coalition government is that, in a coalition government, ministers are drawn from two or more parties following an arrangement between the parties, usually resulting from the situation where no single party has a majority of members in the lower house; see also, majority government, and minority coalition government. Top

multimember district A multimember electoral district is one which returns more than one member to a representative assembly (see single member district). Multimember districts can be combined with first past the post electoral systems and with preferential voting, but are now usually used as part of systems of proportional representation.

See also joint ticket, and note the difference between multimember districts and multiple voting.
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multiple voting In this database multiple voting refers to electoral systems which permit (or require) a voter to cast more than one vote on a ballot paper to elect more than one member from a multimember electoral district using first past the post (plurality) voting. It can also refer to other electoral systems which permit a voter to cast more than one ballot to elect one or more members from an electoral district; see also informal (invalid) ballots multiple votes.

Multiple voting should be distinguished from plural voting which permits a voter to vote in more than one electoral district at an election.
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National Party See party name and party type. Top

Nationalist Party (Nationalists) See party name. Top

New South Wales New South Wales is one of the six states which have comprised the Australian Commonwealth since federation in 1901. New South Wales was established as a British penal settlement in 1788 and achieved self-government over domestic issues as a British colony in 1856. It has a bicameral parliament with a lower house called the Legislative Assembly and an upper house called the Legislative Council. Summary information on all general elections for the New South Wales Legislative Assembly since 1856, and for the New South Wales Legislative Council since direct elections were introduced for this chamber in 1978, can be found in this database together with information about parties, representation and governments.

A survey of politics and government in New South Wales can be found in a chapter of a recently published book related to this website: see Rodney Smith, 'New South Wales', in Jeremy Moon and Campbell Sharman (eds), Australian Politics and Government: The Commonwealth, the States and the Territories, (Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, 2003) ISBN 0 521 53205 1 (paperback), 0 521 82507 5 (hardback).

General information on Australian political institutions can be found in the Glossary of this database.
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Northern Territory The Northern Territory existed before federation in 1901 as an administrative area within South Australia. The administration of the Northern Territory was costly to maintain and the South Australian government transferred the Territory to the Commonwealth government with effect from 1911. The Northern Territory achieved representative self-government as a territory of the Commonwealth in 1974. It has a unicameral parliament, the single chamber being called the Legislative Assembly. Summary information on all general elections for the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly since 1974 can be found in this database together with information about parties, representation and governments.

The residents of the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory did not regain full representation in the Commonwealth House of Representatives until 1966, and in the Commonwealth Senate until 1975. Territory summaries of national elections for the House of Representatives and the Senate are included in this database from these dates. The terms of the two senators from each of the territories is limited to the period between elections for the House of Representatives, Senate elections for territory senators occurring at every House of Representatives election.

A survey of politics and government in the Northern Territory can be found in a chapter of a recently published book related to this website: see Dean Jaensch, 'Northern Territory', in Jeremy Moon and Campbell Sharman (eds), Australian Politics and Government: The Commonwealth, the States and the Territories, (Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, 2003) ISBN 0 521 53205 1 (paperback), 0 521 82507 5 (hardback).

General information on Australian political institutions can be found in the Glossary of this database.
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NSW Abbreviation for New South Wales. Top

NT Abbreviation for Northern Territory. Top

One Nation See party name. Top

optional preferences In this database, if a voter under a system of preferential voting must vote for only one candidate, but may rank more than one candidate listed on the ballot paper, this is referred to as preferential voting with optional preferences.

A similar system of optional preferences can be applied to electoral systems using proportional representation.
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parliament Parliament is the general name given to representative assemblies in Australia. The term can be used in slightly different ways. It can refer to the one or two chambers which make up state, Commonwealth, and territory legislatures. These bodies make the laws which regulate our social and economic life and provide the authority for government action.

Technically, however, state and Commonwealth parliaments are made up of the legislature together with the governor or governor general representing the formal executive power of the Crown. A law does not come into effect unless a bill has the support of both houses of a bicameral parliament (or one house in unicameral parliaments) and the governor's or governor general's assent and, where necessary, proclaimed to come into effect. As the governors and governors general act on the advice of the ministry, this arrangement strengthens the already considerable power of the government of the day to control the process of law making.

Once called into session by the governor or governor general, the sitting of a house of parliament can be adjourned by a motion carried by its members, or the session can be prorogued, requiring the subsequent opening of a new session of parliament. The dissolution of a lower house of parliament by the governor or governor general marks the end of the period in office of the members of the house, and the start of formal preparations for a general election.
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parliamentary system A parliamentary system of government is one of the two basic forms of representative democracy. The distinguishing characteristic of parliamentary government is that the government of the day is chosen from representatives who have been elected to a parliamentary assembly. That is, the most important elected offices of government -- the premier or prime minister and the other ministers who form the government -- are not elected directly but indirectly through parliamentary elections. Since the emergence of parties with strong party discipline, parliamentary government has meant that governments in Australia usually have control over stable parliamentary majorities in the lower house of the parliament (see majority government). This greatly reduces the ability of lower houses of parliament to challenge the wishes of the government of the day on the floor of parliament (see also parliament).

Parliamentary systems like Australia make a distinction between the head of government (the premier or prime minister) who is the chief elected official in the government, and the head of state who represents the formal exercise of executive power.

The other system of representative democracy is presidential government. In this system, the president who is both head of government and head of state, is elected separately from a representative assembly. Ministers are not usually permitted to be members of the assembly but are appointed by the president. Presidential systems combine the offices of head of government and head of state in the president, but aim to check the power of the government of the day by separating power between the president and a powerful legislature.
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party See listed party and party name. Top

party name The party names listed in this database (see listed party) have been those under which candidates ran for election (see the 'Search by party' component of this website, and note party registration, and party type).

Problems with party names: Assigning names to parties is not always straightforward; a party can modify its name between elections, or a party can split with rival groups competing for the party name. In addition, some candidates have run for election under a party label with the term independent in front of another party name. Where parties have acquired some formal status or have been registered under electoral law, the formal name of a party is not necessarily the name under which the party has campaigned. And the state branch of a party may not have the same name as its federal counterpart.

In all these cases, there has been a presumption that the party name used in this database will be the party label under which the party’s candidates contested the election. On occasion, a party’s name has been modified or edited to remove confusion with another party, to simplify the presentation of information in the database, or to permit the comparison over time of a party which has made only small changes to its name. Substantial adjustments are often indicated the notes to the record for the relevant election. The database uses a standardized format and spelling for party names; the Australian Labor Party, for example, is listed in this form even though for some elections early in the party's history Labor was spelt Labour.

Some parties have used several names or have had name changes which should be noted:

Australian Labor Party: The name Australian Labor Party, has been used to include candidates who ran at elections in the 1890s and early 1900s under such labels as 'Political Labour League' but who operated in parliament as part of the Labor Party. The split in the New South Wales branch of the Australian Labor Party in the 1930s, led to the creation of the Federal Labor Party and the State Labor Party for most elections in the period between 1931 and 1937. During this period, there is no listing for the Australian Labor Party in federal and some state elections.

Country and Democratic League: The Country Party in Western Australia changed its name to the Country and Democratic League at elections from 1946 to 1962 before reverting to 'County Party'; see 'National Party', below.

Country Liberal Party: In the Northern Territory, the Country Liberal Party has been the principal party rival to the Australian Labor Party at both Assembly and federal elections since the Northern Territory gained responsible government and full representation in the Commonwealth Parliament. In Canberra, members of the Country Liberal Party have often been members of the Liberal Party caucus.

