Members of the House of Representatives

Discover the work of members of the House of Representatives in this fact sheet. It explores their role in the Australian Parliament and in their local community, their working hours and period of service.

There are 151 members elected to the House of Representatives. Each member represents one of Australia's 151 electorates. On average, 150 000 people live in each electorate, with an average of 105 000 voters. The duties of members are conducted both within Parliament and their electorates.

Parliamentary role

During sitting weeks—about 18 to 20 weeks a year—members are engaged in parliamentary duties, including:

  • debating and voting on bills—proposed laws
  • representing the views of people in their electorate
  • working on committees that examine important issues
  • attending parliamentary party meetings to decide on party policy
  • scrutinising—closely examining—the work of the government
  • discussing issues of national and international importance.

Electorate role

When Parliament is not sitting, members are engaged in electorate duties, including:

  • working on committees to collect information from community organisations and lobby groups that want to present their views to Parliament
  • helping constituents who may be having difficulties with issues such as taxes, immigration, health or pensions
  • speaking with community groups such as pensioner associations and sporting clubs
  • visiting schools and making presentations
  • dealing with local concerns for constituents, such as road construction or environmental issues.

Working hours

Members work long hours, both in Parliament and in their electorates. Parliament meets for an average of 11 hours a day. However, members may begin their day in Parliament House at about 7am and end their day at 10pm or later. Members also spend many hours travelling, both between their electorate and Parliament House, and throughout their electorate.

Period of service

Elections for the House of Representatives are held at least every 3 years. Members can stand for re-election as many times as they like.

Addressing a member

Members of the House of Representatives and senators are all referred to as members of parliament. The term 'MP' is short for 'member of parliament', but is only used for members of the House of Representatives. The term 'member' is also used only to refer to a member of the House of Representatives.

In the House of Representatives, members are referred to by:

  • their electorate name—for example, the Member for Newcastle, or
  • if applicable, their title as minister or shadow minister—for example, the Minister for Health.

Some members who are or have been ministers or Presiding Officers may also use the title of 'the Honourable', abbreviated to 'the Hon'.

History

Section 24 of the Australian Constitution states that the number of members of the House of Representatives shall be, as near as possible, 'twice the number of senators'. The number of members in the first House of Representatives in 1901 was 75, as set out in the Constitution. This number has steadily increased since then, in line with the increase in Australia's population.

The longest-serving member in the House of Representatives was William (Billy) Hughes, who was an MP from 1901 to 1951, including his time as Prime Minister from 1915 to 1923.

Members at work in the House of Representatives.

People in suits sit on green benches. One is standing and speaking.

DPS Auspic

Description

Members working in the green House of Representatives. One is standing and speaking.

Role of the House of Representatives.

The role of the House of Representatives is to represent the people, examine issue and making and amending laws.

Parliamentary Education Office (peo.gov.au)

Description

This diagram illustrates the role of the House of Representatives. The House of Representatives: is where government is formed; decides matters of national interest; represents the interests of people in their electorates; proposes, debates and votes of bills and amendments; examines issues in committees; and scrutinises executive government.

What do members of parliament do in Parliament.

Members of the House of Representatives undertake many jobs while representing their electorate in the Australian Parliament.

Parliamentary Education Office (peo.gov.au)

Description

This diagram illustrates what members of the House of Representatives do in the Australian Parliament. Members: debate and vote on bills (proposed laws); represent the views of people in their electorate; work on parliamentary committees examining important issues; attend parliamentary party meetings to decide on party policy; scrutinise—closely examine—the work of the government; and discuss issues of national and international importance.