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What does a double dissolution mean for the Senate?

Under a normal electoral cycle the Senate is a continuing house. The term of a state senator is six years commencing on 1 July following a general election. Six of the twelve places from each state are contested at each alternate election. The four territory senators serve the same terms as members of the House of Representatives.

A double dissolution which is provided for in section 57 of the Constitution brings to an end the sittings of the Senate and the terms of service for all 76 senators and an election for the full membership is held.


In the course of a normal general election, House and Joint committees cease to exist and all current inquiries lapse, but Senate committees may continue to function. Following a double dissolution, Senate committees also cease to exist and all current inquiries lapse.

At the commencement of a new parliament, matters from the previous parliament may again be referred. See, for example, Journals of the Senate, 14 November 2013

Terms of service of senators

The terms of senators elected in a double dissolution election are backdated to 1 July preceding the election. State senators are divided into two classes: short-term senators whose terms expire on 30 June three years after their date of commencement, and long-term senators whose terms expire six years after their date of commencement. It is a matter for the Senate to decide how this division takes place. However, on the seven previous occasions that it has been necessary to divide the Senate for the purposes of rotation, the practice has been to allocate senators according to the order of their election. For example, following the simultaneous dissolution in 1974, the Senate resolved that “the name of the Senator first elected shall be placed first on the Senators’ Roll for each State and the name of the Senator next elected shall be placed next, and so on in rotation”.


Further reading:

Serving the Senate: The Legacy of Harry Evans

On the 8th of September, Dr Michael Macklin gave the inaugural Harry Evans Lecture.

"My approach will be a personal one for two reasons: first Harry was one of those people who looked you in the eye and worked with you as a person not as another addition to his workday and second I wanted to record the human interactions that this man of deep conviction and daunting intellect had."

transcript and replay of the lecture are available for those who were unable to attend.

Senate Discovery

Senate Discovery is a video series designed to 'fast-track' information about Senate business and the work of its committees. Each episode contains a recap of business highlights such as the passage (or otherwise) of bills, new committee inquiries and the presentation of reports, swearing-in of new senators, and other matters of significance.


  • Senate Lecture Series

    Public lunchtime lectures on topics relating to Parliament and governance. Admission is free and bookings are not required. Lecture transcripts and audio and television recordings of the lectures are also available.

    Lecture Series

  • Seminars for public servants

    The Senate provides training for members of the public service including a full-day seminar on the role of the Senate and part-day seminars on topics including Senate committees, the estimates process, getting bills through the Senate, parliamentary privilege and delegated legislation


  • Exhibitions

    Learn about the exhibitions on display in Parliament House, and visit the online exhibitions Women in Federal Parliament; Magna Carta; Making Laws; and For Peace, Order and Good Government


  • Conferences

    Information on upcoming conferences will be made available here. Papers from previous conferences and proceedings are also available.



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Next Senate Lecture:
24 June 2016

The next lecture will be presented by Dr Bede Harris

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