Country Party: See 'National Party', below.

Federal Labor Party: See 'Australian Labor Party', above.

Greens: Environmental groups have been listed in this database since the early 1970s under a variety of names. The United Tasmania Group which contested Assembly elections in Tasmania in 1972 is the first Green listed party in this database. The move from state based party names to Australian Greens has led to name changes for federal elections, but at state elections, Green parties have often kept state based names. The party label Tasmanian Greens (Independents) has been used in this database at elections for the Tasmanian House of Assembly before the establishment of the Tasmanian Greens as a formal party label at the 1996 election; see the electoral records for the Tasmanian Assembly elections of 1986, 1989, and 1992.

Independents: The treatment of Independents is dealt with elsewhere in this Glossary.

Liberal Party: The name Liberal Party is used in the database for the party formed for national elections around 1910 and for the one reformed in 1944 even though there was a gap of close to 30 years between its appearance at national elections under that name. The Nationalist Party formed during the First World War as a successor to the Liberal Party around 1917 is given the label Nationalist Party (Nationalists) (and the National Party (Nationalist) for Victorian Assembly elections) in the database to distinguish it from the National Party which resulted from the change of name adopted by the Country Party and the National Country Party in the period after 1974. See also 'United Australia Party', below.

Liberal and Country League: The Liberal Party (see above) in some states has called itself the Liberal and Country League for substantial periods, and is listed in the relevant elections under this name.

Liberal National Party (Qld): In July 2008, the Liberal Party and the National Party in Queensland agreed to merge to form a new party to contest state and federal elections, the Liberal National Party.

National Party: The current National Party began life as the Country Party in the years immediately preceding the First World War. This name has had several modifications but, during the 1970s, there was a transition in some states to National Country Party before the current name of National Party which was progressively adopted by all branches for elections from 1974. Note that the party should be distinguished from the inter-war Nationalist Party (see 'Liberal Party', above).

Nationalist Party (Nationalists): See 'Liberal Party', above.

Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party: This party has been listed in the database under this name and under the shorter version of its name, One Nation, that was used at some elections the party contested.

The Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party was first listed in this Database for the Queensland Legislative Assembly general election in 1998. Major organizational changes led Pauline Hanson to leave the party and, after 2003, it was reconstituted in some states as One Nation. This database uses the One Nation name only for the restructured party until the party was reconstituted by Pauline Hanson using its original name during 2015 (see below). To add further complications, Pauline Hanson ran as an Independent candidate for the 2004 Senate election in Queensland, and as a candidate for the Pauline Hanson's United Australia Party at the 2007 Senate election in Queensland.

In 2016, the Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party was revived by Pauline Hanson and has endorsed candidates to contest federal and state elections, winning Senate seats and representation in some states.

State Labor Party: See 'Australian Labor Party', above.

United Australia Party: This party was formed in 1931 as a successor to the Nationalist Party in federal politics and in several states; its collapse in the 1940s led to the formation of the current Liberal Party in 1944 (see 'Liberal Party', above).

Party names and the federal system: Given the federal nature of the Australian party system, state branches of some parties have operated under different names at national elections. Where this has occurred, the database indicates the link in the national summary of results with the state of origin in brackets as part of the party name. Similarly, at elections for the House of Representatives and the Senate, where a party meets one of the criteria for listing as a party in the national summary but the party ran candidates in only one state, the national summary gives the party name followed by the state of origin in brackets; an example is the Brian Harradine Group (Tas) from Tasmania, and the Country Liberal Party (NT) from the Northern Territory. If the party includes the name of its state of origin (or an abbreviation) in its title, no brackets are required; an example is the Greens WA from Western Australia before the formation of the Australian Greens.
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party registration Since the 1980s, parties have been required to register with electoral commissions before a party name can be included on the ballot paper. New parties may be required to have a certain number of members, field a certain number of candidates, lodge a copy of the party's constitution and pay a substantial registration fee.

Paradoxically, this has complicated the question of party names; some parties have registered both an official party name and an abbreviated name to be used for election campaigning.

The requirements for registration have made it difficult for small parties to become registered. This has meant that some candidates have no affiliated party name on the ballot paper even though they have campaigned as a member of a party grouping. These candidates of unregistered parties are treated as Independents in the database although, where the source permits, there is a note distinguishing those candidates who nominated themselves as Independents from those who simply ran without a party name. See also listed party.

For some upper house elections which have multimember districts (including the Senate), candidates from an unregistered party grouping can choose to be grouped on the ballot paper. This gives them a distinctive space on the ballot paper (for example, 'Group F) even though the group is not registered as a party and no affiliated party name is shown on the ballot.
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party support in parliament See majority government, minority government, coalition. Top

party type In the 'Search for parties' section of this database, an option is provided for searches by party type. The purpose is to show listed parties which are linked by broadly similar ideologies. The groupings are not precise, particularly for the groupings which include the largest parties, right of centre and left of centre. One of the reasons for providing the option of searching by party type is to group parties which have different names but similar goals or support base. A search for 'green' parties, for example, will find the United Tasmania Group, Australia's first green party, which would not be found by a search for 'green' in a party name search. The categories are:

Centre parties and Australian Democrats: These are parties which take a middle position between parties of the left and right, suspicious of the union influence in the Australian Labor Party, and the influence of business interests in the Liberal Party. With the exception of rural parties and some special interest parties (see below), centre parties have had few representatives in Australian politics, reflecting the dominance of the major left and right party groupings.

Green parties: These are parties whose principal concern is the environment although this is often combined with a stress on participatory democracy.

Independents: This category includes candidates who run for office as independents or without any party label. This category does not include those listed parties with 'independent' coupled with a party name who are included in the category covered by the substantive party name.

Members of colonial parliaments after the granting of responsible government and before the emergence of political parties or pre-party groupings (see below), are labelled in this database as independents, and governments formed from such parliaments are described as having 'Support from parliamentary factions and independents'.

Left of centre parties and Australian Labor Party: Parties in this category favour government intervention in the economy, redistribution of income and wealth, and social welfare.

Pre-party groupings (before 1910): This category covers political groupings from the beginning of responsible government in the 1850s to the period just before the emergence of disciplined mass parties around 1910. It includes parliamentary groups loosely linked by a common loyalty to a particular government or policy and, by the 1870s, to more clearly defined factions committed to supporting a particular government (ministerialists) but without the organisational structure of a party to give party members a choice in the selection of candidates.

Right of centre parties and Liberal Party: These are parties which are less enthusiastic about government intervention in the economy, and socially conservative.

Rural based parties and the National Party: These are parties associated with farmers and settlers associations and, more recently, such non-metropolitan based populist parties as Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party.

Specific issue parties: This is a residual category for parties whose main concern or claim to public support is a particular set of policy issues.
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Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party See party name, party type. Top

period in office This database organizes information on governments around the period that a premier or prime minister holds in office (see also commission, government). The period in office of a premier or prime minister begins with the date at which he or she first takes office and continues until he or she is replaced by another premier or prime minister. This period may include major changes to the ministry as well as the addition or resignation of ministers. The period in office can span several elections the longest being that of T Playford (junior) who held office as premier of South Australia from November 1938 until March 1965 and fought nine elections as premier.

End of period in office: The period in office ends when the premier or prime minister loses or resigns office, but the period can also be ended if there is a substantial change in the party composition of the premier's or prime minister's parliamentary support: the premier or prime minister continues in office but the nature of the parliamentary support changes because of the formation or break up of a coalition, or the formation of a new party grouping to support the government.

