A clear case for the superiority of the Australian political system

Australia: It’s like the United States, on meth.


  1. says

    Australian news is apparently awesome, checking each statement with facts. Wonder what that’s like.

    Also, it’s sad that I regard that as awesome rather than normal.

  2. says

    Actually, given that so much of our media is owned by Rupert Murdoch (who’s now one of yours, and responsible for the abhorrence that is Fox Faux News), we have rather a problem at the moment with our news pushing their own agenda of spin rather than reporting facts.

    PS Cruel time to post this if you want Aussies to comment, PZ, it’s five to midnight on the east coast.

  3. says

    @2 – what else are we supposed to do at this time of night with body clocks broken by cricket and no cricket to watch ’cause it ended last night? Catch up on blogs, and delurk for a rare comment, is what!

    My first federal election as a new-ish Australian. It’s both exciting and depressing…

  4. says

    Since our system doesn’t naturally encourage satirical parties such as the UK’s Monster Raving Loony Party, it seems that our national character has compensated by filling the gap wih a bunch of earnest party hacks whose Dunning-Kruger syndromes are exploited so that the party can field candidates in seats they couldn’t possibly ever win, but at least they generate a few headlines with the party name attached, and by the time the actual polling date rolls round the newsfodder candidates are long gone from the public view.

    The brevity does at least mean that they don’t end up with a high enough public recognition factor that we have to put up with them on shoddy tabloid TV programs later on. Phew.

  5. Matt Cramp says

    While journalists do actually try and engage with policy in Australia and try and engage at least a little with the substance of an issue, we also have a lot of Murdoch media.

    As well as the noted compulsory voting (the traditional method of refusing to participate is to submit an invalid ballot, so not quite the threat to freedom it’s accused of being), Australia also has an impartial third party run the electoral roll, determine boundaries and run the voting process. Votes in the lower house (the important one) are preferential, votes in the upper house (which is responsible for sanity-checking the lower house’s laws) are insane. Basically anyone with a party gets to put their name on, which means ballots are *enormous*, and the seats in a state are divided up based on proportion of the vote.

    Australian political engagement is pretty low right now because neither party is willing to actually answer questions or demonstrate that they have sufficient vision and understanding of Australia’s problems to be trusted with keys to the ship. The fact that we still expect this from our politicians is telling.

  6. Thumper; Atheist mate says


    The Monster Raving Loonies 2005 manifesto promised that they would issue a 99p coin. I’m not sure if this tactic is used abroad, but anyone familiar with UK shops could tell you what a fucking godsend that would be.

    Satirical they may be, but they have some cracking ideas :)

  7. Sophia, Michelin-starred General of the First Mediterranean Iron Chef Batallion says

    I’d love for a real ballot to have a Conservative party, Very conservative party, Incredibly conservative party, Imitation conservative party, Preservative party and Fruit conserve party.

    In other news, our political system is pretty broken. We have a few small ultra-conservative parties with rather generic names that not many people really recognise, so they end up getting votes on the bottom end of the ballot because nobody knows what their policies actually are. Of course, we also have the sex party (though I hear from a friend who works in a government department that the local chapter at least is pretty seedy and not in a fun way) and the pirate party, but most people treat them as donkey votes. Basically the public is mostly uninformed about the policies of even the two big players, and a large proportion of voters simply voted Greens in the last election. They seem to be our “fuck it, the other two are being too irritating” party. Not really a bad thing, I suppose.

  8. says

    I’m a bit intrigued and scared at the idea of bringing compulsory voting to America. We’ve already got a lot of people willing to vote for candidates who are out of touch with reality. We’d be adding in a lot of people who we might have a hard time predicting because they don’t normally vote. On the wishful thinking side, we could end up being surprised by a hidden supply of third party voters who end up being more abundant than anyone expected, effectively challenging the two party system. On the cynical side, I worry that we’ll get lots of voters who reach new frontiers in irrationality and the big two will start pandering to those people.

