Well, I do have some posts with pictures prepared about my skiing trip, but I'm going to post about something else today since it's a little more timely: today is Election Day in Australia. It's a federal election, but a lot of local members of Parliament are up as well.
Of course, to an outsider, the political system in Australia is a little confusing, so if I make any mistakes, I apologize (I almost typed apologise! I'm not Australian yet, I swear!). Here's what I understand: there is a head person (governor or something) who is a figure head and basically does nothing. The Prime Minister is the head of the leading party in Parliament. When you vote, you vote for the party you want to lead parliament, not for a particular candidate. Recently, this made big news when the Prime Minister stepped down (or was removed from office) and was replaced by his second in command. Some people were happy, but others complained because they didn't vote for Julia Gillard. I also heard the following quote from others "People are unhappy, because they think our political system is like the U.S. But it's not." What they meant by this was that in general, we vote for a candidate, whereas the party makes all the choices in Australia.
Parliament is like Congress, with the Upper House and Lower House corresponding to our Senate and House of Representatives (I forget which is which). So the Prime Minister is kind of like the Leader of the House, I think, except that obviously the PM has a lot more power.
The two main parties in Australia are the Labor Party (like our Democrats) and the Liberal Party (like our Republicans). I have to be careful when I refer to being liberal here because being Liberal and being politically liberal are not the same thing! Here is an excerpt from an e-mail I got the other day:
“We have two major parties, Labor and Liberal. The Labor Party grew out of the Union movement around 1890 and is the left leaning party. The Liberal Party is our major conservative party (don't try to think about that too much). In its current form, it came about in the late 1940's early 50's.
The three other parties of note are, The Nationals, The Greens and Family First. The Nationals have a formal alliance with the Liberal Party, together they are referred to as The Coalition. The Nationals only run in rural locations, a vote for the nationals equaling a vote for the Liberal Party to win government.
The Greens are a progressive left party who currently have five senators, it is likely after this election they will be the deciding vote in the senate if the major parties disagree on an issue.
Family First have one senator, who was elected in 2004, partly through the strange way our senate voting system can work. They are a conservative party. It is unlikely that they will win that senate seat back again.”
I have been invited to an election party tonight, which I am super-excited about, mostly because Yay! I’ve been invited to a PARTY! Where there are PEOPLE and I can make FRIENDS!!! It will be interested to see how everything pans out and what people think about it. I find Sydney to be fairly liberal (as in left-leaning) vs. Anchorage. I don’t know if that’s a Sydney vs. Anchorage thing, or an Australia vs. America thing overall.
One other note about the Australian political system: voting is compulsory! You get fined if you don’t vote. I know it’s probably because it’s not what I’m used to, but I don’t like that. Good for you America, for allowing me to NOT exercise my rights. It’s not like forcing someone to vote makes them any less ignorant about politics, anyway.
I’ll let you know how it turns out, or you can ask Professor Google. And I promise, pictures (with action!) soon.
Update: As it turned out, neither party had a clear win, so they are still recounting votes (sound like any American elections you may recall?). They have two weeks to count all the postal votes, so it may be a while before we know who the next PM will be.