Can't tell your House of Representatives from your Senate? Or question time from committees?
Have no fear, here is an easy-to-understand explainer about the Australian Parliament to get you up to speed ahead of the looming Federal Election in May.
The Australian Parliament meets at Parliament House in Canberra to represent the people of Australia to create laws and debate issues of national importance.
It consists of the Crown represented by the Governor-General and the two houses of parliament, the Senate and the House of Representatives.
During elections, Australians vote for politicians from their local electorate to represent them in the House of Representatives and politicians from their state or territory to represent them in the Senate.
Members of Parliament (MPs) create, debate and amend laws in the House of Representatives before they are further debated in the Senate, where Senators ultimately approve or disapprove of them.
The Parliament's four main functions are to form government, represent the people of Australia, make and change laws and to examine the work of the government.
The House of Representatives is the lower house of the Australian Parliament where MPs speak about issues and events which are important to the people in their electorate.
It has 150 members, each of which represents an electoral division. The boundaries of these electorates are adjusted from time to time so they all contain approximately equal numbers of electors - because of the distribution of Australia's population they vary greatly in area (from a few square kilometres to over two million square kilometres).
Members are elected by a system known as preferential voting, under which voters rank candidates in order of preference.
Each House of Representatives may continue for up to three years, after which general elections for a new House must be held. Elections are often held before the end of this period.
The main political parties represented in the House are the Australian Labor Party, the Liberal Party of Australia and the National Party of Australia. In recent years there has also been a number of independent parties and members.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives sits front and centre in the House while members sit in surrounding seats, which are arranged in a horseshoe shape.
After an election, the political party or coalition with the support of the majority of members forms the government and sits to the right of the Speaker.
The current government is the Liberal-National Coalition led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Meanwhile, the next largest party forms the Opposition, which is currently the Labor Party, and sits to the left of the speaker while independent and minor party members sit in between in the Cross Bench area.
Usually, government ministers introduce new laws or changes to existing laws in the form of a bills, which are then debated by all members of parliament.
During Question Time in the House of Representatives, members of the Opposition and Cross Bench can question government ministers about their actions and decisions.
Meanwhile, parliamentary committees allow ministers to listen to the views of the community and make recommendations for government action.
Once a bill is agreed to in the House of Representatives, it goes to the Senate for further debate among Senators.
The Senate is the upper house of the Australian Parliament where senators debate and make amendments to bills proposed by the House of Representatives.
It consists of 76 senators, 12 from each of the six states and two from each of the mainland territories. It shares the power to make laws with the other House of the Parliament, the House of Representatives.
Senators are elected for a period of six years. A system of rotation ensures that half the Senate retires every three years.
The only difference being for the four senators who represent the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory who are elected with members of the House of Representatives and the duration of their terms of office coincide with those for that house (a maximum of three years).
While the MPs represent their local electorates, senators represent their state or territory, which is why the Senate is often called the State's House.
Like the House of Representatives, the Senate is arranged in a horseshoe shape with government senators sitting to the right of the Senate President, opposition senators sitting to the left and independent and minor party senators sitting in the middle crossbench area.
IN OTHER NEWS:
A government majority in the Senate is unusual so the government must often negotiate with senators from the opposition and crossbench.
Senate committees allow senators to further examine bills while question time allows opposition, independent and minority senators to scrutinise the government.
Once a bill has been approved by both the House of Representatives and the Senate, it must be approved by the Governor-General on behalf of the Crown in a process known as Royal Assent.
After the bill is signed, it becomes a law known as an act of parliament.
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