It has come to my attention that some people don’t understand how our voting system works. Someone I know voted early, and voted for their local Liberal member, not realising that it was a vote for Tony Abbott. Now they’re angry and they can’t take it back, so…
Here is a simple overview; my ‘Voting For Dummies’:
The House of Representatives (the lower house) has 150 seats. We vote for the federal member from our local electorate who we want to represent us, and they belong to a party (or they might be an independent). You can find your local members here: http://www.aec.gov.au/election/who-are-the-candidates.htm
To form government, one party (ALP or LNP) needs to win 76 of these electorates (seats in the HoR). If no one party wins 76 seats (like last time), a party can make deals with minor parties (Like the Greens, Palmer United, Katter’s Australia etc) and independents to form a temporary ‘team’ which will make up the new government.
Any people who win a seat in the HoR and are not from either the ALP or the LNP have no say in who forms government (unless it is a hung parliament like now). They get to vote in matters of the house and debate new laws and changes to existing laws. These people can form what is called the ‘balance of power’ (as is the case now). It means that without their support the government often can’t pass bills because the opposition might block them. Bills introduced to the HoR need to win a majority vote before moving on to be considered by the Senate. If the other parties/independents vote in favour of these bills, they are successful. If not, they can be defeated and die in the lower house.
The Senate (the upper house) makes sure the government doesn’t have free reign to do whatever they like. They keep them in check and either allow laws to be passed or stop them being passed if they’re no good. This is clearly fraught with issues as the Senate is made up of people from the same parties as the lower house, but it’s a good, protective system.
The Senate members have no say about who forms the government, it’s the House of Representatives that does that.
I hope this helps anyone who is confused! I’m happy to answer any questions anyone has.