The proclamation dissolving parliament and formally beginning the election period, was issued by the Governor-General, Quentin Bryce, on 5 August 2013. The writs of election were subsequently issued by Bryce and the state governors.
The current two-party-preferred vote represents the aggregation of counts from 139 of 150 divisions, which currently excludes the "non-classic" divisions of Batman, Denison, Durack, Fairfax, Indi, Kennedy, Mallee, Melbourne, O'Connor, New England and Wills. Only a two-candidate-preferred vote is currently available in these seats, two-party results are yet to be counted and included in the national total.
The Senate has 76 seats. Forty seats were up for election; six in each of the six states, two for the ACT and two for the Northern Territory. The terms of the four senators from the territories commenced on election day, all other terms take effect on 1 July 2014.
Most Senate votes cast in Western Australia were subject to a formal recount. During the recount it was determined that 1,375 WA Senate ballot papers could not be located.
A record number of candidates stood at the election.Group voting tickets came under scrutiny because multiple candidates were provisionally elected with the vast majority of their 14.3 percent quotas coming from the preferences of other parties across the political spectrum. "Preference whisperer" Glenn Druery organised tight cross-preferencing between many minor parties. Motoring's Ricky Muir won a senate seat on a record-low primary vote of 0.5 percent in Victoria (previous examples of winning with low vote shares include Family First's Steve Fielding in 2004 on 1.9 percent in Victoria and the Nuclear Disarmament Party's Robert Wood in 1987 on 1.5 percent in New South Wales). The Sports Party's Wayne Dropulich was declared winner from a primary vote of 0.2 percent in Western Australia, his party placing coming 21st out of 28 groups on primary votes. Family First's Bob Day won a seat on a primary vote of 3.8 percent in South Australia, and the DLP's John Madigan won his seat in 2010 on a primary vote of 2.3 percent in Victoria. Xenophon and larger parties including the incoming government are looking at changes to the GVT system.
Divisions changing hands
Members in italics did not re-contest their House of Representatives seats at this election.
Close of candidate nominations – 12 noon Thursday 15 August 2013
Declaration of candidate nominations – 12 noon Friday 16 August 2013
Election day or Polling day – Saturday 7 September 2013
Last day for the return of writs – Monday 13 November 2013
Deadline for first meeting of the 44th Parliament – Wednesday 13 December 2013
On 30 January 2013, Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced the election would be held on 14 September. However, following a leadership ballot in June 2013, she was replaced as leader by Rudd, who then abandoned the originally planned date. A referendum on amending the constitution to allow the federal government to directly fund local councils that was initially planned to be held on the same day as the federal election could not go ahead on the date announced by Rudd. This is because Section 128 of the Constitution of Australia requires that a referendum must be submitted to electors between two and six months after its passage through Parliament. As early voting started on 20 August it could not be submitted then.
On 24 November 2011, Harry Jenkins resigned as Speaker of the House of Representatives and returned to the Labor backbench. Later, that day, Deputy Speaker Peter Slipper was elected Speaker and quit the Liberal National Party to become an independent. This changed nominal confidence and supply numbers on the floor of the house from 75–74 to 76–73. In January 2012, Andrew Wilkie withdrew his guarantee of confidence to the incumbent government, changing numbers to 75–73 in the event of his abstention, or 75–74 in the event of his support for a vote of no confidence in the government. In April 2012, Labor's Craig Thomson moved to the crossbenches as an independent MP, and in May, WA National Tony Crook moved from the crossbenches to the Nationals, but did not join the Coalition. Changes brought the government to 71 seats, the Coalition 72 seats, and seven crossbenchers. On 9 October 2012, after an unsuccessful vote of no confidence in the speakership, Slipper resigned as Speaker and was replaced by Labor Deputy Speaker Anna Burke. Slipper remained an independent MP.
Of the 76 Senate seats, 40 are contested. This corresponds to half of each state's allocation as well as both senators from the two major territories. Newly elected state senators will commence their terms on 1 July 2014 and the senators of the territories will begin their terms immediately after their elections.
On 30 January 2013, at a speech at the National Press Club, Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced the election would be held on Saturday 14 September 2013, although the Governor-General was not formally advised and no writ of election was issued.Kevin Rudd succeeded Julia Gillard as Prime Minister on 27 June 2013.
The Broadcasting Services Act 1992 was checked by various commercial broadcasting media outlets and media councils as a result of Gillard's announcement. The Act says, in part,
"Election period" means: (a) in relation to any other election to a Parliament – the period that starts on: – (i) the day on which the proposed polling day for the election is publicly announced; or - (ii) the day on which the writs for the election are issued; whichever happens first, and ends at the close of the poll on the polling day for the election;
PART 2 b. (i) If, during an election period, a broadcaster broadcasts election matter, the broadcaster must give reasonable opportunities for the broadcasting of election matter to all political parties contesting the election, being parties which were represented in either House of the Parliament for which the election is to be held at the time of its last meeting before the election period.
This is interpreted as "equal time, over time" rather than equal time in the same broadcast, and that this requirement began with the announcement on 30 January 2013.
Retiring MPs and senators
The terms of Members of the House of Representatives who did not renominate ended at the dissolution of the parliament (5 August 2013).
