The Senate

Discover the role and work of the Australian Senate with this introductory video.

Teachers can use this video to introduce the Senate to their students. It supports the Year 7 Unit of work and the Make a Law: Senate and Make speeches classroom activities.

Duration: 3min 43sec




Opening credits showing images of the Senate, the House of Representatives, the Australian Flag, the Governor- General, and the Main Committee Room.


Title: About Parliament, The Senate.

The Senate.

The presenter stands in the Senate.

Presenter: The main work of the federal Parliament is shared between 2 houses: the Senate and the House of Representatives. This is the Senate.

A member of the public places their vote in the Senate ballot box.
Graphic of a map showing Australian states and territories.
Footage of the Senate at work.

Presenter: Senators are elected as representatives of Australia's states and territories. The Senate chamber is arranged in a horseshoe shape with the President of the Senate sitting at the front.

Footage of the Senate at work.

Presenter: There are 76 senators in total: 12 for each state and 2 for each territory. Government senators sit to the right of the President and opposition senators sit to the left.

Senate votes being counted after an election.
Footage of the Senate, with the crossbench highlighted.

Presenter: But it's not just the major parties that are represented. The voting system used for the Senate means that senators are often elected from minor parties or as independent senators. These senators sit in the middle area known as the crossbench.

The presenter stands in the Senate.

Presenter: Because of the voting system used to elect senators, there is often a broad range of views represented in the Senate. A government majority in the Senate is unusual, which means the government must negotiate with senators from the opposition and crossbench to pass laws.

Senators debate in the Senate.
Senators meeting in a committee room.

Presenter: Senators look at new laws proposed by the government and often suggest changes. They debate these laws in the Senate chamber, and examine them closely in Senate committees. Committees also help senators find out how new laws affect people in the community.

Footage of the Senate at work.

Presenter: As proposed laws must be agreed to by both houses of Parliament, senators can shape how new laws are made, on behalf of the people they represent.

The presenter stands in the Senate.

Presenter: One of the most important functions of the Senate is to keep an eye on what the government is doing. This helps to ensure that the government makes good decisions when running the country.

Senators question a witness during a Senate estimates hearing.

Presenter: At Senate estimates hearings, senators can question ministers and public servants about their decisions and the spending of public money.

Senator David Fawcett questions Senator the Hon Marise Payne, Minister for Defence, during Question Time.

Presenter: Senators also review the work of the government during Question Time by asking ministers to explain their actions. This helps to keep the government accountable to the Parliament and to the people of Australia.

The presenter stands in the Senate.

Presenter: A variety of views and ideas are discussed both in the chamber and through the work of Senate committees. This allows senators to consider a range of opinions before making decisions on policy and law-making.

Footage of the Senate at work.

Presenter: In the chamber, senators debate important national issues and talk about matters that affect the people in their state or territory.

Senators question witnesses during a Senate committee hearing.

Presenter: Senators also spend considerable time working in committees, investigating issues in detail and listening to the views of the community.

Title: Parliamentary Education Office. Copyright Commonwealth of Australia 2017.
Parliamentary Education Office logo
Parliamentary Education Office website:

Presenter: To learn more about this process or to find out how to get involved visit the Parliamentary Education Office website.