An extreme example of this is the three periods in office of Prime Minister Hughes between 1915 and 1923. Hughes was prime minister throughout this period, first as a member of the Australian Labor Party (October 1915 to November 1916), then led a National Labor Party government (November 1916 to February 1917), and finally as member of the Nationalist Party (Nationalists) until 1923.

Change in the extent of parliamentary support: Changes in the extent of parliamentary party support for a premier or prime minister -- the change from a minority government to a majority government (or the reverse) -- do not affect the period in office of a premier or prime minister but are recorded in the 'Parliamentary support during period' table in the 'Governments' component of the database relating to the relevant period in office of the premier or prime minister.

There are, however, cases when it is difficult to decide when a change in parliamentary support represents the end of a period in office or a change in the extent of parliamentary support; for example, Premier Rann of South Australia is shown in this database as having two periods in office (commencing on 5 March 2002 and 4 December 2002) covering a series of changes in parliamentary support which began with a minority government, then changed to coalition support (4 December 2002), then added another coalition partner (23 July 2004), and finally became a majority government (25 March 2010). Notes are provided for these anomalous cases.

Dates of periods in office: In this database, the dates of the period in office of a premier or prime minister have sometimes been modified to correspond with the dates of general elections and are not necessarily the same as the precise period during which his or her government held a commission.
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periodic election In this database, the term periodic election is only applied to upper house elections which fulfill two conditions; the terms of members must expire at a fixed date rather than at a time set by the date of lower house elections, and elections must be held close to the same date in every election year. This was the case for elections to the Western Australian Legislative Council for most elections from 1898 to 1962, and has remained the case for the Tasmanian Legislative Council since 1888 (see annual periodic elections). Periodic elections are closely tied to the members of the upper house having staggered terms.

Although most Australian upper houses have fixed terms for members, elections for several of these chambers can be held within six to twelve months before the expiry of members' terms rather than fixed to take place on a specified date. And, although some state lower houses of parliament have acquired fixed parliamentary terms in recent years, it is possible for these parliaments to be dissolved earlier if the governing party is defeated on a confidence motion.

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plumping If a voter chooses to vote for fewer candidates than are to be elected from a multimember electoral district under a block voting electoral system, the voter is said to 'plump' for these candidates. Plumping permits an elector to select one or more preferred candidates and to decide if voting for all candidates will reduce the prospect of favoured candidates being elected. Plumping can be prohibited by requiring voters to vote for as many candidates as there are members to be elected. Top

plural voting In this database, plural voting refers to ability of some voters to vote in more than one electoral district at an election. This was a common aspect of the franchise for elections held in the 1800s where the right to vote was linked to the ownership of property (property franchise); an elector could vote in as many districts as the elector owned property. Property based plural voting continued for some legislative councils until the 1960s.

Plural voting should be distinguished from multiple voting; multiple voting refers to electoral systems which permit (or require) a voter to cast more than one vote on a ballot paper to elect members from a multimember electoral district using first past the post (plurality) voting. Plural voting can also refer to other electoral systems which permit a voter to cast more than one ballot to elect more than one member from an electoral district.
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plurality voting Plurality voting, sometime called first past the post voting, is an electoral system that requires a voter to mark the ballot paper indicating the voter's preferred candidate. Depending on the rules for the election, the mark can be a tick, a cross, or the number "1". The winning candidate is the one with the most votes. In electoral contests where there are only two candidates, the candidate with the most votes will have a majority (that is, more than 50 percent of the votes cast). If there are more than two candidates, the candidate with the most votes may only have a plurality (that is, more than any other candidate, but less that 50 percent of the votes cast).

Plurality systems were widely used in Australia until the rise of the Australian Labor Party prompted anti-Labor parties after 1910 to adopt preferential voting for most lower house elections in Australia.

Plurality electoral systems are usually associated with single member districts, but they can also be used in multimember districts. The use of plurality voting with multimember districts is often called block voting; the voter is given as many votes as there are candidates to be elected from the district. Such a system favours well organized party tickets and a successful party can win all the seats in a multimember district with a plurality of votes. This system was used for the Commonwealth Senate until 1919. If the electoral rules for block voting permit a voter to vote for fewer than the number of members to be elected, the system is said to permit plumping.

Plurality voting can also be used in multimember districts by giving the voters as many ballots as there are candidates to be elected from the district. This enables voters to vote for several candidates or to cast more than one ballot for their favoured candidate (see also ballots).

At some nineteenth century elections using plurality voting, the names of candidates were printed on ballot papers and electors cast their votes by striking through the names of the candidates they did not wish to elect. The candidate the most votes was elected.
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PM Abbreviation for prime minister. Top

portfolio A portfolio is an area of government activity for which a minister is responsible; see government, minister. Top

PR-STV See proportional representation by STV. Top

pre-party groupings Pre-party groupings (before 1910); this category covers groupings of parliamentarians who supported or opposed governments from the beginning of responsible government in the 1850s to the period just before the emergence of disciplined mass parties around 1910. It includes parliamentary groups loosely linked by a common loyalty to a particular government or policy and, by the 1870s, to more clearly defined factions committed to supporting a particular government (ministerialists) but without the formal organisational structure of a party to give party members a choice in the selection of candidates.
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preferential voting Preferential voting is the common Australian usage for an electoral system which is more widely known as the alternative vote (AV) or instant run-off voting (IRV) in the United States. Under this system, a voter can rank the candidates listed on the ballot paper in the order of the voter's choice, and to indicate that ranking by placing the numbers 1, 2, 3…, next to the candidates' names. If no candidate wins a majority of the first preference votes, the ballots of the candidate with the smallest number of first preference votes are examined, and the second preferences are assigned to candidates who are still in the count. The process of excluding the least successful candidates and assigning preferences is continued until one candidate gains a majority of the vote.

Under a preferential voting system, voters can be required to mark their ballots to express preferences for all candidates on the ballot paper (compulsory preferences), or can mark their ballot paper with as few preferences as they wish as long as they indicate a first preference vote for one candidate (optional preferences). Some preferential voting systems in Australia have combined these two rules (sometimes called semi-optional preferences); voters must express a certain number of preferences beyond a first preference, after which the further expression of preferences is optional. Such a system has operated for Tasmanian Legislative Council elections since 1909; a preference ranking is required for the first three candidates but, if there are more than three candidates for an electoral district, the expression of preferences beyond the third is optional.

This electoral system is usually adopted for single member districts as a way of coping with the emergence of a new party which threatens to split the vote of one or both of two parties which have been dominant in electoral contests previously using a first past the post (plurality) voting system. Preferential voting was introduced in Australia in most jurisdictions in response to the rise of the Country Party (now National Party) in the 1920s and the threat that it might split the non-Labor vote and permit Australian Labor Party candidates to gain an advantage.

Preferential voting can be applied to multimember districts but, as a majoritarian system, it will tend to give all the seats in an electoral district to the party which has only half the votes. Preferential voting was used for Senate elections from 1919 until 1946 and produced highly disproportionate results, in some cases creating a chamber with all the members from one party grouping.

Proportional representation by the single transferable vote (STV) also requires the voter to rank candidates and can be regarded as a form of preferential voting although it is not common usage in Australia to use the term preferential voting to include proportional representation. See also contingent voting
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premier The premier is the name given to the head of government of a state and is the state's chief elected executive official. The premier is commissioned by the governor (see commission) to form a government which has the support of a majority of members of the lower house of the state parliament . The premier is usually the leader of the political party or coalition which has won a majority of seats in parliament; see assembly, chief minister, government , majority government, minister, parliamentary system.

