Today is Saturday. Today is also election day. Australians all over the country will be heading to their polling places to vote for their representatives up for election in the senate and the house.
But to be honest, I don’t really fully comprehend Australian politics.
Here is what I do know:
- Voting is compulsory. If you are an Australian citizen and are 18 or older, you are required to vote. If you don’t, they fine you.
- There are two major parties in Australian politics: The Labor Party and the Liberal Party. But the names confuse me. The Labor Party is basically the US Democratic Party. After living in Minnesota for so long where they refer to Democrats as the DFL party (democratic farmer labor), I guess I shouldn’t be surprised here. They believe in social justice, taxing businesses, and providing social programs for those in need. The Liberals are basically the Republican Party, but the idea of calling republicans liberals creates a stumbling block for me. They are for individual rights, fewer taxes for businesses, and added “incentives for individuals to help themselves, rather than imposing higher taxes to fund a broad social-welfare system, which [they reckon] stifles economic development.” There is also The Green Party, which, interestingly enough, has a belief system aligned with their name. They are for a “clean economy, caring society, healthy environment.”
- The people do not elect the prime minister. Coming from the US, this is a hard one to wrap my mind around. I mean, Americans technically vote for a representative to the electoral college, but it still feels like you’re voting for the person himself/herself. People in Australia vote for their local/regional representative to the House of Representatives. Then the majority within the HoR gets to have their leader as prime minister.
- Elections are supposed to happen every three years, but they occur more often than that. Why? There are many reasons for this; however, recently there was a shake up because the party in control of the HoR is able to make changes and can decide to clean house whenever it wants. In June, Prime Minister Gillard’s supporters were not in the majority in the HoR, so there was a vote within that caucus, and she was ousted. (I should note that she was the first female prime minister in Australian history). Rudd took over (he’s been prime minister before) and declared the general election for today. Pollsters are predicting that he will lose today.
- Election campaigning only lasts from 30-60 days, which is really nice. We’ve only had one month of ads on tv and in our mailbox. There was also a campaign blackout the other night so there were no ads on tv at all.
- The government can be dissolved at any time by the Queen’s representative here in Australia – the Governor General. In 1975, the Governor General did just that.
- Your vote might not really go to the person you think it’s going to – this really confuses me. I’ve been consulting http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electoral_system_of_Australia#Preferential_voting and https://www.getup.org.au/campaigns/election-2013/make-your-vote-count/strange-senate-bedfellows and http://preferences.theglobalmail.org/ to try to understand what this is all about. I’m still not sure I get it.
For more information (or if you wish to be confused even more) see:
Based on my level of confusion, I’m guessing it’s probably a good thing that I can’t vote in this election.