For those of you who weren't aware, Australia is holding its Federal Elections this year. As people who pride themselves on being fairly politically savvy, we were embarrassed to realize how little we knew about the Australian Government. So yesterday we tasked ourselves with bringing our knowledge up to speed in 2 hours. Here's what we learned:
The Commonwealth of Australia was formed on 1 January 1901 when six partly self-governing British colonies united to become states of a nation.
The Australian Parliament - consists of the Queen (represented by the Governor-General), the Senate and the House of Representatives.
There are three arms of government in Australia:
- the Legislature (or Parliament) is responsible for debating and voting on new laws to be introduced under the power of section 51.
- the Executive (the Australian Government) is responsible for enacting and upholding the laws established by the legislature. Certain members of the Legislature (called ministers) are also members of the executive, with special responsibilities for certain areas of the law.
- the Judiciary is the legal arm of the federal government. It is independent of the other two arms and is responsible for enforcing the laws and deciding whether the other two arms are acting within their powers.
Although the six states joined together to form the Commonwealth of Australia, they still each retain the power to make their own laws over matters not controlled by the Commonwealth under Section 51 of the Constitution. State governments also have their own constitutions, as well as a structure of legislature, executive, and judiciary.
- Make no mistake, Australian politics is complicated to anyone who isn't Australian because their party names are all pretty similar (Nationals, Liberals, Labor, Nationals, Liberal Nationals, need we go on?).
Who's In Power Now?:
The current Government looks like this
The Liberal Party leader Malcolm Turnbull is the current Prime Minister of Australia aka the main man!
The Coalition is a political alliance of centre-right parties, which has existed in Australian politics in various forms since 1923.
When in government at the federal level, the Liberal Party leader usually serves as Prime Minister of Australia and the National Party leader as Deputy Prime Minister, as is currently the case with Malcolm Turnbull and Barnaby Joyce, respectively. This situation derives from the Liberal Party's consistently superior numbers in the Parliament of Australia and is usually reflected at a state level, with Liberal Party leaders of state branches generally serving as Premiers (or Chief Ministers).
So What Is Going On Down Under?
Well, basically, Australia looks set to head to the first double-dissolution election in almost 30 years, after the Senate blocked legislation restoring the Australian Building and Construction Commission on Monday 18th of April.
What is Double Dissolution?
A double dissolution occurs when both the Senate and the House of Representatives are shut down (dissolved), in order for a federal election to take place. A double dissolution election is different to regular elections when only half the Senate seats are contested. In a double dissolution, the Governor-General dissolves both the Senate and the House of Representatives at the same time, meaning every seat in both chambers is contested. This is the only time that all senators stand for election at the same time.
What Are The Polls Saying:
The Coalition shot into the lead on the two-party-preferred vote after Malcolm Turnbull replaced Tony Abbott as prime minister, but since the beginning of this year, we’ve seen Coalition support decline along with Turnbull’s personal popularity.
In recent weeks, we’ve seen a number of polls putting Labor and the Coalition on 50-50, but we still see other polls giving the Coalition a lead.
Seems Like A Risky Move To Call An Election If You Are Turnbull?
It’s worth watching to see if the Coalition can stabilize its position, or if we start to see Labor break into the lead. As election day gets closer, we should have some more state-level polling and local polling to give us a more detailed picture of how the campaign is playing out (This is all looking a bit familiar, GE16 anyone?).
Double Dissolution, Still Confused?
Turnbull asked the Governor General to recall parliament on the 18th of April to consider the bill to re-establish the Australian Building and Construction Commission (something which has stalled in the Senate), using section 5 of the constitution. The last time this was used was in 1974 by Gough Whitlam.
If the bill didn't pass, the Prime Minister will have to call a double dissolution election for the 2nd of July, using section 57 of the constitution. the first in 29 years.
The budget has been brought forward to the 3rd of May.
“The time for playing games is over. The Senate has already once rejected the bill to re-establish the construction industry watch-dog and twice the registered organization legislation… I make no apology for bringing senators back to Canberra during their 7-week break to deal with this legislation”, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull stated.
“The government is in full panic mode. We will put people at the front of the policy at the next Australian election. Labor will not get distracted by Mr. Turnbull’s games. If he wants Parliament to sit on April 18th, we will turn up Mr. Turnbull has a plan for the election. He just doesn’t have a plan for Australia”, Bill Shorten, the opposition leader fired back.
Are The Coalition Ready For An Election?
Turnbull became Prime Minister back in September after a leadership spill (replaced Tony Abbot). With an election just around the corner the question has to be asked: is the Government ready to fight an election? With this much water under the policy bridge, Turnbull should have his ideas out in the public for their consideration. But there’s no tax plan, no education plan, no environment and no health plan. The public know about a defense plan and the government has ideas about innovation, but that’s about it. And, while the government isn’t releasing its plans, Labor steals the show; with everyone talking about their negative gearing policy. Labor will continue to do this if the government isn’t careful.