What does the Australian Senate look like

Background current

In Australia, a new parliament will be elected on Saturday. In May the governor general dissolved both houses of parliament.

Pedestrians walk past a polling station (pre-poll voting center) in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia (June 14, 2016). The Pre-polling opened on June 14th, before the July 2nd elections. (& copy picture-alliance / dpa, AAP)

A new parliament will be elected in Australia on July 2, 2016. The election became necessary after the Governor-General (Governor-General) Peter John Cosgrove, representative of the Commonwealth, dissolved both houses of the Australian Parliament on May 9th at the request of incumbent Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. The next election to the House of Representatives would normally have taken place at the end of this year.

New elections after double dissolution

Article 57 of the Australian Constitution provides that the Governor General can dissolve the House of Representatives and the Senate at the same time (so-called double dissolution, engl. double dissolution), if a legislative proposal by the House of Representatives fails twice in the Senate. There must be three months between the first and the second vote in the Senate.

In the current case, the Senate rejected the so-called ABCC Bills[1] and the Registered Organization Bill[2] from. The ABCC Bills aimed at the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC). Among other things, this should be given a number of powers of intervention in the construction industry. With the Registered Organization Bill should the Registered Organizations Commission - an independent control body - should be created to monitor and regulate registered organizations such as trade unions.

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Box of facts

Australia has a population of around 22.3 million in an area of ‚Äč‚Äčaround 7.7 million square kilometers. The gross domestic product in 2014 was 1,444 billion US dollars, that is 61,219 US dollars per capita.

Australia belongs to the Commonwealth of Nations, the head of state is Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia. The form of government is a parliamentary-democratic monarchy in the Commonwealth of Nations. The Queen's local representative is the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia.

The Australian Parliament consists of two houses: the House of Representatives and the Senate. The seat of parliament is the capital Canberra. The members of the House of Representatives and half of the senators are elected every three years. Voting is compulsory: Unexcused non-voters must pay a fine of twenty Australian dollars.

Who is the choice?

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of the Liberal party wants to be confirmed in the upcoming election in office. In 2015, after internal party quarrels, he replaced his party colleague Tony Abbott, who had been in office since the 2013 elections. The current conservative ruling coalition consists of the Liberal party and the National Party. The latter is particularly popular in rural areas. The Liberal party advertises political stability and a strong economic plan. Also the National Party promises a safe and prosperous Australia, support for farmers and exporters, and protection of its borders.

The opposition's lead candidate, Bill Shorten of the Labor Party, positions himself as a representative of the middle and working class and has focused his election campaign on family, education and health policy. The party The greens have taken up the cause of environmental and climate protection, but also a change of course in refugee policy.

Campaign issues

Economy, education, health, climate change and refugee policy were among the dominant issues in the election campaign.

Despite the country's island location, the focus is on border security. Since December 2013, the Australian Navy has been forcing arriving refugee boats to turn back. Those who still manage to reach the Australian coast are accommodated in reception centers on the island state of Nauru or the island of Manus, which belongs to Papua New Guinea, where they wait for their asylum applications to be processed. The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR criticized the conditions in the camps at the beginning of May. The refugee agency had already reported in the past that the situation in the camp on Nauru did not meet international standards. Both the ruling parties and the Labor Party are mostly behind the previous refugee policy. The Greens however, advocate the closure of the reception camps on Manus and Nauru and call for 50,000 refugees to be accepted annually instead of the previous 13,750.

The legalization of gay marriage is also controversial in Australia. Prime Minister Turnbull has announced a referendum to open marriage to homosexual couples in the event of an election victory. This vote is expected to take place this year. The Labor Party and the Greens reject such a referendum and instead want a vote in parliament for equality for gay marriage.

According to recent polls, the ruling coalition are Liberals / Nationals and the Labor Party close together. The Greens would get nine to ten percent of the vote.

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