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What Constitutes a Hung Parliament in Australian Politics

In the Australian political system, a parliament is considered ‘hung’ if no party or coalition or combination of parties has won enough seats to enable it to muster enough members to have a majority in the lower house. (The lower house is the House of Representatives in the federal parliament or the Legislative Assembly in state parliaments.)

A hung parliament can also occur when both major parties have an equal number of seats, so neither has a majority. (This situation last happened in 1961.)

In order to win government, a party must have the support of at least 76 members of the 150 lower house seats in the Australian House of Representatives. These Members of Parliament (MPs) must be prepared to vote for the government in the event of a motion of no confidence and/or to vote for it when it brings down its annual Budget.

In the case of a hung parliament, members of parliament in the lower house who don’t support one of the major parties — independent members or members affiliated with a minor party — are considered to hold the balance of power, in that they eventually decide which party can form government.

Hung parliaments are rare in the Australian parliament, as the voting system and single-member electorates are geared towards manufacturing a majority for one of the major parties. They occur in state parliaments more often than the federal parliament, mainly because the state lower houses have fewer seats than the House of Representatives. Hung parliaments are most likely in Tasmania, because its lower house has only 25 seats and the island state uses proportional representation, which always results in close outcomes.

Since the 1990s, hung parliaments (and, as a consequence, minority governments) have occurred in Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales, and in Tasmania and the ACT (Australian Capital Territory), where proportional representation is used to elect the lower house.

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