The position and role of the premier in the governmental system is not well specified in state constitutional documents. Even though the premier is the most important political office in the state, the functions and responsibilities of the premier as head of government are left to customary practices rather than constitutional law. Before the 1960s, it was not usual for there to be a premier's department, the term 'premier' being used to describe the role of head of government rather than a specified portfolio; the premier would often hold the office of Treasurer or Attorney-general or, in the early days of self-government, the office of Chief Secretary

This database uses the period in office of a premier or prime minister as the basis for organizing information about governments.

Before federation in 1901, colonial premiers often used the title 'prime minister'. To avoid possible confusion, all colonial heads of government listed in this database are referred to as 'premier'.
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premier after election See after election. Top

premier at election See at election. Top

premier dismissed by governor The entry 'Premier dismissed by governor' in this database refers to one of the reasons why a period in office of a premier started or ended; see also at election, commission, governor.

The only time this has happened since 1890 was the dismissal of J T Lang as premier of New South Wales in May 1932; see also prime minister dismissed by governor general.
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prime minister The prime minister is the name given to the head of government of the Commonwealth and is the Commonwealth's chief elected executive official. The prime minister is commissioned by the governor general (see commission) to form a government which has the support of a majority of members of the House of Representatives. The prime minister is usually the leader of the political party which has won a majority of seats in the previous general election; see assembly, government , majority government, minister, parliamentary system.

The position and role of the prime minister in the governmental system is not mentioned in the Commonwealth Constitution. Even though the prime minister is the most important political office in the Commonwealth, the functions and responsibilities of the prime minister as head of government are left to customary practices rather than constitutional law.

Before federation in 1901, colonial premiers often used the title 'prime minister'. To avoid possible confusion, all colonial heads of government listed in this database are referred to as 'premier'.

This database uses the period in office of a premier or prime minister as the basis for organizing information about governments.
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prime minister after election See after election. Top

prime minister at election See at election. Top

proportional representation Proportional representation refers to any electoral system which aims to create a representative parliamentary chamber in which the proportion of seats in the assembly matches the pattern of votes cast at an election. Proportional representation can be based on the proportional representation of parties or on the representation of candidates according to their support in terms of preferences expressed by the voters.

All systems of proportional representation require elections to be held in multimember districts and the larger the number of members in each electoral district (district magnitude), the more proportional the result. This means that the higher the district magnitude, the easier it is for small parties to be represented in a parliamentary chamber. In this respect, proportional representation is an electoral system which is likely to encourage diversity of representation.

The following two kinds of proportional representation have been used to elect members of parliament in Australia.

Proportional representation by party list (PR-List)
Party-based variants of proportional representation require the voter to choose between lists of party candidates rather individual candidates. A wide variety of these PR-List systems (some of which provide a limited choice of candidates) have been used in Europe.

A list system of proportional representation was used for South Australian Legislative Council from 1973 to 1981, and a modified d'Hondt list system was used for the first two elections for the Legislative Assembly of the Australian Capital Territory in 1989 and 1992.

Proportional representation by the single transferable vote method (PR-STV)
The major candidate-based system of proportional representation is proportional representation by the single transferable vote method (STV). This has been the most common form of proportional representation adopted in Australia.

It requires a preferential voting system where voters rank the candidates running for election in the order of the voters' choice. The preferences are counted using a quota to calculate the successful candidates. There are several ways in which the quota can be calculated and a variety of ways of transfering preferences between candidates. Note that the adoption of 'above the line' voting for PR-STV systems used by Australian upper houses has reduced the significance the voter's ability to rank individual candidates (see below).

After a trial for the city electoral districts of Hobart and Launceston in 1897 and 1900, proportional representation by STV has been used since 1909 for elections for the Tasmanian House of Assembly, the lower house of the Tasmanian Parliament, where it is often called the Hare-Clark system. It has also been used for the Legislative Assembly of the Australian Capital Territory for elections since 1995, and is used as the basis for representation in the Commonwealth Senate since 1949, and the legislative councils of New South Wales, South Australian, Victoria and Western Australia

PR-STV and 'above the line' voting in Australian upper houses
The Senate electoral system since 1984 has permitted voters to mark a single party box rather than rank all the candidates in a preferred order (see above the line voting); similar modifications have subsequently been adopted for state legislative council elections which use proportional representation. If a party box is marked -- a so-called above the line vote -- all the candidates on the ballot are automatically ranked in the order preferred by the party. This makes proportional representation by STV work in much the same way as a party list system.
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proportional representation by list See proportional representation. Top

proportional representation by STV See proportional representation. Top

prorogation When a session of a house of parliament is officially terminated other than for the immediate calling of an election (see dissolution), the house is said to be prorogued (a prorogued house may be subsequently dissolved). The power to prorogue a state house of parliament is vested in the governor of the state or, for a house of the Commonwealth Parliament, in the governor-general. This power is usually exercised on the advice of the premier or prime minister; for a general discussion of prorogation, see Anne Twomey, The Constitution of New South Wales, pp 462-466 (Sydney: Federation Press, 2004, ISBN 1862875162).

When a house of parliament is prorogued, all pending government legislation lapses, and committee activity ceases although, in the case of committees, there may be legislative authority for a committee to continue, and some upper houses, depending on their constitutions, claim the ability to continue their committee activity after prorogation.

Prorogation may have a different significance for the lower and upper houses of parliament. For lower houses -- state assemblies and the House of Representatives -- proroguing parliament is a way of dividing a three or four year parliamentary term into two or more sessions for the convenient conduct of government business, each session requiring a new opening of parliament. But it may also be used by a government that does not wish to adjourn the house (or does not have the necessary parliamentary support for an adjournment), to cut off parliamentary discussion or committee investigation of contentious matters, or to govern for a longer than usual period without the oversight of parliament.

For upper houses which cannot be dissolved in the same way as lower houses because their terms are not tied to the term of the lower house (see fixed terms), or because they have staggered or periodic elections, prorogation of the upper house may be required as a way of stopping their activities when an election is called for the lower house. When the House of Representatives is dissolved for an election, the Senate is prorogued (see Odgers' Australian Senate Practice, 12th edition, online at: http://www.aph.gov.au/Senate/pubs/odgers/chap1926.htm).

The power of the executive to prorogue houses of parliament is a reminder of the power that governments have to limit parliamentary activity. Prorogation was the way in which the Stuart monarchs in the 17th century dispensed with uncooperative parliaments. The ability of the executive to call, dissolve and prorogue parliament with few constitutional restraints, remains one of the characteristic features of Australian parliamentary government.
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Publications A number of publications have been produced by researchers working with the Database since its origins in 1995. In addition to providing useful information, these publications may suggest ideas for future research using material in the Database.

(Note that publications on ministerial portfolios makes reference to components of the Database that are not displayed on the website.)


1. Jeremy Moon and Imogen Fountain (1997) 'Keeping the Gates? Women as Ministers in Australia, 1970-96', Australian Journal of Political Science, 32(3): 455-266.

2. Campbell Sharman and Anthony Sayers (1998) ‘Swings and Roundabouts? Patterns of Voting for the Australian Labor Party at State and Commonwealth Lower House Elections, 1901-96’, Australian Journal of Political Science, 33(3): 339-354.

3. Jeremy Moon and Anthony Sayers (1999) ‘The Dynamics of Governmental Activity: A Long-run Analysis of the Changing Scope and Profile of Australian Ministerial Portfolios’, Australian Journal of Political Science, 34(2): 149-167.

4. Campbell Sharman (1999) ‘The Representation of Small Parties and Independents in the Senate’, Australian Journal of Political Science, 34(3): 353-361.

