Australian Politics Explained

Today’s post is about politics and for that you can blame my wife. We were watching the news last night when they announced that today was budget day in Queensland. She remarked that although she was aware that Anna Bligh was our Premier, she really had no idea how it all worked.

And neither did I. So here goes… the definitive guide to Australian politics.

Buck Stops Here House

Buck Stops Here House

Please bear in mind that I started today with almost no knowledge of the Australian political system. A couple of hours later I am writing the definitive guide. This should act as a warning to you. If you have arrived at this place because you are researching information for an exam, or homework or because you are about to apply for a job as an Australian politician – move on. Go back to Google. Try again.

The Definitive Guide to Australian Politics

There are three levels of government in the Australian system that ultimately all work together, apparently. Their goal is to enable all Australians to live, work and take part in the community.

Level 1 – Federal Government

They collect taxes, deal with national security and the economy, sort out the welfare stuff as well as communications. They give money to the other two levels. Which is nice.

There are two houses to the Federal Government. The House of Representatives has 150 members who each represent an electoral division with each division containing a similar number of electors. The party with the most elected members gets to run the country. Kevin Rudd, as the Australian Labour Party leader became Prime Minister of Australia when his party won 83 seats in November 2007. (Liberals 55, Nationals 10 and Independents 2).

The second house of Australian Federal Government is Senate. These guys job is to stop things getting out of hand. New laws need to pass through Senate first, that sort of thing. They are meant to more widely represent all the geographical areas of the country and keep everyone’s best interests at heart. Whereas, the theory says, the other house members come mainly from Sydney and Melbourne.

Level 2 – State Government

They collect taxes too. And, with the money they get from the Feds, see above, they sort out the state hospitals, schools and police. Each state has a premier, and each year all the State Premiers and the Prime Minister and the Federal Treasurer meet up and chat about how to divi up the cash. Each state has its own parliament.

Where I live, Queensland, there are 89 seats and although you don’t have to belong to a political party to be elected, most are. Out of those 89 seats, 59 went to the ALP this time around.

ALP are the Australian Labour Party, or labour, so Queensland is labour and so is the country right now under Kevin Rudd. As in the UK, there are really only two parties in the running and the other one is the Liberal Party.

John Howard, you will recall, ran Australia for some time under the Liberals. But before you start thinking that the liberals are doing well here, then I need to tell you that these liberals are not like the yellow serial losers of England. Here, they’re pretty much the same as the Conservatives in the UK.

There is one major difference here though, voting is compulsory.

Level 3 – Local Government

They collect taxes too. Rates mainly, but also other fees and fines. Plus they get some more money from the other two. They sort out the rubbish collection, street signs, libraries, traffic control, that sort of stuff.

Where I live, I’m under Brisbane City Council. My rubbish is collected on Mondays.

Back to today and that Queensland State budget. The highlights. Forecast is for a $1.95 billion deficit. Oops. Petrol up by 8.3 cents per litre. Dang! Some things never change wherever you are.

There. You now know as much as I do and I know far more than I did yesterday. Sleep well.

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{ 12 comments… add one }
  • Paul February 3, 2016, 3:35 pm | Link

    Great write up, thank you.
    Just one point however. Legally speaking here in Oz we only have 2 levels of government, federal and state. The 3rd level (councils) are not legally government, there have been 2 referendums (#32 & 41) in the past to vote on this, both came back NO to a 3rd level of government. Why do we pay them rates etc? cos generally people dont realise that council is not government

    • BobinOz February 3, 2016, 9:31 pm | Link

      Interesting suggestion Paul and I’m really no expert, but I’m not sure what you say is correct. There is a body called the Australian Local Government Association and if you Google them, you’ll find on their about page they say “The Australian Local Government Association is the national voice of local government, representing 560 councils across the country. In structure, ALGA is a federation of state and territory local government associations.”

      So they clearly think they are part of government.

      That said, you may well be absolutely correct in that they are generally referred to as ‘local government’ but technically and legally are not part of government. And if that’s the case, even I’m not going to try and explain that one 🙂

      Thanks for pointing this out though, maybe I should call them neo-government?

  • Sherrin December 9, 2015, 2:07 pm | Link

    Thank you!!!
    It makes sense now….

  • Ivan June 10, 2014, 11:26 pm | Link

    Hi Bob,
    A late comment here but getting back to Liam’s comment about the spelling, the
    Labor Party’s name is spelt that way because that’s how it was originally registered.
    Sort of like a brand name eg Weet-bix. Otherwise the word labour it is generally spelt with a “u” as I’m sure you already know.

    • BobinOz June 11, 2014, 6:06 pm | Link

      Weet-bix would have been a much better name for a political party, too late now 🙂

      Cheers Ivan!

  • Katie September 7, 2013, 2:46 am | Link

    Brilliant…. 18 years in the Australian education system, 10 in the professional workforce and finally, 1 blog post later, someone made sense of it.

    • BobinOz September 9, 2013, 9:54 pm | Link

      Brilliant! Glad it all made sense to you at last, I hope you managed to read it before you went to cast your vote. I voted for the first time on Saturday, quite confusing isn’t it? If, like me, you didn’t understand why we were given that massive Senate voting slip, I’ve explained that too in my post about preferential voting.

      Cheers, Bob

  • Liam October 28, 2012, 6:52 pm | Link

    Hi Bob.
    Labor is, thanks to an early American-Canadian Member, spelt without the “u” in Australia. Otherwise, this was a very good basic summary of how it all works here, and I can imagine that any prospective residents would find it quite helpful

    • BobinOz October 29, 2012, 7:52 pm | Link

      Hi Liam

      Glad you like the summary and yes, I am now aware of the Labor spelling, I wrote about it on Labour Day. It’s a shame though, I really prefer to spell Labor as Labour.

  • Emma September 27, 2012, 12:19 pm | Link

    Legend!!! That is all.

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