After a double dissolution election, do senators’ terms start on the day of the election or 1 July, like after a normal senate election?
Thank you for your question about the terms of senators elected at double dissolution elections.
The terms of senators elected at a normal half-senate election commence on the 1 July after the election (section 13 of the Australian Constitution). This can lead to the situation where a person can be elected to the Senate but must wait months until they are officially a senator.
However, at a double dissolution election, newly elected senators’ terms start on the day of the election. For example, the terms for all the newly elected senators at the 2016 double dissolution election started on 2 July 2016—the day of the election.
This difference in the start of senators’ terms is because at a half-senate election the Senate is not dissolved; it continues working. At a double dissolution election – a full Senate election – the work of the Senate stops. If newly elected senators had to wait until the next 1 July to take their seats, the Senate would not be able to do its work. In the case of the 2016 election, Australians would not have been fully represented in the Senate for 12 months!
To re-establish the pattern of half-Senate elections, section 13 of the Constitution says that senators’ terms ‘shall be taken to begin on the first day of July preceding the day of his election’ (our emphasis). This means to determine the expiry of the terms of all senators, they are all given on paper the preceding 1 July as the start date of their term.
The terms of members of the House of Representatives are calculated from the date of their election to the date they are defeated at an election, retire, resign or die.
The Senate from behind the President of the Senate's chair
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