5. Campbell Sharman (2002) ‘A Web-based Database on Australian Government and Politics (http://elections.uwa.edu.au)’, Australian Journal of Political Science, 37(2): 347-351.

6. Anthony Sayers and Jeremy Moon (2002) 'State Government Convergence and Partisanship: A Long-Run Analysis of Australian Ministerial Portfolios', Canadian Journal of Political Science, 35(3): 589-612.

7. Campbell Sharman, Anthony Sayers and Narelle Miragliotta (2002) ‘Trading Party Preferences: The Australian Experience of Preferential Voting’, Electoral Studies, 21(4): 543-560.

8. Jeremy Moon and Campbell Sharman (editors) (2003) Australian Politics and Government: The Commonwealth, the States and the Territories 1901-2001, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (This publication included contributions from Brian Costar, Nick Economou, Jenny Fleming, Dean Jaensch, Aynsley Kellow, Jeremy Moon, Andrew Parkin, Campbell Sharman, Rodney Smith, Paul Strangio, John Wanna, John Warhurst, and Patrick Weller)

9. Campbell Sharman (2003) ‘Uncontested Seats and the Evolution of Party Competition: The Australian Case’, Party Politics 9(6): 679-702.

10. Narelle Miragliotta and Campbell Sharman (2012) ‘Federalism and New Party Insurgency in Australia’, Regional and Federal Studies, 22(5) : 577-594.

11. Campbell Sharman (2013) 'Limiting Party Representation: Evidence from a Small Parliamentary Chamber’, Legislative Studies Quarterly, 38(3): 327-348.

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QLD Abbreviation for Queensland. Top

Queensland Queensland is one of the six states which have comprised the Australian Commonwealth since federation in 1901. Queensland separated from New South Wales and was established as a separate British colony in 1859 with self-government over domestic issues. It has a unicameral parliament, its only chamber being the Legislative Assembly (Queensland abolished its upper house, the Legislative Council, in 1922). Summary information on all general elections for the Queensland Legislative Assembly since 1890 can be found in this database together with information about parties, representation and governments.

A survey of politics and government in Queensland can be found in a chapter of a recently published book related to this website: see John Wanna, 'Queensland', in Jeremy Moon and Campbell Sharman (eds), Australian Politics and Government: The Commonwealth, the States and the Territories, (Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, 2003) ISBN 0 521 53205 1 (paperback), 0 521 82507 5 (hardback).

General information on Australian political institutions can be found in the Glossary of this database.
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registration of voters Registration (enrolment) as a voter is now compulsory for all Australian parliamentary elections (note the partial exception of South Australia, below). With minor qualifications for length of residence and variations for some state and territory elections, all eligible Australian citizens are required to be registered as voters; see electoral roll. Comprehensive voter registration can be achieved by surveying households, and by requiring state agencies which compile lists of names and addresses to provided these lists to electoral authorities. See also compulsory voting.

For commentary on the context of compulsory registration, see David M Farrell and Ian McAllister, The Australian Electoral System: Origins, Variations and Consequences, pp 121-124 (Sydney: University of New South Wales Press, 2006, ISBN 0868408581).

History
Compulsory enrolment was introduced for Australian lower house elections over the period between 1911 and 1930:

Commonwealth 1911
Queensland 1915
Western Australia 1919
New South Wales 1921
Victoria 1923
Tasmania 1930

For South Australia, 'initial enrolment to vote in South Australian parliamentary elections remains voluntary, however, once enrolled, voting and maintaining enrolment is compulsory', Electoral Commission of South Australia, website: http://www.ecsa.sa.gov.au/apps/news/?sectionID=40 [accessed 22 December 2009]. The Electoral Act of South Australia 1929-1934 required that '... every occupier of a habitation shall, upon application, furnish to the returning officer of the State ... any information which he required in connection with the preparation, maintenance, or revision of the rolls', (section 24(1)). A similar provision is included in the current Electoral Act.

State upper houses
For those Australian states with elected upper houses (legislative councils) since the granting of responsible government, compulsory enrolment was introduced later and over a longer period; the Tasmanian Legislative Council in 1930, the Victorian Legislative Council in 1950, the Western Australian Legislative Council in 1964, and the South Australian Legislative Council in 1973 (once enrolled for the South Australian House of Assembly, voters were automatically enrolled for the Legislative Council and required to maintain a valid voter registration). The introduction of compulsory enrolment for these chambers was complicated by a property franchise and plural voting.

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responsible government Responsible government is a term which is used to refer to two elements of parliamentary government in British derived parliamentary systems. First, the government – the premier or prime minister and all the ministers who make up a ministry – is accountable to the lower house of parliament (see assembly). A government must maintain majority support in the lower house; loss of that support means that the government must resign. In this sense, responsible government is another term for parliamentary government; a ministry is ‘responsible’ to parliament for the activities of government and must resign if it loses the confidence of the lower house.

The second meaning of responsible government has historical significance and refers to the gaining of self-government by Australian colonies from 1856 (Queensland 1859, Western Australia, 1890). Before responsible government, executive decisions in the colonies were the responsibility of the governor even though he was advised by a representative body which sometimes included elected members. Under the system of ‘responsible government’, the governor was obliged to act on the advice of the premier and a group of ministers who had majority support in the lower house of parliament.

The granting of responsible government for the Australian colonies was a major achievement. It meant self-government for the colonists under a system of parliamentary democracy based on popular elections for the lower house of parliament with a wide franchise. This was true even though governments were sometimes constrained by powerful upper houses, by the residual powers of the governor and, during the nineteenth century, by the ability of the British government to override colonial legislation. The ‘responsible government’ model has continued to be the foundation of parliamentary government in the states, and colonial experience of the system served as the basis for the design and operation of commonwealth parliamentary government from 1901.
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right of centre parties See party type. Top

run-off election See second ballot. Top

rural based parties See party type. Top

SA Abbreviation for South Australia. Top

seat share In this database, seat share refers to the number of seats won by a party (the seats won) at a general election for the lower house of a parliament expressed as a proportion (percentage) of all the seats in the chamber for which the election was held. The seat share of a party can be compared with its first preference vote share to calculate the extent to which the electoral system under or over represents a party in a parliamentary chamber; see also first preference vote share.

The process of calculating the share of seats won by a party at Senate elections is more complicated; see seats won by party.
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seats held by party A number of Australian upper houses have staggered terms for their members so that only half, a third or some other proportion of the membership retires at each election. In this database, the column 'seats held by party' shows the composition of the upper house after an election and includes both newly elected members and continuing members (note fixed terms, and periodic elections).

In this database, the party affiliation of continuing members is usually shown as the party affiliation at the date of their election, even if the party has changed its name; see the entries for each upper house listed below for exceptions to this rule.

Senate
Half the membership of the Senate is elected at regular Senate elections (see half Senate election with House of Representatives, and terms of senators), and the composition of the Senate after such an election includes both newly elected senators and senators half way through their terms. For the Senate, the column 'seats held by party' gives the party composition of the full Senate after an election in terms of the total number of seats held by each party, and as a percentage of the total membership of the Senate. If the Senate election is the result of a double dissolution, the 'seats held by party' entry will be the same as that for seats won by party.

After half-Senate elections, newly elected senators take up their seats on 1 July following their election. If a senator elected at a previous election changed party affiliation at the time of a half-Senate election, his or her changed party affiliation is shown in the appropriate category under the 'seats held by party' column. Changes of party affiliation after this date are not shown in the database.

