About Parliament: The Senate updated January 2018
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About Parliament: The Senate updated January 2018

November 24, 2019


Music. The Senate. The main work of the federal Parliament is
shared between two houses: the Senate and the House of Representatives. This is the Senate. Senators are elected as representatives of
Australia’s states and territories. The Senate chamber is arranged in a horseshoe
shape with the President of the Senate sitting at the front. There are 76 senators in total: 12 for each
state and two for each territory. Government senators sit to the right of the
President and opposition senators sit to the left. But it’s not just the major parties that are
represented. The voting system used for the Senate means
senators are often elected from minor parties or as Independent senators. These senators sit in the middle area known
as the crossbench. Because of the voting system used to elect
senators, there is often a broad range of views represented in the Senate. A government majority in the Senate is unusual,
which means the government must negotiate with senators from the opposition and crossbench
to pass laws. Senators look at new laws proposed by the
government and often suggest changes. They debate these laws in the Senate chamber,
and examine them closely in Senate committees. Committees also help senators find out how
new laws affect people in the community. As proposed laws must be agreed to by both
houses of Parliament, senators can shape how new laws are made, on behalf of the people
they represent. One of the most important functions of the
Senate is to keep an eye on what the government is doing. This helps to ensure that the government makes
good decisions when running the country. At Senate Estimates hearings, senators can
question ministers and public servants about their decisions and the spending of public
money. Senators also review the work of the government
during Question Time by asking ministers to explain their actions. This helps to keep the government accountable
to the Parliament and to the people of Australia. A variety of views and ideas are discussed
both in the chamber and through the work of Senate committees. This allows senators to consider a range of
opinions before making decisions on policy and law-making. In the chamber, senators debate important
national issues and talk about matters that affect the people in their state or territory. Senators also spend considerable time working
in committees, investigating issues in detail and listening to the views of the community. To learn more about this process, or to find
how to get involved, visit the Parliamentary Education Office website.

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