To Canadian eyes, Australian leadership challenges may certainly appear rather odd and probably give the impression that Australian politics are highly unstable.

On caucus-driven leadership selection and removal

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott survived a leadership spill attempt last week, although when 40% of your caucus no longer has confidence in you, I’m not sure you can consider that much of a successful outcome. There was great interest in the outcome of the vote on Twitter, and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation was lovely and removed their region-blocking so that people outside of Australia could follow their news coverage live online. There have been a number of leadership spill votes in recent years in Australia — some of them successful. When Labor was in power, Julia Gillard successfully ousted Prime Minister Kevin Rudd before the 2010 election. Rudd then tried to return the favour (unsuccessfully) in 2012. Gillard faced […]

Tony Abbott

Thrills and Spills in Australia

These are rather interesting times in Australia, both at the federal and state and territorial level. Federally, Prime Minister Tony Abbott is facing a leadership spill motion on Monday morning (which corresponds to 17:00 Sunday EST). His party caucus is increasingly unhappy with some of the policy decisions Abbott has taken of late, and the party is not polling well at all. In Australia, party caucuses can vote to depose the party leader, which is called a spill. You may recall the previous spills under the Labor government: first Julia Gillard led an ouster of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, then in the following parliament, Rudd ousted Gillard. For more information about leadership spills in Australia, I recommend the following articles: […]

Report of the Electoral Matters Committee

The Parliament of the Australian state of Victoria’s Electoral Matters Committee released the report of its Inquiry into the future of Victoria’s electoral administration. It’s a lengthy (144 pages) report, and much of it deals with the nitty-gritty of voting in the State of Victoria. Chapter 3, however, might be of more general interest to Canadians who advocate for the adoption of the preferential ballot (aka the ranked ballot, or the Alternative Vote). There are two different voting systems used in the State of Victoria. Full preferential voting is used to elect Members to the Legislative Assembly, while single transferable vote (STV) is used to elect the upper chamber, the Legislative Council. Full preferential means that for a ballot to […]

Australia might be headed for a double dissolution

Australia, like Canada and the United Kingdom, has a bicameral parliament, meaning it consists of two Houses, the lower house, the House of Representatives and the upper house, the Senate. Unlike Canada and the United Kingdom, however, Australia’s upper chamber is elected. The House of Representatives normally lasts no more than three years. Senators, however, are elected for six-year terms. This means, that, under normal circumstances, when the House of Representatives is dissolved every three years for a new general election, the Senate continues to exist as Senators remain in office until the completion of their term and only half stand for election at any one time. The most recent general election in Australia occurred on 7 September 2013. The […]

On forcing out a party leader

As touched on in my first post on the Reform Act, some critics of the bill argue that formal rules establishing a procedure by which a party caucus could initiate a vote of confidence in, followed by the possible removal of, its leader aren’t necessary since caucuses already have that power. Alice Funke, for example, writes: there is nothing in the law currently preventing party caucuses from doing this very thing now, and indeed they have done so frequently in our current system: Joe Clark was pushed into a leadership review, Michel Gauthier was pushed out as leader by the Bloc Québécois caucus, a good part of Stockwell Day’s caucus left him and the Canadian Alliance and joined the remainder […]

Voter gender bias towards female party leaders

“The reaction to being the first female prime minister does not explain everything about my prime ministership, nor does it explain nothing about my prime ministership. It explains some things and it is for the nation to think in a sophisticated way about those shades of grey.” – Julia Gillard, 26 June 2013, farewell press conference Australian elections expert Antony Green has written an extremely fascinating article exploring the gender bias behind support for the Australian Labor Party (ALP). As you may recall, the ALP recently underwent another leadership spill which resulted in Prime Minister and party leader Julia Gillard being dumped by her party in favour of former party leader and PM Kevin Rudd. During Gillard’s term as party […]