The Senate is one of the two houses of the Australian Federal Parliament. It consists of 76 senators, twelve from each of the six states and two from each of the mainland territories. It shares the power to make laws with the other House of the Parliament, the House of Representatives.

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Senate Composition

The Senate in the 45th Parliament contains its largest cross-bench of 21 senators (9 AG and 12 others), compared with 18 senators (10 AG and 8 others) at the end of the 44th Parliament. Previously, the highest number had been 13 senators, in 2002-2005.


Breakdown of Senate numbers in 2017 

State senators have been divided into two classes: short-term senators whose terms expire on 30 June 2019, and long-term senators whose terms expire on 30 June 2022. On 31 August the Senate decided to allocate senators according to the order of their election. Details of senators' terms of service are available on this page.

On 7 November under section 376 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918, the Senate referred two matters to the High Court. Both involved the qualification of senators under section 44 of the Constitution. The first involved a possible pecuniary interest relating to the lease for an electoral office for former Senator Day, who had resigned as a senator for South Australia on 1 November. The second matter related to Senator Culleton and involved a conviction for larceny which was subsequently annulled, but had stood throughout the election period.

  • Related documents
  • Transcript of the 21 November 2016 directions hearing
  • Transcript and video of the 7 December 2016 hearing on the Culleton matter (judgment reserved)
  • Transcript of the 13 December 2016 hearing on the Day matter (adjourned until January 2017)

On 18 December 2016, Senator Culleton resigned from Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party to sit as an independent senator. On 11 January 2017, the President of the Senate informed the Governor of Western Australia of a vacancy due to Senator Culleton being disqualified from the position due to a declaration of bankruptcy.

On 3 February 2017 the Court of Disputed Returns determined that Mr Culleton had not been validly elected in the 2016 election, and that the vacancy in the representation of Western Australia should be filled by a recount of ballots. The recount occurred on 7 March 2017, and as a result Peter Georgiou from Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party was elected to fill the vacancy.

In a judgment handed down on 5 April 2017, the Court of Disputed Returns found that Mr Bob Day had not been validly elected and ordered a special count of ballots to fill the vacancy. The recount was conducted on 13 April and, on 19 April 2017, the High Court declared Lucy Gichuhi as a senator for South Australia. Senator Gichuhi has indicated that she will sit as an independent senator.

On 7 February 2017, Senator Bernardi announced his resignation from the Liberal Party and now sits as an Australian Conservatives senator.

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