New South Wales Legislative Council
The New South Wales Legislative Council since 1978 has been in a similar position to that of the Senate in terms of 'seats won by party', and 'seats held by party', except that a third of the membership retired at each Legislative Council general election from 1978 to 1991, rising to a half of the membership at elections from 1995. Changes of party affiliation between elections are treated in the same way as those for the Senate (see above).

Tasmanian Legislative Council
Members of the Tasmanian Legislative Council have staggered six year terms, with some members retiring each year at annual periodic elections in May. This arrangement has been in place for most of the period since the Legislative Council was established as a fully elected body in 1856, but there have been many changes of detail; these are set out in the notes to Tasmanian Legislative Council elections. The column 'seats held by party' sets out the party composition of the Tasmanian Legislative Council at the end of each election year and includes the results of periodic elections and by-elections held in that year.

Most candidates for election to the Tasmanian Legislative Council have stood for office without any party affiliation and are shown in this database as Independents. The party affiliation of a candidate is recorded if it appears in the source for the election results of an electoral district; party affiliation acquired after a candidate is elected is not recorded in the database until the candidate contests the subsequent election as a party member. Similarly, a change in the party affiliation of a sitting member between elections is not shown in the database until the next election for his or her electoral district at which the member is re-elected. Where a party changes its name, 'Seats held' will show the new party affiliation for a sitting member from the first election at which votes are cast for the party under its new name.

Western Australian Legislative Council
Members of the Western Australian Legislative Council from 1890 to 1986 had staggered fixed six year terms. From 1890 to 1962, members were chosen from three member electoral districts (provinces), one member from each province retiring every two years at biennial periodic elections. From 1965 to 1986, members retained their staggered six year fixed terms but were chosen from two member provinces, one member retiring every three years to contest Legislative Council elections held at the same time as general elections for the Western Australian lower house, the Legislative Assembly.

For both these periods, staggered elections generated a need to show 'seats held by party' as a way of knowing the party composition of the Legislative Council after each election; see the notes to Western Australian Legislative Council elections for more information.

Changes in the party affiliation of sitting members are only shown when a sitting member recontests his or her seat under a new party name. Changes to the party composition of the Legislative Council as a result of by-elections are not shown until the following periodic or general election.

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seats won by party At Senate elections and elections for state upper houses using proportional representation, each of the larger parties run lists of candidates called tickets (see seats won by ticket). For most parties, the number of seats won by the party is the same as the number of seats won by the ticket, but where two parties combine to run a joint party ticket, the seats won by the ticket need to be assigned between the two parties. In this database, the 'seats won by party' column in the table of Senate election results and those for some state upper houses includes seats assigned to the parties who won seats on joint tickets.

Joint tickets originated with the major anti-Labor parties in 1931 and have been used by such parties with varying frequency in some states at Senate and state upper house elections since then; see also seats held by party

Note that senators elected at regular Senate elections do not take their seats until 1 July after the Senate election; see terms of senators.
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seats won by ticket At Senate elections and elections for state upper houses using proportional representation, the major political parties run a number of candidates in each electoral district (the electoral district for the Senate is a state or territory) to fill the number of vacancies to be filled at the election. The party list of candidates for each electoral district contest is called a ticket. After 1931 for Senate elections, the two anti-Labor parties of the day, the Nationalist Party (Nationalists) and the Country Party ran joint party tickets in some states. Such joint tickets between these parties and their successors have continued for Senate elections in a few states, and in some state upper house elections.

This database shows the number of seats won by each ticket but, in the case of joint tickets, the seats won by a ticket have to be assigned between the two parties making up the joint ticket (see seats won by party). The 'seats won by ticket' entry is needed to compare the first preference vote share and seat share of each party or joint party ticket.

For all parties other than those with 'joint ticket' in the party label, seats won by ticket will be the same as seats won by party.

Note that the representation of two senators from each of the territories in the Senate since 1975 is not compatible with running joint tickets in the territories since the system of proportional representationused for the Senate guarantees each of the major parties only a single seat each.
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second ballot The second ballot electoral system is designed to ensure that all successfully elected candidates have majority support in their electoral districts. In electoral contests where no candidate gains more than 50 percent of the vote -- this often happens where there are more than two candidates for a single member district -- there is a second election held a week or two later between the two candidates with the most votes at the first election. This run-off election ensures that one candidate will gain a majority of the vote by forcing all voters to vote for one of two candidates.

In Australia, the second ballot was a precursor to preferential voting; it was used for elections to the New South Wales Legislative Assembly from 1910 to 1917.
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second chamber See upper house. Top

self-government The date of self-government for the Australian colonies refers to the date at which these colonies gained control of their domestic affairs through a system of parliamentary responsible government. This occurred in 1856 for New South Wales, South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria, in 1859 for Queensland on its separation from New South Wales, and in 1890 for Western Australia. Top

Senate The Senate is the upper house (see assembly) of the Commonwealth Parliament and has almost equal powers with the lower house, the House of Representatives. The Senate was designed to represent the six state political communities equally as a check on the numerical dominance of the representatives in the House of Representatives from the two most populous states in the federation, New South Wales and Victoria.

Since 1984, each state has been represented by 12 senators (6 from 1901 to 1949, then 10 until 1984). After regular Senate elections (that is, not double dissolution elections), each senator has a fixed term of six years commencing on 1 July following the Senate election at which the senator was elected (the commencing date was originally 1 January until a constitutional amendment in 1906). Half the senators from each state retire every three years at a regular half Senate election. The residents of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory did not gain representation in the Senate until 1975. The terms of the two senators from each of the territories is limited to the period between elections for the House of Representatives, Senate elections for territory senators occurring at every House of Representatives election.

Where there is a disagreement between a government majority in the House of Representatives and a different partisan majority in the Senate over passing legislation, the government may bring on a double dissolution election at which the whole membership of the Senate and the House of Representatives must stand for election. After a double dissolution election,The Senate itself has determined the way in which a state's senators elected after a double dissolution election are divided between long term (6 year) and short term (3 year) senators, based on the order in which senators are elected for each state. The terms of senators after a double dissolution election run from 1 July preceding the double dissolution election.

As a consequence of the introduction of proportional representation in 1949 minor party and independent senators have been able to hold the balance of power in the Senate for most of the period since 1967. Since the late 1960s, this has had the effect of making the Senate a major public forum for the scrutiny of Commonwealth legislation and government activity.

See also half Senate election with House of Representatives, half Senate election without House of Representatives, half Senate (enlarged) election with House of Representatives, terms of senators.
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Sesquicentenary of responsible government in NSW New South Wales celebrated 150 years of responsible government in 2006. As part of the celebrations, a committee was set up by the government of New South Wales to sponsor a range of projects on the development of government in New South Wales since 1856. A grant was made by the committee as part of Sesquicentenary of Responsible Government History Project to enhance the entries in this website relating to New South Wales, and to add summary modules on government and politics in the state. Information has been added to the website which includes:

Extending the period: For NSW, information on elections and governments has been extended back to 1856 -- the original website only provided information from 1890.

Enhancing the notes on elections and governments: The notes for each election and period in office in NSW have been revised and expanded to provide more historical background.

Expanding references and sources: The sources for each NSW entry have been checked and references to relevant publications added. References to publications sponsored by the Sesquicentenary History Project are being added as they become available.

Extended glossary: The Glossary is being expanded to include terms relevant to the history and operation of government and politics in NSW.

Adding information on Legislative Council elections: Direct elections for the NSW Legislative Council were introduced in 1978 to replace a system of indirect elections which had been in place since 1934. Information is provided for each Legislative Council election since 1978 with notes on the electoral system, information on parties, and references.

