Electoral Pocketbook 2011 - 2 Parliamentary representation

Updated: 15 June 2011

2.2 The House of Representatives

The number of members elected to the House of Representatives for each state is proportional to the number of people of that state. Australia's Constitution, however, provides that the original states are to have a minimum of five members. The Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 provides that at least one member is to be chosen in the ACT and the NT, and sets out a formula for determining the exact representation entitlements of the territories.

The political party, or coalition of parties, that can gain the support of a majority in the House of Representatives forms the Government. The Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition are usually members of the House of Representatives.

Australia's Constitution provides that the number of members must be, as nearly as practicable, twice the number of senators.

Each member of the House of Representatives is elected to represent an area known as an electoral division or electorate.

For the 2010 federal election, Australia was divided into 150 electoral divisions as follows:
NSW 48 SA 11
Vic. 37 Tas. 5
Qld 30 ACT 2
WA 15 NT 2

Each electoral division within a state or territory contains about the same number of people on the electoral roll. The electors in each division elect one person to represent them in the House of Representatives.

The maximum term of the House of Representatives is three years, taken from the date on which the newly elected House first meets. However, the Governor–General has the power to dissolve the House and call an election before the end of the three year period (see the Commonwealth election timetable).