The other house of Parliament is called the senate, people of each state and territory elect 12 people to be their senators, no matter how big or small the state or territory is they must have the same number of senators. The chamber where the senate meets is all red. Like the House of Representatives the Government members sit to the left and the opposition sit to the right side facing the Government members.
The House of Representatives
Australia is divided up into areas called the electorates. For each electorate there is a seat in the House of Representatives, each electorate has about the same number of people living in it. At an election, the people who live in each electorate vote for a person to go to Parliament to speak for them. That elected person becomes the member of the House of Representatives for that seat.
Most people who stand for election are members of different groups or parties, the party that has the most members elected to the House of Representatives the next Government, and its leader becomes the next prime minister of Australia.
The party or the group that wins the next highest number of seats in the House of Representatives is called the opposition, its leader is called the leader of opposition. There is a room called a chamber in the Parliament House where the House of Representatives meet, the whole room is green. The government members sit on the left side of the room and the opposition sit on the right side facing them.
The main business of Parliament is making laws,
When a law is first suggested, it is called a Bill. Bills are usually suggested in the House of Representatives. First the Bill is explained, then all Members discuss it. Changes may be made. Then all Members vote for or against the Bill. If it passes the vote, it goes to the other House of Parliament and the same thing happens. Sometimes the Bill is sent back to be changed some more, and sometimes it passes another vote. Then the Bill is called an Act of Parliament. The Governor-General signs it and it becomes a law that Australians usually obey.
Before 1901, Australia was not a nation. At that time, the continent consisted of six British colonies which were partly self-governing, but subject to the law-making power of the British Parliament. Each colony had its own government and laws, including its own railway system, postage stamps and tariffs (taxes). This caused a lot of problems and people began to think about the benefits of uniting as one nation, under a federal system of governance. During the 1890s, each colony sent representatives to special meetings, called conventions, to try to agree about how to form a new federation. Eventually the delegates agreed on the rules for a federal sytem.
In 1901, the two territories did not exist. The Constitution provided for the establishment of a national capital, to be located in New South Wales but at least 100 miles from Sydney. In 1911, the Australian Government created the Australian Capital Territory for this purpose. In the same year, the Northern Territory was also created. Until then, this area had been part of South Australia.
Parliamentary committees are an important part of the work of the Parliament. They investigate issues and bills in detail, so that the Parliament can be well-informed before making decisions of national significance.
One of the roles of the Parliament is to make laws for the nation. However, there is often limited time to debate complex issues in detail in the parliamentary chambers. Members of parliament can vote to appoint a committee to take on this role. A committee may have weeks or even months to make a closer study of an issue.
Most members of parliament, except ministers, serve on parliamentary committees. These committees are usually made up of six to ten government and non-government members of parliament.
Committees may consist of senators or members of the House of Representatives, or may be established as joint committees which include members of both houses of Parliament. One committee member is voted to be the chairperson who runs the committee proceedings.
Each committee has a secretariat – a group of parliamentary employees who assist with running the hearings and writing a report to present to the Parliament.