Forming and Governing a Nation

The Australian Parliament

The Parliament of Australia consists of:

  • The Queen represented by Australia's Governor-General
  • The Australian Senate
  • The Australian House of Representatives.

The Parliament of Australia (formally named the Parliament of the Commonwealth) is made up of a total of 226 people popularly elected to the Senate and House of Representatives to represent the interests of Australians and to 'make laws for the peace, order and good government of the nation' (section 51 Australian Constitution).

The Australian Parliament has four main functions:

  • Law-making.
  • Representation.
  • Formation of government.
  • Scrutiny.


Federation is the name given to the union of the six self-governing colonies of Australia on 1 January 1901, to form one nation as a union of states under a central authority.

In the 1890s the colonies came together at special meetings called conventions to try to agree about how to form a new federal system of governance. Eventually they agreed on the rules of a federal system of governance that would run matters that concerned the whole country. The people of the colonies voted to accept this new constitution, which was then taken to the British Parliament and Queen Victoria signed the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1901. Section 9 of this Act is called 'Constitution'.

Parliament and government

The Parliament forms government from the party (or coalition of parties) which achieve a majority in the House of Representatives following a federal election. The senior members of federal and state governments are also known as the Executive or executive government.

The Constitution

A constitution is a set of rules by which a country or state is governed.

The Australian Constitution was created by a British Act called the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1901. Section 9 of this Act is headed 'Constitution' and contains eight chapters and 128 sections that make up the Australian Constitution.

Previous Parliaments

Information on previous Parliaments including Party representation in Parliament, Senators and Members since 1901, Longest serving members, Women in Parliament, Prime Ministers, Leaders of the Opposition, Ministries and Cabinets, Shadow ministries and Presidents, Deputy Presidents, Speakers and Deputy can be found in the Parliamentary Handbook.

The Governor General

The office of Governor-General was established by the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901.

The Governor-General is appointed by The Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister After receiving the commission, the Governor-General takes an Oath of Allegiance and an Oath of Office to The Queen and issues a Proclamation assuming office.