Friday, September 6, 2013

Australian Federal Elections 2013

It’s Election Day again!

Today, all Australians will vote for who will govern the country for the next 3 years or so.

Federal Parliament House CanberraSo this is a very opportune time to provide some election basics and an honest frank view of the Australian political system.

Note: This is a very simplistic view with just enough information to understand for a new immigrant to understand what is happening!

There are 150 seats in Parliament up for grabs and each represents a geographical section of Australia.  The party that wins the majority of the seats will be the governing party and its leader will become the Prime Minister.

There are 2 main political parties in Australia – Labour (the current ruling party) and Liberal (the opposition). There are a number of small parties like Family First, Palmer United, Greens, etc and independent candidates but let’s ignore them for now as they aren’t really important in most cases (with the notable exception of a hung parliament).

The Labour party – as the name suggests – traditionally stands primarily for worker and social rights (i.e. left wing). As such, the party is closely linked with worker unions / rights and social policies that help the less well off. However, these social policies tend to be quite expensive and the trade-off is to fund these initiatives, related savings policies are introduced that tend to be at the expense of the middle to upper class and business / economic growth (e.g. cuts in benefits to families above a certain income level). It's current leader and Prime Minister is Kevin Rudd.

The Liberal on the other hand focuses a lot on economic growth. Their belief is that a strong economy is the foundation of a successful country goes a long way to solving social issues (i.e. right wing). That is, a strong economy means well performing companies that in turn provide an abundance of jobs that means everyone is better off. However, sometmes the Liberals may ignore social welfare and worker right issues that leads to the masses being unhappy and being voted out. Tony Abbott is the current Liberal leader.

Federal Parliament HallBecause both parties have very differing philosophies and both have their shortcomings, the political landscape in Australia tends to be a big merry-go-round! Let me explain using recent history …

Not so long ago, the Liberal Party (under John Howard) governed Australia for many years. Being Liberals, they managed the country and its economy very efficiently and wealth boomed all round. However, they started to get carried away and brought in controversial policies – like Work Choices that negatively impacted worker rights – which alienated them from the masses. Also, as the people got more wealthy and less concerned about the economy / jobs, their focus shifted towards social and environment issues (which Liberals tend to be weaker at and is the bread and butter for Labour). Eventually they got voted out and the Labour Party came into power in 2007.

Now the Labour Party started reverting Liberal policies and giving more rights back to worker unions. They also introduced a slew of Robin Hood style policies that took from the rich and gave to the poor. And all was well - for a while at least! Then they started to introduce policies that had an adverse impact on businesses like the Carbon Tax / Emission Trading Scheme and the change in FBT rules which drastically impacted car sales. As a result, over time the country grew deeper in debt and could not afford to embark on much needed infrastructure projects. Businesses also started shedding jobs and it was bad news all round.

Fast forward to today. Because of Labour’s mistakes these past years (coupled with nasty party infighting), the Liberals are the hot favorites to take out today’s election and become the governing party again.

And the cycle begins again … :)

Ed: Congrats to our new Prime Minister Tony Abbott and the Liberal party on an amazing win  in the Australian Elections 2013 !!


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