Fact Sheet – Independents [PDF 163kb, 1 page]

An Independent is a member of parliament who does not belong to a political party. They can be elected to either the House of Representatives or the Senate.

Composition of the House of Representatives and Senate chambers

Left: Composition of the House of Representatives Right: Composition of the Senate


An Independent has an electorate or state/territory to represent in the same way as all members of parliament do.

As well as taking part in debate on government bills presented to the Parliament, an Independent can introduce their own bills. These are called private members' or private senators' 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 chambers

Members of parliamentary parties usually vote together, to support or reject a proposal in Parliament. As an Independent does not belong to a political party, they can make up their own mind about whether to vote for or against a proposal. As such, an Independent sometimes votes with the government and sometimes votes with the opposition. On some occasions, an Independent may choose to abstain—that is, not attend the chamber for a vote.

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.

Chamber seating

Independents usually sit on the seats that curve around at the end of the chamber. These seats are called non-government seats in the House of Representatives and cross-benches in the Senate.