What is Parliament?

Parliament is the body that makes laws for Australia.  It has three distinct parts:  the House of Representatives, the Senate and the Queen (represented in Australia by the Governor-General).

Parliament House Calendar

February 2019

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
27282930311 Senate2
34 Other5 House of Representatives6 Other7 Other8 Senate9
1011 Senate12 Both13 Both14 Both15 Senate16
1718 Both19 Both20 Both21 Both22 Senate23
2425 Senate26 Other27 Senate28 Senate12
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  • House of Representatives
  • Both
  • Public Holiday
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Work of the Parliament

Parliament makes laws, authorises the Government to spend public money, scrutinises government activities, and is a forum for debate on national issues.

The work of the Parliament—its Members, Senators, and parliamentary committees—is supported by staff of the four parliamentary departments:

Forming and Governing a Nation

The government consists of members of the political party that wins an election and has the majority of members in the House of Representatives. This party and/or its leader (the Prime Minister) select fellow parliamentarians to be the ministers who run departments such as the Department of Foreign Affairs. All ministers are members of Parliament and are therefore elected.

Although the government is formed in the House of Representatives, some ministers are senators. About two thirds of ministers are members of the House of Representatives, and about one third are senators.

Parliament at Work

Senate Question Time Chamber, by AUSPIC

Parliament has four main functions: legislation (making laws), representation (acting on behalf of voters and citizens), scrutiny (examining the government), and formation of government.



Australia Act

General elections at the federal level in Australia are governed by a complex of constitutional and statutory provisions which, apart from determining how elections are held, also determine the balance of power between the legislature and the executive.


A New Parliament

The opening of Paliament on 28 September 2010

Each new Parliament begins with the opening by the Governor-General on the first day the two houses meet after a general election. The current Parliament is the forty-fifth since federation in 1901. The parliamentary term continues for three years after the date of the first sitting of the houses, unless it is ended earlier by the dissolution of the House of Representatives or by the double dissolution of both houses to resolve a deadlock or disagreement between them. Both types of dissolution are carried out by the Governor-General on the advice of the Prime Minister.