Shock troops: The emerging role of Senators in House of Representatives campaigns

Document Type

Journal Article




Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences


School of Communications and Arts / Centre for Research in Entertainment, Arts, Technology, Education and Communications




Onselen, P. V., & Errington, W. (2005). Shock troops: The emerging role of Senators in House of Representatives campaigns. Australian Journal of Political Science, 40(3), 357-371. Available here


Since the 1949 introduction of proportional representation for the Senate there have only been two elections (1983 and 84) at which the ALP has gained more Senators in the chamber than the Coalition. The Coalition has held more seats than the ALP since 1987. The decline in Senate fortunes for the Labor Party has occurred despite (or, perhaps, because of) consecutive ALP Governments from 1972–75 and, more conspicuously, 1983–96. The professionalisation of politics through the 1980s and 1990s has dramatically changed the role major parties expect of their Senate teams. The Coalition and Labor Parties each use their Senators and Senatorial office resources as ‘shock troops’ in marginal seats, as well as points of constituency contact for electors in marginal seats or seats held by the opposition. Given that major party Senators are increasingly being used by the party machines as campaign tools, and are increasingly locating their offices and staffers in marginal seats, the numerical advantage the Coalition enjoys in the Senate is worthy of consideration. The additional campaign resources that Senators provide translates potentially into an electoral advantage in the House of Representatives for the Coalition. The Coalition's majority in the Senate may therefore be of as much interest outside the chamber as it is within it.





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