Federal Election 2016: Election History Lesson (General)

There is only a matter of weeks left before Australia decides who its next leader will be. 

This year's federal election comes with new rules for Senate voting. The change is just one of many that have been ushered in to Australia's voting system in the 115 years since Federation. 

We put together a history at a glance of the major changes that have shaped elections since 1901: 

1901 - Federation: The six self-governing colonies formed the Commonwealth of Australia. The first parliamentary Commonwealth election was held on March 29 and 30. Edmund Barton became Australia's first Prime Minister. The Commonwealth Parliament met on May 9 with 75 members in the House of Representatives and 36 Senators (six from each state).

Australia's first Prime Minister Edmund Barton.
Australia's first Prime Minister Edmund Barton. National Library of Australia

1902 - The parliament passed the Commonwealth Franchise Act that gave the vote to men over the age of 21 but not to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups. White women over the age of 21 in South Australia, Western Australia and New South Wales were also allowed to vote. The Act also created the roles of Electoral Officers and the Electoral Registrars.

1903 - The first Federal Election under federal law was held on December 16 with just less than half the eligible voters casting a ballot. Women over 21 in Tasmania got the vote.

1905 - Commonwealth electoral divisions were created. Women over 21 in Queensland were given the vote.

1907 - The Constitution Alteration Act allowed elections for both houses of parliament to be held concurrently with six-year terms for senators to commence on July 1 instead of January 1.

1908 - Women in Victoria were given the vote.

1911 - Compulsory enrolment introduced but voting in federal election remained voluntary.  Postal voting abolished and elections were to be held on Saturdays only. Parties had to disclose campaign expenditure.

1915 - Compulsory voting introduced for Queensland state elections.

1918 - Preferential voting introduced and used for first time at the Corangamite by-election. Postal voting reinstated.

1921 - Edith Cowan became first woman elected to government - as the member for West Perth in the Western Australia state election.

1922 - Grouping of names on senate ballot introduced. The Northern Territory was granted a member in the House of Representatives with limited voting rights

1925 - Compulsory voting which was introduced in 1924 was used for first time in federal elections with a 91% turnout.

1927 - Parliament met for the first time in Canberra on May 9.

1940 - Horizontal ballot papers used for first time.

1943 - Australia's first female member of the Commonwealth Parliament, Dame Enid Lyons, was elected to the House of Representatives. Australia's first female senator, Dorothy Tangney, was elected to the Senate.

1948 - Number of senators increased to 60 (10 in each state) and members of HOR increased to 121, excluding NT and ACT.

1949 - Aboriginal people were given the right to enrol and vote at federal elections provided they were entitled to enrol for state elections or had served in the Australian defence forces.

1962 - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were given the right to voluntarily enrol and vote at federal elections and Northern Territory elections.

1967 - Constitutional referendum to allow the Commonwealth Parliament to make special laws for Indigenous people and include them in population counts.


Senator Neville Bonner was the first Indigenous member of parliament.
Senator Neville Bonner was the first Indigenous member of parliament. Contributed

1971 - Australia's first Indigenous member of the Commonwealth Parliament, Neville Bonner, was appointed to the Senate.

1973 -  Voting and candidature for all federal elections lowered from 21 years to 18.

1984 - Australian citizenship became an eligibility requirement for enrolment. British subjects on the roll immediately before January 26, 1984 retained enrolment rights.

1998 - Computerised scrutiny for Senate votes introduced.

2000 - The number of HOR members increased to 150.

2006 - Prisoners serving full-time sentences no longer entitled to vote.

2010 - Australia's first female Prime Minister Julia Gillard appointed. Australia's first Indigenous member of HOR, Ken Wyatt, elected to represent the division of Hasluck in Western Australia.

2016 - Voting method for senators amended while group voting tickets abolished. Political party logos to be printed on ballot papers.

Source: Caboolture News

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