What now? The effect of a double dissolution
The House of Representatives
Under section 28 of the Constitution, the House of Representatives may last for no more than three years after the date of its first meeting after an election. The House then expires automatically if not dissolved sooner by the Governor-General, on the advice of the Prime Minister.
Expiry or dissolution triggers the issuing of writs for a general election to elect all 150 members of the House. After dissolution, the terms of service of all members cease, bills and all other business before the House of Representatives lapse, and, if required, would need to be reinitiated in the next Parliament.
In contrast, 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 brings an end to the term of service of all 76 senators and an election for the full membership is held.
Terms of service of senators
The terms of senators elected in the double dissolution election will commence on 1 July 2016. The state senators will be 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. 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”.
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, a committee may seek to re-adopt an inquiry from the previous parliament. See, for example, Journals of the Senate, 14 November 2013.
After both Houses are dissolved, the government becomes a caretaker government and, by convention, does not make major decisions, except in consultation with the opposition.
For more information on government guidelines and procedures, including on the Caretaker conventions, visit the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet website.