Senate composition - updated 14 March 2017 – April 2017

Filed under: Politics, Australian Politics, Senate,

On 18 December 2016, Senator Culleton resigned from Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party to sit as an independent senator. On 11 January 2017, the President of the Senate informed the Governor of Western Australia of a vacancy due to Senator Culleton being disqualified from the position due to a declaration of bankruptcy.

On 3 February 2017 the Court of Disputed Returns determined that Mr Culleton had not been validly elected in the 2016 election, and that the vacancy in the representation of Western Australia should be filled by a recount of ballots. The recount occurred on 7 March 2017, and as a result Peter Georgiou from Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party was elected to fill the vacancy.

An election for all Senate seats was held on 2 July 2016 after the dissolution of the Senate on 9 May. The new Senate contains its largest cross-bench of 20 senators (9 AG and 11 others), compared with 18 senators (10 AG and 8 others) at the end of the 44th Parliament. Previously, the highest number had been 13 senators, in 2002-2005.

State senators have now been 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. On 31 August the Senate decided to allocate senators according to the order of their election. Details of senators' terms of service are available on this page.

On 7 November 2016 under section 376 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918, the Senate referred two matters to the High Court. Both involved the qualification of senators under section 44 of the Constitution. The first involved a possible pecuniary interest relating to the lease for an electoral office for former Senator Day, who had resigned as a senator for South Australia on 1 November. The second matter related to Senator Culleton and involved a conviction for larceny which was subsequently annulled, but had stood throughout the election period.

  • Related documents
  • Transcript of the 21 November 2016 directions hearing
  • Transcript and video of the 7 December 2016 hearing on the Culleton matter (judgment reserved)
  • Transcript of the 13 December 2016 hearing on the Day matter (adjourned until January 2017) 

The question of how to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Senator Day remains a matter for the Court of Disputed Returns.

On 7 February 2017, Senator Bernardi announced his resignation from the Liberal Party.

Further Reading