Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A look at Australia

Teddy here with a quick look at Australia and what is going on in that country.

Like Canada, most of the country is "empty" The areas in red are the areas where 95% of Australians live:

The Senate of Australia provides for 12 Senators per state and each Territory provides 2 Senators. At each election, every 3 years, half of the State Senators are up for election, and all Territorial Senators. Senators are elected based on proportional representation. 

The number of Representatives per State/Territory is as follows:

Note the population distribution (more seats = more people). Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania (the 3 less populace states) plus both Territories have a total of 35 seats, less than Victoria alone. Add Queensland and you have a total of 65 seats, less than the 85 in the two largest states alone. It's important to remember that when we discuss the next part. Parties.

There are "2" major "Parties" in Australia. 

Labor - One of the major parties. The left-wing party currently in Government. And yes, it lacks a u, which actually helps differentiating when talking about Labor and Labour. 
Greens - In the last election, the Greens won their first seat (that sentence applies not only to them, and us, but the UK as well) They are currently in coalition with Labor, but as this is the first time they had a seat in the lower house, such a coalition arrangement is not "normal" or "standard"

Coalition - The other major "party". The coalition itself is not a party, but a coalition of parties.
Liberal - The main component of the coalition. The Liberal leader becomes Prime Minister. This party exists in every state and territory except for Queensland (below) and the Northern Territory (also below)
National (Vic+NSW) - The second major party in the coalition, runs in rural areas.
Liberal-National - A merger of the two above parties in the state of Queensland. This happened within the past decade. Queensland, until then, had been unique in that the National party was the stronger of the two.
Country Liberal - A merger created in the 70's in the Northern Territory.

One of the reasons this gets confusing is what happens to National in other states. In the ACT and Tasmania, the party does not and has never existed. In Queensland and the NT, it has been merged. In South Australia, this was never the standard arrangement, but, the party never managed to win many seats, usually ending elections with 0. 

Today, the SA National party is still officially outside the coalition, but as it is very weak and does not win seats, this point is moot. What's changed is in Western Australia, where a standard arrangement had existed, the National party has officially pulled out of the coalition. Like the US, and, unlike Canada, the state party has precedence over the federal party. This means that National members of parliament elected from WA are thus not in the coalition.

The "problem" for them is that due to minority situations in both the Federal and State house, the WA National party is in coalition with the Coalition. 

Things, however, have been even more complicated as of late; but, lets go state by state and figure out what's going on.

D-1 (DLP)

The DLP is a minor party that supports social conservatism and opposes neo-liberal capitalist theory. 

K-1 (KAP)
P-1 (PUP)

KAP is a socially conservative, protectionist, and fiscally nationalist party based around Bob Katter from Queensland.

PUP is a brand new party, only a few weeks old, and based around businessman Clive Palmer. Palmer is attempting to re-create the old "United Party". The problem, for him, is that this is the party that was transformed into the Liberal Party in 1945. Needless to say, the party is right-wing. 

More on these two parties when we get to...

As mentioned earlier, the National Party had historically been stronger in Queensland, always taking more seats than the Liberals. In 1998, Labor took 44 seats while the Coalition took 32, 23 National and 9 Liberal. 2 Independents were also elected. Perhaps more importantly, 11 members of the anti-immigrant "One Nation" party were elected. With 23% of the vote, it was the largest vote share that any 3rd party (that did not evolve into Labor or the Coalition) had ever taken, at any level. 

It is this right-wing tradition that allows parties like KAP and PUP to flourish. Current standings in the Legislature are as follows:
Queensland is also the only state with a single house.

KAP and PUP are debating merger.
The Coalition (federally anyway) has tried to position itself where Stephen Harper has, economically Conservative and socially apathetic, despite a campaign against the Coalition based on abortion politics, the Coalition has not made any suggestions that it would support such moves. A merger to create a "Conservative" party, however, might take those issues and run with them. 

Capital Territory
With a 8-8 tie between Labor and the Liberals, the single Green member holds the balance of power. The Greens have held this seat constantly since 1995.

Northern Territory
In the first election, the Country Liberals won every seat, save two, which were taken by Independents. 

Most of Australia uses the same electoral system, a preferential ballot, where you rank everyone first to last. Even the Senate uses a complex version of this. Tasmania however uses a system based more on proportional representation. Currently Labor and the Liberals are tied at 10 seats each, while the Greens have 5. The Greens currently sit in coalition with Labor. 

South Australia
Labor holds government here with 26 seats, compared to the Liberals with 18 and Independents with 3.

Western Australia
As mentioned above, a complex situation. The current 'government' is made up of 31 Liberals and 7 Nationals, while there are 21 Labor members in opposition. It is in the State Senate (Legislative Council) that the government needs this support. 

A narrow majority turned into a narrow minority, with the 44 seat Coalition (34-10 split) facing off against a 43 seat Labor opposition and 1 Independent. 

New South Wales
The largest state. 51 Liberals sit with 19 members from the National party. Labor has 20 seats, with 1 Green, and 3 Independents. 

There are more current events, obviously, but I wanted to give all readers an introduction to everything you need to know to grasp Australian politics. Keep an eye out for future updates!

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