The terms of Senators who did not renominate will end on 30 June 2014, unless they represent the Australian Capital Territory or the Northern Territory, in which case their term ended on the day before polling day (6 September 2013). That date also applies to territory senators who contest the election but are defeated.
Members and senators who chose not to renominate are as follows:
30 January – Julia Gillard announces planned election date of 14 September 2013.
2 February – Attorney-General Nicola Roxon announces she will be retiring at the election. Higher Education Minister Senator Chris Evans, whose term was not due to finish until 2017, announces he will be resigning in the near future.
19 February – Greens leader Christine Milne announces that the alliance agreement with the ALP is over, but her party will not vote against confidence or supply.
26 February – Gillard announces she will "campaign" in western Sydney for the following week, from Sunday night until Friday.
21 March – Minister Simon Crean asks Gillard for a party leadership vote, and publicly declares his support for Kevin Rudd. In parliament, the Opposition attempts to suspend standing orders for a no confidence vote and although gaining 73 votes to the government's 71 votes, fails to gain the absolute majority of 76 votes required. Crean is sacked from the ministry. At the leadership ballot no alternative candidate nominates, and Gillard is re-elected as ALP leader unopposed. Rudd supporters Joel Fitzgibbon, Ed Husic, Janelle Saffin, and Richard Marles quit their positions in the executive government.
1 July – Wikileaks party receives formal registration as a political party.
22 July – The ALP caucus approves changes to the way the federal parliamentary leader is chosen. The new rules make it more difficult to change leaders and require a ballot of the party membership on contested leadership spills.
4 August – Kevin Rudd announces the election date as 7 September 2013.
11 August – The first of three televised leaders debates between Rudd and Abbott is held in Canberra.
21 August – The second televised leaders debate between Rudd and Abbott is held in Brisbane.
25 August – The Coalition's formal campaign launch is held in Brisbane.
27 August – Treasurer Chris Bowen and shadow treasurer Joe Hockey debate at the National Press Club. Later that evening, the third and final televised leaders debate between Rudd and Abbott is held at the Rooty Hill RSL in Sydney.
28 August – The Coalition releases a document outlining $31.6 billion of proposed budget savings.
29 August – The Rudd Government releases several costings estimates which it claims show a $10 billion shortfall in the Coalition's claimed savings released the previous day. In a strongly-worded statement, the secretaries of the Department of Treasury and Department of Finance criticise the use of these confidential costings prepared for the government, re-iterating that the assumptions used differ from the costings prepared for the Coalition.
1 September – Labor's formal campaign launch is held in Brisbane.
5 September – The Coalition releases its remaining policy costings, claiming a further $9 billion worth of savings, including a $4.5 billion reduction in Australia's foreign aid budget. Later in the day, the Coalition releases a policy document announcing the implementation of an opt-out Internet filter. That evening, Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull states that the document was "poorly worded" and released by mistake, and that the Coalition had no such policy.
7 September (Election Day) – The Liberal-National coalition defeats the Australian Labor Party with the Coalition expected to win about 90 seats in the House of Representatives. Kevin Rudd conceded defeat and announced that he would not renominate for the ALP's leadership.
17 October – A recount of all "above-the-line" Senate votes made in Western Australia is initiated after an appeal by the WA Greens and the Australian Sports Party is upheld.
31 October – The AEC announces that it is unable to find 1,375 ballot papers during the WA Senate recount.
4 November – The AEC declares the result of the WA Senate recount, awarding the last two seats to the Greens and Australian Sports Party, instead of the ALP and Palmer United Party.
The incumbent Labor-led government argued for a need for a "safe pair of hands" to manage an economic shift from mining-oriented growth to something else; while the opposition said that it would prevent a recession that could be caused by a budget deficit. The Sydney Morning Herald suggested both arguments hedged on the mining boom going bust. Rudd officially began the campaign season on 1 September in his hometown of Brisbane. At the rally, he promised tax breaks for small businesses and more work for local contractors on infrastructure projects. He said: "In this election, we are now engaged in the fight of our lives. It is a fight about the values that underpin Australia's future, a fight about our vision for Australia's future. It's a fight about how we go about building Australia's future, a future for the many, not just for the few." He also dismissed the opinion polls that showed him trailing to Abbott in gaining a parliamentary plurality.
The Labor Party recorded its lowest two-party preferred vote since 1996 and lowest primary vote since 1931. Kevin Rudd announced his resignation as party leader and confirmed he would not run again in the subsequent leadership election.
In an unprecedented outcome in Australian electoral history, the Senate result in Western Australia became likely to be declared void by the High Court after the loss of over 1,300 ballot papers, necessitating a fresh election for the Senate in that state.
The Coalition had campaigned on a tough stance on asylum seekers who came to Australia by boat (as had the Labor Party in the final weeks leading up to the election). Immediately after the election, Abbott reiterated his party's promise and announced that his new government would begin Operation Sovereign Borders — which would turn back any vessels carrying asylum seekers — as soon as possible. He also confirmed he would abolish the carbon price that was introduced by the Gillard Government, as well as lower foreign aid by A$4.5 billion.
^The election of territory senators coincides with general elections for the House of Representatives, and their term expires and the new term begins on the day of the election (Commonwealth Electoral Act, s. 42).Odgers' Australian Senate Practice 12th edn (2008), p. 17, at aph.gov.au