Chapter

Political Parties in Australia

Ian McAllister

in Political Parties in Advanced Industrial Democracies

Published in print September 2002 | ISBN: 9780199240562
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191600296 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0199240566.003.0013

Series: Comparative Politics

 Political Parties in Australia

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Placed in a comparative perspective, the hallmark of Australian politics is the dominance of party: the vast majority of voters identify with and vote for one of the major political parties, and gaining election at the federal level is next to impossible without the benefit of one of three party labels (Liberal, National, or Labour). Within the legislature, party government operates in every sense of the word, with parties determining the legislative agenda and enforcing rigid discipline among their members. Perhaps more interestingly from a comparative perspective, Australia has seen little decline in the strength of the major parties in recent years, in contrast to Britain, the US, or many of the other advanced democracies. The explanation for the continuing strength of political parties in Australia can be traced to the origins and development of the country's political culture; Australia's split from Britain was imbued with the utilitarian ideas of Jeremy Bentham and his followers, and political parties are a necessary and important part of this utilitarian political culture. The introductory part discusses these factors, and also presents a separate account of the development of the party system; the next three sections cover the same topics as those in the other country case studies in the book, and examine party legitimacy (turnout—voting is compulsory, party identification, party membership, and attitudes towards parties), organizational strength (party finance, and mass media), and systemic functionality (governance, interest articulation and aggregation, political recruitment, political organization, political participation, and political communication and education).

Keywords: Australia; case studies; compulsory voting; governance; interest aggregation; interest articulation; mass media; party finance; party functionality; party legitimacy; party organization; party performance; party system; political communication; political education; political organization; political participation; political parties; political recruitment; political system; turnout; utilitarian culture

Chapter.  13150 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Comparative Politics

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