The federal parliamentary term expires 3 years from the first meeting of the House of Representatives, but it can be dissolved earlier. The election must be held on a Saturday, not more than 68 days after the expiry.
At a federal election you elect members to represent you in the 2 houses that make up the federal parliament – the House of Representatives and the Senate.
For the House of Representatives (the Lower House), Australia is divided into 150 divisions called electorates, with roughly equal numbers of electors in each. Each electorate elects 1 member to the House of Representatives.
Members are elected to serve for 3 years by voters ranking all candidates in order of their preference (full preferential voting), from '1' (first choice) downwards until every square is numbered. Candidates are elected when they gain more than 50% of the votes.
The Senate (the Upper House) is made up of 76 Senators with each State having 12 Senators and the Territories each having 2. You vote for Senators to represent your State or Territory as a whole.
Senators for each State are elected for a 6 year term, whereas Senators for each Territory are elected for 3 years. Forty Senate vacancies are contested at each half-Senate election.
Senators are elected by voters ranking groups or individual candidates in order of their preference and candidates gaining a quota of the formal votes (proportional representation voting).
Federal elections are conducted by the Australian Electoral Commission.