|Labour leader Bill Shorten and sausagegate :D (image from the Telegraph)|
After the Lord Mayor's show (literally) which was the British referendum on whether to stay in Europe last week, yesterday Australia had a general election. There are some differences in the UK and Australian voting systems that are important to understand.
1. Voting is compulsory in Australia. I'm not sure this is something I agree with. As preferences have to be put in order, this becomes even more imposing on the voter who has to choose between a certain number of candidates.
2. The UK has a first past the post system, Australia has a form of proportional representation. In theory, a vote for a minor party is important in Australia, though in practice the election has been similar to the UK system with a race between the 2 major parties, and the majority of voters not prepared to vote with their conscience as they believe this to be a wasted vote.
3. Australia has a federal system, while the UK is still a central parliamentary system. The states in Australia have considerable legislative, and budgetry powers which make them semi independent entities. The federal system is composed of 2 houses, the Senate and the Representatives which exercises a balance of power, apparently. The head of state is nominally still the UK monarch, but why I don't know.
4. Australia's economy is good, and it is considered a major economic power in the world, especially our mining industry. In reality, Australia's position seems to rely heavily on economic relations with the superpowers, America and China. Diplomatically, Australia is a minor player on the world stage. This is the opposite of the UK where economic strength is based on finance rather than raw materials, and international relations remain a high priority, even in our post-colonial world.
The biggest difference from my point of view of the UK referendum and the Australian general election seemed to have been the intensity of feeling involved. Now I know the UK referendum was about a single issue, but that issue was connected to almost everything about the way the country runs.The UK referendum was hotly debated, with pomp, anger, mistrust, frustration, and even violence among the emotions involved. The Australian election seems to have been conducted in an almost party spirit, with a relatively low key build up from the combatants. (my letter box got one electioneering pamphlet from our local Liberal candidate, and a guide on how to vote) Twitter was awash with pictures of the Labour leader struggling to eat a sausage at an election barbecue
The aftermath has been remarkably similar, though, with no one being any the wiser to what is going to happen. The UK finds itself in limbo waiting for someone to make a decision as to whether the referendum will be taken as a sign for the British Government to invoke Article 50 and leave the EU. It's over a week and no one seems prepared to push the button. Here in Australia, the vote was inconclusive and we wake up to a non-result. Not only is there no winner, the votes haven't even all been counted, and they won't until Tuesday! So we have until then, and possibly later, to discover who our new government will be, or if there will be a new government, or the need for another election.
|Crazily long Senate ballot paper (image from http://voiceaustralia.news/)|
Saying that, the ballot papers in this year's election were ridiculous. The senate paper was too long to lay flat in the voting booth, and it wasn't set out in alphabetical order, or any other order that seemed to make sense. It took me quite a while to find my first choice party and then I had to search for the second choice. I guess like many, I wasn't fully aware of all the parties I'd be putting preferences down for, but I knew which main parties to vote for or not. This made it rather cumbersome choosing a 5th and 6th choice at the polling booth, and next time I go to the polls, I'll be going with 6 definite choices.