Australian Politics Explained

Flag_of_AustraliaSo there are elections going on in countries other than America?

Yes, but they really aren’t quite as interesting.

I don’t know, this one sounds interesting what with a Green versus a some kind of extreme nationalist?

That’s AUSTRIA. I’m explaining AUSTRALIA.

Well, the main thing is we’ve got that joke out of the way early.

And the green won that one in Austria and the crypto-fascist lost. Also his name was Norbet.

OK, so Australia then. Didn’t Australia just have an election?

The last federal general election was in 2013. They have them every three years.

So who won that one?

A quite right wing conservative called Tony Abbot became Prime Minister.

That must have been alarming for liberal Australians?

Technically Abbot was a liberal. The main conservative party is called The Liberal Party.

So the Liberals are conservatives?

Mainly, but parts of the party are more centrist. It’s due to the Coriolis effect.

So Tony Abbot is trying to win another term?


Tony Abbot, the guy you said won the last election.

Oh yeah, him. No, he was dumped as PM last year by his own party.

Nasty – so why was he ousted?

Mainly because he was a bit of an obnoxious git – which is sort of how he got elected in the first place. When he got into power he alienated lots of people, particularly independent senators. That meant he had trouble passing legislation but really the main reason was that he was an obnoxious git.

So they found somebody less obnoxious?

Oh yes indeed. Malcolm Turnbull is suave, well-dressed, rich, handsome, charming and a political moderate much closer to the centre of Australian politics.

He sounds like a dreamboat. So who is the opposition?

Bill Shorten, leader of the Labor Party. Ex-union boss, party machine sort of man, actually a bit dull and lacking in charisma.

Well, that sounds pretty bad . Nice to see US spelling, though.

Australian’s only spell ‘labor’ that way for the labor party. The rest of the time they spell it Labour.

Coriolis effect again, I suppose. Still, Labor must be worried.

They are currently ahead in the polls. Charisma is not a mandatory quality that Australian’s look for in a leader. John Howard served several terms as PM and he has all the charisma of a bank manager.

So the Aussies prefer their politicians to be dull?

Bob Hawke, who was PM through most of the 80’s, had a world record in beer drinking and a talent for colourful language. Paul Keating, who succeeded him, was a debonair lover of fine things with an equally sharp wit. They even made a musical about him.

So what are the big issues of the day?

It’s more what ISN’T the big issue – which is immigration and border protection. Since the turn of this century, Australia has been taking a tough line on asylum seekers arriving by sea. Tony Abbot’s catchphrase at the last election was that he was going to ‘stop the boats’. Both parties have followed policies of sending asylum seekers to offshore processing centres in Pacific nations. While they claim humanitarian reasons for doing so, these centres amount to locking innocent people, including children, up in camps. Riots, hunger strikes, cases of abuse, and people setting fire to themselves have cast this policy in a very nasty light. However, the political vitriol thrown out in past elections has been so strong that neither party thinks they can backtrack on the issue. So, they are both trying to avoid talking about it.

So the one big issue they need to talk about, they won’t talk about?

Yup or at least try really hard not to. That and tax reform. Both parties are very much in favour of tax reform so long as it isn’t any specific tax reform.

That is going to make for a low turnout come election day…

Ah! But, people are required to submit a vote. You can do it by post and you don’t have to fill in anything on your ballot paper but voting is mandatory. The government is keen that people vote. Also, voting is on a Saturday and people sell sausage sandwiches and have cake stalls.

Wait, I like BOTH of those things!

Voting is great in Australia. Because everybody turns up, it has a nice community feel to it.

But the queues to vote must be enormous.

No, why should they be? It’s not like you can’t plan for an election that everybody knows is going to happen.

So is anybody talking about the immigration issue?

Well, the Green Party is. They act as another left of centre party.

Which splits the leftwing vote which is why the liberals who are actually conservatives keep winning?

