Commonwealth government publications

Guide to the range of publications, both online and in print, from the Commonwealth Parliament and Government

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Steven Kafkarisos
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This research guide provides advice about where to find and how to use Commonwealth parliamentary publications.

This guide will help you find

Use the tabs or the search box at the top of this page to guide you.

Read the section below titled 'Australian parliamentary system' for background and history on Australia's constitution and government.

We have a separate research guide on Finding Australian legislation (including acts, bills and explanatory memoranda).

We have a separate research guide on Victorian government publications.

If you find any errors, or if you can suggest other information sources, please contact us.

The Australian parliamentary system

On 1 January 1901 the British colonies in Australia federated as the Commonwealth of Australia. The Australian Constitution had been developed by representatives from the colonies to set the parameters for the Australian government and had been voted on by colonial referenda. The British Parliament passed the Constitution Act and royal assent was given on 9 July 1900, paving the way for the establishment of Australia as a sovereign nation. 

The people of Australia are represented by members of the House of Representatives (also known as the lower house) and the Senate (also known as the upper house or states house). Members of the House represent electorates across Australia that are divided roughly by population.

Members of the Senate represent states with an equal number (12) from each state regardless of population, and a further two representing the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory.

Australia uses a preferential voting system for the House of Representatives. This means that voters number each candidate according to their preference. So if there were 5 candidates in your electorate you would number the candidates on your voting card from '1'  (your most preferred candidate) to '5', (your least preferred candidate).

The winning candidate needs more than 50% of the vote. If no-one gets more than 50% of the 'primary vote' (the first count), then the candidate with the least votes is eliminated and their votes are reallocated according to their second preference. This continues until a candidate gets more than 50% of the vote as preferences are allocated. The states also use preferential voting systems although there are some variations from state to state.

In the Senate a preferential system known as proportional representation is used. Senators need a set proportion or quota of votes to be elected in each state.

Below are some useful sites for further information on the Australian system of government and voting.

Government guides