10 things you need to know about the Federal Election 2019 — for Aussies that haven’t been paying attention

Liberal party supporter Dorothy Dehais has a sausages during a Liberal Party Campaign Rally at Launceston Airport on April 18, 2019. Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

1. When is the 2019 Federal Election?

A federal election will be held this Saturday, May 18, with half of the spots in the Senate up for grabs and all seats in the House of Representatives. Polls open at 8am and close at 6pm local time. Find out if you are registered and what electorate you are in here.

2. Where can you vote?

You can vote at any polling booth in your state regardless of the electorate you’re registered in. Booths are usually found in community locations like public schools and churches. You can find your nearest polling place here.

3. What happens if you don’t vote?

Unlike much of the rest of the democratic world, voting in Australia is compulsory. And if you don’t have a “valid and sufficient reason” for not voting you could find yourself in breach of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 and slapped with a $20 fine. Australia is one of 22 countries where voting is compulsory, alongside Honduras, Lebanon and (as the name would suggest) the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

4. What is a ‘democracy sausage’ and where can I find one?

A map shows where you can find your democracy snag. democracysausage.org

While there are potential penalties for not voting, there are also rewards for voting. The sausage sizzle is an Australian icon: cheap sliced bread, invariably burnt tube of beef, onions and a squirt of tomato sauce which symbolise national unity and the peaceful transition of power. So much so that the sandwich has taken on the moniker of ‘democracy sausage’. But despite its cultural significance, not every polling booth offers the prize.

Luckily, the community-minded folks at DemocracySausage.org have you covered:

5. What if you can’t vote in person on Saturday?

You can still avoid the $20 fine and, more importantly, participate in the democratic process by voting early. You’ll give up your right to a sausage sizzle though. Find an early voting or mobile polling team here. Unfortunately there is no online voting option for the federal election, despite some digital innovation from the NSW Electoral Commission for state elections.

6. Can you vote from overseas?

Yes. Applications for postal votes are now closed, but Australia’s wide network of diplomatic posts means you can probably get to an overseas voting centre somewhere reasonably close by. You can find your closest overseas voting centre here. The polling booth in the West African nation of Ghana even has democracy sausages.

7. How to fill out the voting forms correctly

Getting to the polling booth is only half the battle. If you want your vote to count, you’ll also need to make sure you fill out the forms correctly. Once you tick off your name with the always-friendly AEC officials (perhaps due to their ready access to democracy sausages), you will be given two pieces of paper, one for the House and another much larger scroll-like parchment for the Senate.

Now, the rules around the minimum number of boxes you have to tick have changed recently, so here is all the info you need to make sure you don’t botch it:

How to vote in the Senate.
How to vote in the House of Representatives.

8. Who should you vote for?

Unlike some of our peers in the media, Business Insider Australia will not be making any endorsement or recommendation on who you should vote for. There is no shortage of commentary (both informed and otherwise) online and via the #AusVotes19 corner of the Twittersphere if you want some last minute inspiration. But for something a little more scientific and customised, the ABC’s Vote Compass tool will help you work out where you stand on the policy issues in this campaign.

The public broadcaster has also compiled a cheat sheet on minor parties, which will be especially helpful if you’re bravely venturing ‘below the line’.

You can also see what the two major parties say about their own policies via the links below, but make sure you keep in mind these documents have been written by professional spin doctors.

Liberal Party election policies.
Labor Party election policies.

9. How will the election winner be determined and who will be prime minister?

To win the right to govern, a party needs a majority of seats in the House of Representatives. Due to population growth, the House of Representatives now has 151 seats instead of 150, so the winner will need 76 seats. Currently, Labor has 72 seats and the governing Liberal-National Coalition has one more at 73, after Independent Kerryn Phelps was elected in a by-election in October 2018 in the Sydney electorate of Wentworth, which was formerly held by ousted prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.

The next prime minister will almost certainly be either the current prime minister Scott Morrison, a former federal treasurer and Liberal Party staffer, or current opposition leader Bill Shorten, former education minister and union boss. If you didn’t know that, don’t feel too bad. This chart from the BBC shows just how many prime ministers Australia has had in recent years:

Hilarious. BBC

In an effort to stop global outfits like the BBC laughing at our national expense, both major parties have changed their internal rules to make ousting a sitting leader more difficult (albeit with some differences in the two approaches, naturally).

10. Which party is going to win the federal election?

That’s the $1.32 trillion question (Australia’s GDP). At the time of writing, Labor was slightly ahead in most of the major opinion polls, including Newspoll (which shows a +1.36% swing against the Coalition) and The Guardian’s Essential poll.

But anyone who was following the 2016 US presidential election will know the polls don’t always get it right. Ultimately the decision rests with the voters of Australia.

Good luck!


Regardless of the merits of their respective policies, many professional politicians and ordinary citizens have worked hard campaigning across the country in recent weeks. But none have put their body on the line quite like Alex Dyson, Independent Candidate for the seat of Wannon.