No…Australia uses Alternative Vote (aka Instant Run-off Voting, aka Australian Ballot) for the lower house and other proportional systems for the upper house of parliament (The Senate). So people can vote for a minor party 1 and then maybe a major party 2 and so on.

So it’s a three party system?

Technically a four-point-something party system. The Liberals are in a permanent coallition with The National Party, which is a pro-rural/farming party. The leader of the National Party is Barnaby Joyce who was the guy who threatend to euthanise Johnny Depp’s dogs. He is also Deputy Prime Minister – which is a role whose purpose is to give the leader of the National Party something to do.

There are also a heap of very minor parties that sometimes win seats in the Senate – such as the Motor Enthusiasts Party.

OK, you are making things up now.

I wish I were.

So what is the bottom line on all this?

2 July everybody votes and then everybody works out the mess the next day.

But what if somebody awful becomes Prime Minister?

Prime Minister of Australia is not a job which comes with much job security…PMs tend to change more often than Australia has elections.

How come?

Coriolis effect.


23 thoughts on “Australian Politics Explained

  1. …you mean it *is* possible to have an election where charisma — i.e., the “Do I think I’d like to have a beer with this guy?” test — does not drive most of the voters?

    And I am utterly invredulous on the lack of long queues thing. We USians have tiny turnout, and work so hard to make it tinier, and our queues are huge!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. lunarg: We USians have tiny turnout, and work so hard to make it tinier, and our queues are huge!

      Some of that is not due to incompetence; it’s a deliberate choice to under-allocate polling machines in a lot of poor and predominantly minority-populated precincts, in an attempt to suppress their votes with huge waiting lines for the people who are least able to take time off work to vote — while the precincts in the wealthy white areas have many polling machines which sit unused, and the voters waltz in and out with no waiting lines. 😦


      1. Australia also has elections on Saturdays. And while many people work on Saturdays, it still makes it easier for many.
        I was always a bit dubious about compulsory voting but in reality it places an onus on *government* to make it feasible for people to vote.


  2. What you’re describing is Canadian politics. Three different flavors of Big Government socialism to vote for. CPC pink underwear, Liberals red underwear, NDP full-on fire engine red seize-the-means-of-production Communism.

    Which is funny as hell nowadays, when all production of everything take place in China. You literally can’t buy a hockey stick that was made in Canada anymore. The only Canadian products left are the ones that you have to dig out of the f-ing ground. Never been to Oz, but I will not be shocked to hear that your formerly industrial towns are now wastelands or condos, just like Canada.


      1. Gee Mark, I guess you win teh internets today. Technically, there is a way to buy a hockey stick made in Canada, by some guy working in a shed somewhere, making them one at a time. Huzzah.

        However, back in the Real World (TM) where a technicality like that and five bucks will get you a Starbucks latte…

        Sherwood was the last stick manufacturer in Canada, kept alive by Special Deals and outright gifts from the Quebec government, and they off-shored their production a few years ago. No more made in Canada sticks.

        So yes, I can go out to the barn and make a damn hockey stick, and it will be “made in Canada.” Can you go buy a made in Canada stick at the sporting goods store or Canadian Tire? No. You can’t.

        Multiply that by -everything- and you have the Canadian economy. Also the Australian economy. How long do you think we can continue off-shoring all our manufacturing and all our data-centers etc. before something extremely unpleasant happens?

        Example, did you know there are no working lead mines in the USA this year? EPA shut the last one down in 2014, last I heard. Meanwhile, oddly enough there is a major ammunition shortage, with prices much higher than usual. Canada too, when they get the cold, we get pneumonia. .338 boat-tail bullets at Cabellas are >$2.00 each. That’s the bullet. No case, no primer, no propellant. Box of 50 bare bullets, $58.00 plus 13% HST. Used to be a dime each, and considered expensive at that price. Cheap bullets were ten for a dime.

