Chapter 4 - Elections for the Senate


Nominations close at least 10 days but not more than 27 days after the issue of the writ.

A candidate for election to either House of the Parliament must be at least 18 years old; an Australian citizen; and an elector entitled to vote, or a person qualified to become such an elector (Commonwealth Electoral Act, s. 163).

A person meeting the three qualifications may be disqualified for several reasons. Members of the House of Representatives, state parliaments or the legislative assemblies of the Australian Capital Territory or the Northern Territory cannot be chosen or sit as senators (Constitution, s. 43; Commonwealth Electoral Act, s. 164). Members of local government bodies, however, are explicitly declared to be eligible (Commonwealth Electoral Act, s. 327(3)). Others disqualified under the Constitution, section 44, are:

  • anyone who is a citizen or subject of a foreign power;
  • anyone convicted and under sentence, or subject to be sentenced, for an offence punishable by Commonwealth or state law by a sentence of 12 months or more;
  • anyone who is an undischarged bankrupt;
  • anyone who holds an office of profit under the Crown; and
  • anyone with a pecuniary interest in any agreement with the Commonwealth Public Service (except as a member of an incorporated company of more than 25 people).

A person convicted of certain electoral-related offences is disqualified for 2 years (Commonwealth Electoral Act, s. 386).

For cases of the disqualification of senators and senators elect, see Chapter 6, Senators, Qualifications of senators).

No one may nominate as a candidate for more than one election held on the same day. Hence it is not possible for anyone to nominate for more than one division for the House of Representatives, or more than one state or territory for the Senate, or for both the House and the Senate (Commonwealth Electoral Act, s. 165).

Nominations must be made by 12 noon on the day nominations close and the onus is on candidates to ensure nominations reach the electoral officer in time. Candidates may withdraw their nominations at any time up to the close of nominations, but cannot do so after nominations have closed.

Nominations of candidates for the Senate, made on the appropriate nomination form (or a facsimile of the form), are made to the Australian Electoral Officer for the state or territory for which the election is to be held.

A candidate may be nominated by 50 electors or the registered officer of the registered political party which has endorsed the candidate. Nomination of a candidate of a registered political party not made by the registered officer must be verified. Sitting independent candidates require only one nominee.

Nomination forms are not valid unless the persons nominated consent to act if elected; declare that they are qualified to be elected and that they are not candidates in any other election to be held on the same day; and state whether they are Australian citizens by birth or became citizens by other means, and provide relevant particulars. Candidates in a Senate election may make a request on the nomination form to have their names grouped on the ballot paper.

For an endorsed Senate group for which a group voting ticket is to be lodged the registered officer may request that the party name or abbreviation (or for a group endorsed by more than one registered party, a composite name) be printed on the ballot paper adjacent to the group voting square.

A deposit must be lodged with each nomination. The deposit, payable in cash or banker’s cheque only, is $1000 for a Senate nomination or $500 for a House of Representatives nomination.

The deposit is returned in a Senate election if, in the case of ungrouped candidates, the candidate’s total number of first preference votes is at least four percent of the total number of formal first preference votes; or, where the candidate’s name is included in a group, the sum of the first preference votes polled by all the candidates in the group is at least four percent of the total number of formal first preference votes.

Where the number of nominations does not exceed the number of vacancies, the Australian Electoral Officer, on nomination day, declares the candidates elected.

If a nominated candidate dies before the close of nominations, the nomination period is extended by a day.

In a Senate election, if any candidate dies between the close of nominations and polling day, and the number of remaining candidates is not greater than the number of candidates to be elected, those candidates are declared elected. However, if the remaining candidates are greater in number than the number of candidates to be elected, the election proceeds. A vote recorded on a Senate ballot paper for a deceased candidate is counted to the candidate for whom the voter has recorded the next preference, and the numbers indicating subsequent preferences are regarded as altered accordingly.

In a House of Representatives election, if a candidate dies between the close of nominations and polling day, the election in that division is deemed to have wholly failed and does not proceed. A new writ is issued for another election in that division, but this supplementary election is held using the electoral roll prepared for the original election.

The statutory provisions regarding death after the close of nominations of a nominated candidate for the Senate could seriously prejudice the prospects of a political party unless a sufficient number of candidates is nominated to avoid disadvantage in the event of a death.

The constitutionality of the statutory requirements for the registration of a political party (500 members, no overlapping membership with other parties) was upheld in Mulholland v Australian Electoral Commission, 2004 209 ALR 582.

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