TOPICS | POLITICS

The Pinoy’s guide to Australian politics

Lizza Gebilagin

 

Australian Coat of Arms
Australian Coat of Arms

We are truly blessed to be living in a country where overt corruption isn’t the norm. Sure it can be a pain waiting in line on election day to cast your vote. And honestly, it isn’t much fun having several how-to-vote leaflets shoved into your hands at the polling booth. But Filipinos everywhere understand the great privilege that we have in Australia. When we vote, that vote counts. It really does make a difference. We can be confident knowing that citizens who died 20 years ago aren’t continuing to cast their votes from the grave. We can also be assured that the political party who wins in the end, won legitimately – whether we do or don’t agree with the results.

 

Trying to follow Australian politics can be daunting, especially in the lead up to an election. Who is the Governor General and what does he do? What’s the difference between the upper and lower houses? What does the federal government look after? These are all questions that even many Australian born citizens have trouble answering. So, to make it easier for you to understand the system, here are the answers to the most common questions asked about the topic. Politics may not be your forte, but at least now you will have a better understanding of what is happening.

Why is the Queen on our currency?

Australia is a constitutional monarchy, which means our Head of State is Queen Elizabeth II. In Australia, the Queen is represented by the Governor General. Our country’s British heritage stems from the arrival of the first white settlers in 1788. It was only in recent history, in 1986, that Australia severed its legislative and judiciary ties with Great Britain. In other words, Australia became independent from Britain in 1986, yet the Queen remains our Head of State. In the 1990s, there was talk of Australia becoming a republic and replacing the Governor General with a President elected by the Prime Minister. A referendum was held in 1999, but the majority of the population voted against becoming a republic.

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Who is the opposition party?

The opposition is the major political party that is not in power. For example, in federal politics, the opposition is currently the Australian Labor Party (ALP). In New South Wales, the opposition is the Liberal Party. All opposition ministers with portfolios are referred to as shadow ministers. Take Julia Gillard. She is the Deputy Leader of the ALP and also the Shadow Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. Her counterpart in the elected government is Federal Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Joe Hockey.

What’s the difference between the upper and lower house?

The members of the upper and lower houses are elected by us during an election. The lower house or House or Representatives comprises of members that represent an area of the population called an electorate. The Prime Minister, Ministers and Shadow Ministers are all part of the lower house. The upper house or the Senate consists of 12 senators from each state, plus two from each territory. When a bill is passed through the lower house, it is then sent to the upper house to be debated. The upper house has the power to reject or accept the bill.

What does the federal, state, and local governments look after?

Sometimes the responsibilities of the three levels of government overlap. Here is a very simplistic example of some of the things that each level of government looks after. The federal government looks after industrial relations, trade, immigration, and defence. The state government is responsible for public transport, health, education and roads. The local government provides facilities such as libraries and parks. It also provides services like garbage pick up and recycling.

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How do I register to vote?

With your new knowledge of Australian politics to back you up, make sure that you enrol to vote so that you can make a difference on election day. To find out how, visit www.aec.gov.au/Enrolling_to_vote/ or call the Australian Electoral Commission on 13 23 26.

A comparison of Australian and Filipino Politics

 


Australia

Philippines

Type of Government

Constitutional Monarchy

Republican state with a presidential form of government

Head of State

Queen represented by the Governor General

President

Head of Government

Prime Minster

President

Major Political Parties

Australian Labor Party, Liberal Party

Multi-party system

Arms of Government

Legislative, Executive, Judiciary

Legislative, Executive, Judiciary

Number of members in the federal House of Representatives

150

250

Number of federal Senators

76

24

Frequency of elections

Federal elections are held every three years

Presidential elections are held every six years

Election related deaths/injuries in the last election

0

116 dead and 121 wounded*

 

* Source: New York Times

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