        Connection? “Hell no!” says Mark, and digs up some guy in East Buttcrack Missouri who’s shipping out two hundred pounds of lead a month from his hobby mine.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. correction,
        100 bullets @ $139.00, that’s a buck thirty nine each, tax in. At the store the other day it was a box of twenty at $58.00, on-line seems cheaper. Add brass, primer and powder, you’re getting near five dollars each.

        Oh, did I say five dollars? Silly me:

        I can do links too, Mark. I usually don’t bother, it doesn’t seem to make much difference to the response.


      3. Bless you, Phantom, you don’t like having your hyperbole punctured do you?

        BTW, your “ammo shortage” is being caused by high demand not restricted supply. I’d give you a google link, but I’m sure you’d reject the ultra-lefty pinko commie source for that particular bit of info – the NRA.


      4. Mark, argument by nitpick is the mark of the small minded soul. You can’t buy a made-in-Canada hockey stick at the sports store. That’s not hyperbole, it is a fact. That you found one exception merely makes my point all the stronger.

        The ammunition shortage naturally has many causes, one of which is truly massive buying by the US government. Another of which is there are no lead mines open in the USA. The only lead available is recycled or imported.

        The NRA is reporting the truth too, people are reacting to the shortage and hoarding ammunition. In business this is what they call a seller’s market. If you make ammo, you can sell everything you make and then some at a healthy profit.

        Given the now eight-year-long ammo drought, why are there no US lead companies cashing in on the bonanza? Why are ammunition companies not massively expanding their factories to keep up? In the best gun-sales environment in American history, how did Smith and Wesson manage to go nearly bankrupt?

        What explanation do you offer for these thing, Mark? Your answer so far is to argue by nitpick and technicality.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Phantom, what you call “nitpicking” I call “pointing out that your so-called facts are hyperbole”, but if being wrong makes you right then I guess you are the winningest.

        Anyway, feel free to explain why your ramblings about hockey sticks and ammo are remotely on-topic and I’ll consider replying properly rather then just amusing myself with petty fact-checking.


      1. Unlike you KR, I actually lived in Ontario when the NDP was running it. They are hardline socialist fruitcakes, plenty of them are full-on Communists, and like liars everywhere they like to put a happy face on their tyranny.

        I live in Canada, I’ve met these people, in my estimation they need to be defeated at the polls and expelled from public life. Presently my opinion is in the minority, we shall see what the future holds. My current forecast is economic ruination followed by famine and war, something I’d prefer to avoid in my old age, if it’s all the same to you.

        Maybe if you boys left off trying to prove I’m some kind of Nazi racist and started thinking about things, you might see something interesting for a change instead of the same old crap.

        Like ferinstance, why is it that government budgets always only ever go -up-? How can that be? What else in the economy has only one direction? Nothing. They spend more every single year. How? Why? At what cost?


      2. Quick response because it’s CF’s blog and perhaps a little off topic. I just want to say, Phantom, that I don’t think you are a nazi racist etc and I like talking with you. I do think your political characterizations might be off a bit. Ontario politics are bad no matter who’s in charge. But conservative Mike Harris’ policies decimated the economy of the province and we are still reckoning with his cuts. Didn’t help when the CHretien federal liberals downloaded costs from federal to provincial/local Not wildly impressed with the current Ontario regime, but they are better than the Hudak alternative would have been. I know Sask politics best, and the NDP were very good there — the conservatives and now Sask party both ran deficits and got things off track. So, as always, blanket generalizations are not terribly useful when trying to have discussions.

        Government costs more because it does more than it used to. I would surmise most people’s household expenses are up relative to 30 years ago too.


  3. “Government costs more because it does more than it used to.”

    Yes. Much more. And industry after industry is running off shore to places where there is -less- government. I contend that this movement of effort and resources is not an accident.

    I’ve actually met Tim Hudak. In my estimation he was just another lawyer looking to make it big. What do you think he would have done that’d be worse than the McGuinty/Wynne Liberals? What have they done that is better?

    Because what the Liberals have done to the electrical infrastructure alone is a massive crime, leaving aside the gas plants and all that. Just the damage to the grid alone is incredible.


