How many seats are needed for a majority government in Australia?

In Australia’s parliamentary system, a political party needs a majority of seats in the House of Representatives to form a majority government. This means controlling over half the seats in the lower house. With 151 seats total in the House of Representatives, a party would need to win at least 76 seats to hold a majority.

How many seats are there in the House of Representatives?

The House of Representatives, the lower house of Australia’s Parliament, has 151 seats total. The number of seats is based on the population of each state and territory. After a census, the Australian Electoral Commission will redistribute seats among the states and territories based on changes in population.

Here is the current breakdown of seats in the House of Representatives by state and territory:

State/Territory Number of Seats
New South Wales 47
Victoria 38
Queensland 30
Western Australia 16
South Australia 10
Tasmania 5
Australian Capital Territory 3
Northern Territory 2
Total 151

As the table shows, the number of seats each state or territory gets is based on their population size. The more populous states like New South Wales and Victoria have more seats than the smaller territories.

What is considered a majority government in Australia?

In Australia’s parliamentary system, a political party needs to hold a majority of seats in the House of Representatives in order to form government and pass legislation. This is known as a majority government.

To have a majority government, a political party must win 76 or more seats in the House of Representatives. With 151 total seats, 76 is just over half. This gives them over 50% of the seats and control of the house.

If a party wins 75 or fewer seats, they do not have a majority government. This is known as a minority government. A minority government must rely on support from independent MPs or minor parties to pass bills and budgets.

When was the last majority government in Australia?

The last federal election to produce a majority government in Australia was in 2016. In that election, the Liberal/National Coalition led by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull won 76 seats in the House of Representatives.

This gave them a slim majority to form government without needing support from independents or minor parties. They held this 76 seat majority until the next election in 2019.

How often do majority governments occur in Australia?

Majority governments are quite common at the federal level in Australia. From 1949 to 2016, the majority of federal election results produced majority governments:

  • 1949-1972 – Coalition majority governments
  • 1972-1975 – Labor majority governments
  • 1975-1983 – Coalition majority governments
  • 1983-1996 – Labor majority governments
  • 1996-2007 – Coalition majority governments
  • 2007-2010 – Labor majority government
  • 2013-2016 – Coalition majority government

Minority governments have been less common, occurring from 2010-2013 under Labor and since the 2019 election under the current Coalition government.

So while minority governments do occur, Australian voters have historically elected a majority government in over two-thirds of federal elections since 1949.

Could a party form government without a majority?

It is possible, though rare, for a party to form government without holding a majority of seats. This happened federally in 2010 when Labor formed a minority government.

If no party wins enough seats for a majority, the party with the most seats can attempt to negotiate with independent MPs and minor parties to gain their support on confidence and supply votes. This allows them to have enough votes to pass essential bills and budgets.

However, governing without a majority is challenging and unstable for a party. Minor parties can leverage their vote to influence policy. The 2010-2013 Labor minority government required support of Greens and independents to function.

What is a ‘hung parliament’?

A hung parliament refers to an election result where no party wins a majority of seats in the House of Representatives. This leaves both major parties short of the 76 seats needed to form government.

Hung parliaments usually lead to minority governments. This occurred in 2010 when Labor formed government despite winning only 72 seats. They had to rely on independents and Greens for support.

The current parliament is also considered hung, with the Coalition holding just 74 seats. They require support from crossbench MPs to pass legislation and budgets.

Could independents hold the balance of power?

In a hung parliament with no clear majority, independent MPs can hold the balance of power. Their votes become critical for passing legislation and budgets.

At times independents have provided support in exchange for policy compromises or money for their electorates. Rural independents secured billions for regional Australia in 2010-13.

With 5 or more independents, they could have a strong negotiating position. However, maintaining their support is challenging without formal coalition agreements.

How are seats distributed in the House of Representatives?

Seats in the House of Representatives are distributed among single-member electorates based on population. There are currently 151 electorates across the country.

At a federal election, voters elect their local member to represent their electorate. The party with the most members elected forms government.

After each census, the AEC redistributes seats to account for population shifts. Fast-growing states like Queensland and Western Australia tend to gain seats while slower-growing states may lose seats.

Could the seat distribution change before the next election?

It’s unlikely the seat distribution will change before the next federal election, expected in 2022 or 2023. The last redistribution occurred in 2019 for the 2019 election.

However, the next census is in 2021. Based on population data, the AEC may redraw electorate boundaries and redistribute seats for the following election, likely in 2025.

Victoria and Queensland are expected to gain 1-2 seats each due to rapid population growth. Western Australia may also gain a seat. Meanwhile, New South Wales is likely to lose 1 seat in the next redistribution.

How are majority governments formed in other countries?

The number of seats needed to form a majority government varies by country depending on the structure of their parliament and electoral system.

In the United Kingdom, 326 seats are needed for a majority in the 650 seat House of Commons. Canada requires 170 seats for a majority in its 338 seat House of Commons.

New Zealand has a 120 seat parliament. A party needs 61 seats to form a majority government. Other examples include Germany requiring 315 of 630 seats and Spain requiring 176 of 350 seats.

Proportional representation systems make outright majorities rarer. South Africa uses party-list proportional representation, leading to frequent coalition governments.


In Australia’s House of Representatives, a political party needs to win 76 seats to hold a majority government. This allows them to pass legislation without needing support from independents or minor parties.

Majority governments have been the norm in Australia, occurring in over two-thirds of elections since 1949. However, hung parliaments and minority governments can occur when no party reaches 76 seats.

The distribution of seats between states and territories is based on population. Periodic redistributions account for population changes. Victoria and Queensland are likely to gain seats in the next redistribution.

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