Members of the House of Representatives
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 100 000 voters.
Penny Bradfield/DPS AUSPIC
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. The duties of members are conducted both within the Parliament and their electorates.
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 parliamentary 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.
When Parliament is not sitting, members are engaged in electorate duties, including:
- working on parliamentary 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.
Members work long hours, both in Parliament and in their electorates. Parliament meets for an average of eleven 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 three years. Members can stand for re-election as many times as they like (see Federal Elections).
Addressing a member
In the House of Representatives, members are referred to by:
- their electorate name – for example, the Member for Newcastle, or
- if applicable, their ministry or shadow ministry – 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'.
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.