    1. A lot of the manufacturing shift has been due to the economic growth of China. There are many ways to describe China but “less government” isn’t one of them.
      For resource rich countries like Australia and Canada that has also meant increased demand in the resource sector which in turn pushes up labor costs which in turn doubly impacts manufacturing.


      1. “There are many ways to describe China but “less government” isn’t one of them.”

        I recommend you look into that and talk to some actual businessmen about -why- they offshore their their production. I predict you will be shocked at the answer.

        In Oz, America, Canada, it doesn’t matter how rich you are. Intel wanted to build a new 20nm chipfab in California a few years ago. They discovered, and the president of Intel let it be widely known in a series of speeches, that there was no amount of money in the whole fucking world that was going to get them a green-field factory built in California, where their skilled workforce lived. The state government of California had succeeded in making it impossible for Intel to build a new factory. The factory was built in Arizona.

        The City of Los Angeles imports gravel from British Columbia. By ship. Because it is CHEAPER than getting gravel locally. You know, from the Rocky Mountains, which run all the way through the state. It’s -really- cheaper, like double digit percent discount. The reason it is cheaper is the same reason Intel can’t build a factory.

        That’s why everything is made in China.


    2. I disagree, Phantom, that it is regulations that drive business away –it’s the search for short-term profits that drive them to relocate when and where possible; a regulatory regime might factor into it, but that’s just one facet. I don’t think it is a direct relationship between regulations and off-shoring. I mean, businesses do want to be in stable contexts with functioning legal and police systems, so some regulation is clearly a benefit.

      On the subject of intrusive and regulatory governments, I’ll just say that I’ve spent the past week reading government laws and decrees from the early 19th century in a few different national contexts, and it might surprise you to see just how much regulation past ages had. There were sumptuary laws about which races/classes could wear what, who could ride horses, who was allowed to carry arms, who could marry whom, which side of the street certain goods could be sold on; there was a LOT of regulation in things like stamped paper, tea, coffee, sealing wax, etc which were all monopolies and heavily taxed and regulated. The Spanish Empire in America generated over 480,000 laws between 1492-1680. I think you would be surprised just how unregulated we are compared to other places and eras. Also surely the Chinese people whose food was contaminated or whose schools collapsed because of lack of regulations would probably appreciate a little more of it.

      As for Ontario politics — it’s just bad and the province has been poorly run by everyone who has taken a crack at it (some more than others, see Mike Harris above). I think McGuinty was awful, bordering on criminal and the current group nominally better but still terrible at economic matters. Hudak would have been worse (retrogressive social policies, wanting to lay off 100,000 civil servants and thinking it wouldn’t be noticeable in service levels etc). I can agree with you that the province is and has been poorly run. I wonder if you have ever lived outside the province though? I’ve lived for extended periods in at least 10 different cities, countries or jurisdictions and that sort of broad comparative base (along with extensive historical knowledge) makes me realize that meh, they could be better, they could be worse. Most of life dwells in nuance and context.


      1. “Hudak would have been worse (retrogressive social policies, wanting to lay off 100,000 civil servants and thinking it wouldn’t be noticeable in service levels etc).”

        If the province is badly run, how is it a problem if they laid off 100,000 of the dumb-ass civil servants who were running it badly? I didn’t like Hudak because I thought he -wouldn’t- lay off government employees. That’s the reason I don’t like Trump too. I think he’ll win, and then all this tax cut talk will come to nothing. Like Harper.

        I’ve lived all over the USA. All of it is superior to Canada except New York. The corruption is so thick there you can cut it with a butter knife. I went to a SUNY University site in the 1990s that had no internet access because somebody wasn’t getting a kickback. Names were named.

        I see much the same corruption these days in Ontario and Quebec. It is evil, pure and simple. What are the Federal Liberals doing to combat this corruption? This week, we have a bill that makes O Canada “gender neutral”.

        Tell me again why -less- government is a problem.


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