Summary modules on government and politics: The modules on Parliament, Elections, Government, and Parties provide brief summaries of the principal aspects of government and politics in NSW, and extract information in the database to create tables and charts showing the evolution of the political process in the state since 1856.

These new modules were launched by Geoff Gallop, the former premier of Western Australia, at a ceremony in the New South Wales Parliament House on 13 March 2007.

Campbell Sharman, 13 March 2007
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single member district The term single member district is used to indicate that a member of parliament is the only representative elected from an electoral district. This is in contrast with multimember districts where several members are elected from a single district. The lower houses of all Australian parliaments except Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory now use single member districts, but a mixture of single and multimember districts was common in nineteenth and early twentieth century parliaments. The members of a parliamentary chamber can also be elected from a single state wide electoral district (see at large election). This system is currently used for the election of members of the Western Australian Legislative Council.

The choice of single member districts as the basis for representation for a parliamentary chamber is a major part of the electoral system and usually has the effect of favouring the representation of large parties. In political science, single member districts are said to have a district magnitude of one. A district magnitude of more than one is needed for proportional representation.
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South Australia South Australia is one of the six states which have comprised the Australian Commonwealth since federation in 1901. South Australia was established as a British colony in 1835 and achieved self-government over domestic issues in 1857. It has a bicameral parliament with a lower house called the House of Assembly and an upper house called the Legislative Council. Summary information on all general elections for the South Australian House of Assembly since 1890 can be found in this database together with information about parties, representation and governments.

A survey of politics and government in South Australia can be found in a chapter of a recently published book related to this website: see Andrew Parkin, 'South Australia', in Jeremy Moon and Campbell Sharman (eds), Australian Politics and Government: The Commonwealth, the States and the Territories, (Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, 2003) ISBN 0 521 53205 1 (paperback), 0 521 82507 5 (hardback).

General information on Australian political institutions can be found in the Glossary of this database.
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specific issue parties See party type. Top

staggered terms Where the membership of an upper house is divided so that half, a third, or some other fraction of the members retire at each election, such a chamber is said to have staggered terms. Members of the Senate, for example, have six year staggered terms, half the membership retiring every three years (for details and exceptions, see terms of senators).

Staggered terms were often a component of the design of upper houses to enhance the independence of such chambers from government influence, and to ensure a measure of continuity in the operation of parliaments. Staggered terms are often linked to fixed terms for upper house members and, in the past, to periodic elections, a practice maintained in the annual periodic elections for the Tasmanian Legislative Council.
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state The Australian federation is composed of six states; New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia. The states have extensive law making powers and responsibility for the administration of most public services. Until federation in 1901, the states were largely self-governing colonies. This database contains information on parties, elections, governments and representation for all pre-federation colonies since 1890 (New South Wales, Tasmania and Victoria since 1856).

There have been no new states added to the federation since 1901 but two self-governing territories of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory have been created and now operate for many purposes as if they were states. They lack, however, constitutional guarantees for their governments and their law making power, and the same representation in the Senate as the original states. This database includes information on the territories since they gained representative self-government; the Northern Territory since 1974, and the Australian Capital Territory since 1989.
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State Labor Party See party name Top

STV See proportional representation by STV. Top

suffrage Suffrage in another term for franchise, the right to vote. Top

supplementary voting See contingent voting Top

supply bill A supply bill authorizes the expenditure of funds on government activities for the whole or part of the financial year. It is introduced by the government as part of parliament's involvement in the raising and spending of public funds. The failure of a supply bill to pass -- a denial of supply -- is regarded as a matter of confidence and the government must resign or request the dissolution of parliament, triggering a general election.

In bicameral parliaments where the constitution does not limit the power of the upper house to block a supply bill, there is some dispute over the power of the upper house to force a government to an election by the denial of supply, but the experience of both state legislative councils and the federal Senate has confirmed the practice that a supply bill's failure to pass an upper house will lead to a general election.

Note that, since the dismissal of the Whitlam government over the Senate's failure to pass a supply bill in 1975, the great bulk of federal government expenditure is now authorized by other legislation.
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swing See change from previous election. Top

TAS Abbreviation for Tasmania. Top

Tasmania Tasmania is one of the six states which have comprised the Australian Commonwealth since federation in 1901. Tasmania was established as Van Diemen's Land as a separate district within New South Wales in 1803 and achieved self-government over domestic issues as the British colony of Tasmania in 1856. It has a bicameral parliament with a lower house called the House of Assembly and an upper house called the Legislative Council. Summary information on all general elections for the Tasmanian House of Assembly and the Legislative Council since 1856 can be found in this database together with information about parties, representation and governments.

A survey of politics and government in Tasmania can be found in Aynsley Kellow, 'Tasmania', in Jeremy Moon and Campbell Sharman (eds), Australian Politics and Government: The Commonwealth, the States and the Territories, (Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, 2003) ISBN 0 521 53205 1 (paperback), 0 521 82507 5 (hardback).

General information on Australian political institutions can be found in the Glossary of this database.
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terms of senators After a regular Senate election, senators from the states have fixed 6 year terms running from 1 July after the Senate election at which they were elected (the commencing date was originally 1 January until a constitutional amendment in 1906). Half the senators from each state delegation (currently 6 of 12 senators from each state) retire every three years at a regular half Senate election.

The residents of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory did not gain representation in the Senate until 1975. The terms of the two senators from each of the territories is limited to the period between elections for the House of Representatives; Senate elections for territory senators occur at every House of Representatives election.

Where there is a disagreement between a government majority in the House of Representatives and a different partisan majority in the Senate over passing legislation, the government may bring on a double dissolution election at which the whole membership of the Senate and the House of Representatives must stand for election. The Senate itself has determined the way in which a state's senators elected after a double dissolution election are divided between long term (6 year) and short term (3 year) senators, based on the order in which senators are elected for each state. The terms of senators after a double dissolution election run from 1 July preceding the double dissolution election.
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territory At the time of federation in 1901, all the territory of Australia was part of the six colonies which were to comprise the new federation. Since 1901, two territories have been created on the mainland of Australia. One of these, the Australian Capital Territory was established under the Commonwealth Constitution as the area for the national capital (Canberra) and was transferred from New South Wales to the Commonwealth in 1909. The Northern Territory existed before federation as an administrative area within South Australia. The administration of the Northern Territory was costly to maintain and the South Australian government transferred the Territory to the Commonwealth with effect from 1911.

The residents of these two territories did not regain full representation in the Commonwealth House of Representatives until 1966, and in the Commonwealth Senate until 1975. Territory summaries of national elections for the House of Representatives and the Senate are included in this database from these dates. The terms of the two senators from each of the territories is limited to the period between elections for the House of Representatives, Senate elections for territory senators occurring at every House of Representatives election.

The territories have now acquired self-government and operate for many purposes as if they were states. They lack, however, constitutional guarantees for their governments and their law making power, and they do not have the same representation in the Senate as the original states. This database includes information on territory governments and elections since they gained representative self-government, the Northern Territory since 1974, and the Australian Capital Territory since 1989.
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ticket See joint ticket, seats won by ticket; note also ticket voting Top

ticket voting Ticket voting is sometimes used to indicate the use of above the line voting. The term ticket can also be used in other contexts; see joint ticket, seats won by ticket Top

total on roll See electoral roll. Top

turnout The turnout at an election is the proportion of voters on the electoral roll (registered voters) who cast a ballot. In this database, turnout is measured as the rate of voting in contested seats, shown as a percentage of registered voters; see also compulsory voting. Top

two party preferred vote The two party preferred vote is a way of estimating the disposition of votes at an election under a preferential voting system as if the election had been contested by only the candidates from two specified parties (usually, but not necessarily, the parties with the largest number of votes). The two party preferred vote is calculated by taking the second (and, if necessary, subsequent) preferences of the voters who voted for any other party than the two specified parties, and assigning the preferences to the specified parties.

