An independent is a member of the Australian Parliament who does not belong to a political party. This fact sheet explores their role, how they can vote in the Parliament and where they sit.
As well as taking part in debate on government bills presented to the Parliament, an independent can introduce their own bill. These are called private member's or private senator's bills. Introducing a private bill enables an independent to suggest a new law on an issue that they think is important or that they believe the Parliament is not addressing. Since private bills cannot pass without the support of the majority, they are usually defeated.
Voting in the Senate and House of Representatives
Members of parliamentary parties usually vote together, to support or reject a proposal in Parliament. Because independents do not belong to a political party, they can make up their own mind about whether to vote for or against a proposal. An independent can sometimes vote with the government and sometimes with the opposition. On some occasions, an independent may choose to abstain.
A minority government may need the votes of some or all of the independents to pass a bill, particularly when the opposition does not support the bill. The government may spend time and effort persuading independents to support government bills. In this situation, independents may hold the balance of power, which means that their vote can decide whether the bill is passed or rejected.
Senate and House of Representatives seating
Independents usually sit on the seats that curve around at the end of the Senate and House. These seats are often called the crossbenches.
Members at work in the House of Representatives.
Members working in the green House of Representatives. One is standing and speaking.
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