The hung Commonwealth Parliament: the first year

11 October 2011

This paper provides coverage of selected procedural changes during the first year of the operation of the House of Representatives in the 43rd Parliament, together with a range of statistics relating to the work of the House.

The 2010 election, held on 21 August, was called early and under the unusual circumstance of a recent change in the leadership of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) and therefore the Prime Minister. The election resulted in a hung Parliament, with both the ALP and the Liberal/Nationals Coalition emerging with 72 seats each in the House of Representatives. The remaining seats were held by one WA Nationals member (Tony Crook); one Australian Greens member (Adam Bandt); and four non-aligned independent members (Bob Katter, Rob Oakeshott, Andrew Wilkie, and Tony Windsor).

It was clear that neither the ALP nor the Coalition had sufficient numbers to give either a majority in the House of Representatives after providing a Speaker (76 seats); both of the major parties therefore commenced negotiations with the six ‘other’ members soon after the election in order to gain sufficient support to form government.

The first agreement, reached on 1 September 2010, was between the Australian Greens and the ALP, in which the Greens pledged to vote with the Government to ensure supply and to oppose any motion of no confidence in the Government not proposed by the Greens. The following day, on 2 September, agreement was reached between the independent Member for Denison, Andrew Wilkie, and the ALP, in which Mr Wilkie also undertook to vote with the Government to ensure supply and to oppose any motion of no confidence in the Government not moved or seconded by him.

The final agreement, between the ALP and two of the three remaining independents, Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor, was announced at a press conference and was signed on 7 September 2010. This gave the ALP the support it needed to form a minority government. In common with the other agreements, Mr Oakeshott and Mr Windsor pledged to vote with the Government to ensure supply and to oppose any motion of no confidence in the Government not moved or seconded by them.

This paper provides coverage of selected procedural changes during the first year of the operation of the House of Representatives in the 43rd Parliament, together with a range of statistics relating to the work of the House. A concordance table providing an overview of procedural changes is attached at Appendix 2. A glossary explaining many of the parliamentary and procedural terms used in this paper is available on the Parliament House website.

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