What lies beneath: the work of senators and members in the Australian Parliament

24 Jun 2010

This study compares senators as a group of political representatives with members of the House of Representatives as another group to assess the similarities and differences between their work,

their roles and responsibilities, and their conceptions of representation. Drawing on surveys of 233 current and former parliamentarians and 29 interviews with prominent politicians, this study finds that the profession has changed with technological and communication developments, increases in staff and constituents, increased media intrusions, and challenges to balance work and family.

Most fundamentally, the stature of the Senate has grown from out of the shadow of the House of Representatives, while senators have also raised their profiles and become important campaign agents. While the House still seats the most powerful politicians and retains the interest of the media with its theatrics, the Senate has carved out a strong policy and legislative focus. The Senate has also been more successful in attracting a more diverse cross-section of the Australian community into the chamber and is now challenging the lower house as the real house of representatives. i

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