This database does not list the two party preferred vote (where it is available) because it adds little more information than is provided by the first preference vote and seat share of a party. While the two party preferred vote has some technical interest, it can have the effect of giving a distorted picture of the pattern of voting at an election by hiding the share of the vote won by minor party and independent candidates, and it gives the misleading impression that elections are only about the choice between the two largest party groupings which can form government.
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uncontested seats In this database, the presentation of election results under 'Votes and seats won' for lower house elections includes a column heading 'uncontested seats held'. This heading indicates the number of seats in which only one candidate ran for office, and won the seat without any votes having to be cast. The database shows the number of voters enrolled in uncontested seats.

Although there have been very few uncontested seats at general elections in Australia since 1980, they were a regular feature of elections in some states until the 1960s. The frequency of uncontested seats and the number of enrolled voters they contain can be a useful indicator of the competitiveness of the party system at a general election. For more information and analysis, see Campbell Sharman, ‘Uncontested Seats and the Evolution of Party Competition: The Australian Case’, Party Politics, 9(6) November 2003: 679-702.

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ungrouped candidates A proportional representation by STV electoral system usually permits candidates running under the same party label to be grouped by party on the ballot paper. Candidates who have no registered party affiliation or who wish to run on their own as Independents are ‘ungrouped’.

Under an STV system using above the line voting such as the system currently used for Senate elections, candidates are encouraged to form party groupings so that their supporters can fill in a single box rather than rank all the candidates (or some specified minimum number) on the ballot paper. Ungrouped candidates have no ‘above the line’ box; their supporters must complete the ballot themselves by ranking the required number of candidates (all the candidates on the state or territory ballot in the case of elections for the Senate). For more information on this topic, see above the line voting.
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United Australia Party See party name Top

universal suffrage See franchise. Top

upper house The term upper house refers to the second chamber in a bicameral parliament, the lower house being the assembly in state parliaments, and the House of Representatives in the federal parliament. The upper house in state parliaments is called the legislative council, and the upper house in the Commonwealth Parliament is the Senate.

While the lower house is the chamber in which governments are formed (see responsible government) and where a government must maintain majority support to stay in office, ministers may be chosen from the upper house and, in the nineteenth century, a few premiers were members of the upper house. Since the early 1900s, even if a member of an upper house has been chosen by his or her party as premier (or prime minister), he or she is expected to become a member of the lower house as soon as possible through a by-election.

This database contains information on the Senate since it was established in 1901, the Tasmanian Legislative Council since the grant of responsible government in 1856, the Western Australian Legislative Council since it became a directly elected chamber in 1894, and the Legislative Council of New South Wales since it became a directly elected chamber in 1978. For more information on these chambers, see the entries for each election.

It is planned to included information on the legislative councils of South Australia, and Victoria, both of which have been directly elected since 1857.
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VIC Abbreviation for Victoria. Top

Victoria Victoria is one of the six states which have comprised the Australian Commonwealth since federation in 1901. Victoria was established as a separate district within New South Wales in 1836 and achieved self-government over domestic issues as a British colony in 1856. It has a bicameral parliament with a lower house called the Legislative Assembly and an upper house called the Legislative Council. Summary information on all general elections for the Victorian Legislative Assembly since 1890 can be found in this database together with information about parties, representation and governments.

A survey of politics and government in Victoria can be found in a chapter of a recently published book related to this website: see Nicholas Economou, Brian Costar and Paul Strangio, 'Victoria', in Jeremy Moon and Campbell Sharman (eds), Australian Politics and Government: The Commonwealth, the States and the Territories, (Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, 2003) ISBN 0 521 53205 1 (paperback), 0 521 82507 5 (hardback).

General information on Australian political institutions can be found in the Glossary of this database.
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vote The term vote can refer to a mark or number made on a ballot paper by a voter expressing his or her choice of candidate. For most elections in Australia, a voter has only one vote, even if that vote requires the voter to rank candidates in the order of the voter's choice. For some elections, voters have had more than one vote so that the number of votes cast is larger than the number of voters. This is shown in the database where the total valid votes is larger than the total ballots cast. It is also shown by an entry in box informal ballots multiple votes.

The term vote can also be used to refer to the total number of votes cast for a candidate, a party, or at an election. See also, first preference vote, first preference vote share, informal vote, two party preferred vote.
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vote of confidence See confidence motion. Top

voter registration See registration of voters. Top

WA Abbreviation for Western Australia. Top

Western Australia Western Australia is one of the six states which have comprised the Australian Commonwealth since federation in 1901. Western Australia was established as a British colony in 1829 and achieved self-government over domestic issues in 1890. It has a bicameral parliament with a lower house called the Legislative Assembly and an upper house called the Legislative Council. Summary information on all general elections for the Western Australian Legislative Assembly since 1890 can be found in this database together with information about parties, representation and governments.

A survey of politics and government in Western Australia can be found in a chapter of a recently published book related to this website: see Jeremy Moon and Campbell Sharman, 'Western Australia', in Jeremy Moon and Campbell Sharman (eds), Australian Politics and Government: The Commonwealth, the States and the Territories, (Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, 2003) ISBN 0 521 53205 1 (paperback), 0 521 82507 5 (hardback).

General information on Australian political institutions can be found in the Glossary of this database.
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Westminster system This term is often used to describe the British variant of parliamentary government. While the term and the British parliamentary tradition is frequently applied to describe the Australian parliamentary system, Australian parliamentary institutions differ significantly from the British system, most notably in the limitations on parliamentary government imposed by the federal system, judicial review of government action and legislation, and the existence of strong, elective, bicameralism (see assembly).

The most important common factor between the British and Australian parliamentary traditions is a monarchical executive and the failure of constitutional documents to specify the roles, functions and responsibilities of heads of state, heads of government (see premier, prime minister) and the relationship between ministers and parliament.
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women heads of government The following women have held the office of head of government (prime minister, premier, or first minister) in Australia as of 1 March 2016:

Rosemary Follett, First Minister of the Australian Capital Territory, May 1989 to Dec 1989; June 1991 to March 1995
Carmen Lawrence, Premier of Western Australia, March 1990 to February 1993
Joan Kirner, Premier of Victoria, August, 1990 to October 1992
Kate Carnell, First Minister of the Australian Capital Territory, March 1995 to October 2000
Clare Martin, First Minister of the Northern Territory, August 2001 to November 2007
Anna Bligh, Premier of Queensland, September 2007, 26 March 2012
Kristina Keneally, Premier of New South Wales, December 2009 to March 2011
Julia Gillard, Prime Minister of Australia, June 2010, 27 June 2013
Lara Giddins, Premier of Tasmanaia, January 2011, 31 March 2013
Annastacia Palaszczuk, Premier of Queensland, 14 December 2015, still in office.
Gladys Berejiklian, Premier of New South Wales, 23 January 2017, still in office.
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women ministers, number of The number of women who were ministers at the beginning of a premier's or prime minister's period in office can be found listed on each Period in Office page. For state and territory parliaments, the number of women ministers who have held office in that state or territory since 1890 can be found in the 'Summary Tables' component of this website; select a state or territory, select 'Governments' and then click on the title of Table 3, 'Summary information on ministries at the start of periods in office...'. Top