Concept: Double Dissolution

Summary

A double dissolution is a procedure permitted under the Section 57 of the Australian Constitution to resolve deadlocks between the House of Representatives and the Senate.

It is a way for the government of the day to pass legislation through the Senate by calling for a Full Election of both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Details

If the Senate and House of Representatives twice fail to agree on a piece of legislation, the Governor-General may use Section 57 of the Constitution to dissolve the House and the entire Senate and issue writs for an election in which every seat in the Parliament is contested. This is the only occasion on which the entire Senate is dissolved.

The conditions stipulated by Section 57 are:
- the bill must have originated in the House of Representatives;
- a period of three months must elapse between the two rejections of the bill by the Senate ("rejection" in this context can extend to the Senate's failure to pass the bill, or to the Senate passing it with amendments to which the House of Representatives will not agree);
- the second rejection may occur in the same session as the first, or the subsequent session, but no later.

Section 57 also provides that, following the election, if the Senate a third time rejects the bill or bills that were the subject of the double dissolution, the Governor-General may convene a joint sitting of the two houses to consider the bill or bills, including any amendments which have been previously proposed in either house, or any new amendments. If a bill is passed by an absolute majority of the total membership of the joint sitting, it is treated as though it had been passed separately by both houses, and is presented for Royal Assent.

There is no similar provision for resolving deadlocks with respect to bills that have originated in the Senate and are blocked in the House of Representatives.

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