With much discussion in the media about the upcoming referendum relating to the Voice, from a legal viewpoint it is worth considering what is a referendum.
A referendum is a vote of the Australian people on a proposed change to the Australian Constitution.
A plebiscite is a vote on an issue that does not affect the Constitution.
Section 128 of the Constitution deals with the mode of altering the Constitution.
The proposed law for the alteration of the Constitution must be passed by an absolute majority of each House of the Commonwealth Parliament, and not less than two nor more than six moths after its passage through both Houses of the Commonwealth Parliament the proposed law shall be submitted in each State and Territory to the electors.
In order for a referendum to pass, a majority of the States and a majority of the electors must approve the proposed law (i.e. a double majority).
The votes of electors in the Australian Capacity Territory and the Northern Territory are only counted in the national vote.
Since 1901 there have been 44 proposed changes to the Constitution. Eight changes have been passed.
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