  9. medivh says


    The Monster Raving Loonies 2005 manifesto promised that they would issue a 99p coin. I’m not sure if this tactic is used abroad, but anyone familiar with UK shops could tell you what a fucking godsend that would be.

    Satirical they may be, but they have some cracking ideas :)

    Hell, just for that, I’m going to look up how I can start the Monster Raving Down Under Party for Election 2016. That, and I want to make the $1 and $2 coins make some bloody sense in their sizings. I reckon we could kick out the sixth-placed Victorian senate candidate, with some work!

  10. WharGarbl says

    I still like Taiwan’s style of parliamentary to connect with the public. Sure, they have their problems (corruptions, for example), they at least got this:
    Another party tries to royally screw your constituent? Punch them, literally.
    US should adopt this. Instead of filibusters, or even talking filibusters, remove it completely and let legislature that wanted to “filibuster” start a fist fight instead.
    Put the “fight” in “fight for your constituents”.

  11. says

    Further proof that Jon Stewart should stay gone.

    I haven’t laughed that hard at The Daily Show since the ’08 elections, maybe even longer.

    I feel the same, maybe it’s because John Oliver is fresh in the job and only there for a limited time, but he is just unbelievably funny, and attacks the hot topics without tiptoeing around or fear of being too politically correct.

    In this segment, I wish he had also mentioned the suppository of wisdom.

  12. shoeguy says

    Comedy Central has several smarmy juvenile jackasses that have the half hour before The Daily Show. Lets give Oliver one of those slots and keep Stewart at the Daily Show.

    As far as the thirty day presidential campaign goes that just isn’t enough time to sort out the whack jobs. Money is the problem with American politics. Too much from too few. My favorite idea is to make each congresscritter represent no more than fifty thousand people. That would end Gerrymandering or at least make it much less effective.

  13. says

    I have no doubts that some of the reason is because John Oliver is the “new guy”*, but he’s also a funnier comedian to begin with.

    *He’s worked for the show for years, both as a writer and a correspondent, remember.

  14. says

    More people in congress also makes it harder to buy a small group after the election and control the whole damn thing.

    1 per 50,000 might be a little excessive, though. That’s 20 per million, with 300 million people we’d be looking at a congress of 6,000. While we could do with a bigger one, I fear this many might be too much to manage.

  15. skepticalbloc says

    It’s been an embarrassing few weeks. But at least, like America, almost all of the clear idiots run for the right-wing parties.

  16. Muz says

    Ms Daisy Cutter: Yup that’s her! (although I don’t think the comparison is any good. No one has put her in charge of a state yet. She was actually trying to get a job with the party of Australia’s Sarah Palin, Pauline Hanson).

    Actually since the piece was inspired by Oliver being sick of talking about the US election already, I’m reminded of a quote from, I think, John Mitchell’s wife in All the President’s Men. She said “Something like “They should just give them seven years and be done with it. A soon as they get the first term they start campaigning for the second!””
    She had it figured out in ’72. Still I wonder if they couldn’t find some way to make it a seven year campaign anyway these days. Gotta fill the news cycle with something.

  17. ravenred says

    Oliver’s wrong in the sense that the election campaign has been going on pretty continuously since the last one ended (and a pretty nasty one at that), but that’s a point which can be legitimately dumbed down for comic effect.

    And the original Antipodean Sarah Palin pre-dates Palin herself

  18. sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d says

    Policies first put forward by the Monster Raving Loony Party have been adopted by other parties and become law: reform of alcohol licencing laws and voting at 18 years-old, for example.

  19. says

    I think the Suppository of Wisdom came after the show was made. I can’t wait for episode 2.

    And we do always have a few whacky parties, usually running for the senate. I like to vote for the nice ones as they forfeit their deposit if they don’t get some minimum number of votes.

    Another interesting aspect here is public funding of political parties. Your first preference vote is worth about $2 to the party. This means a protest vote to a minor party is not a waste: your preferred major party will get your preference eventually, but not your funds.

  20. Suido says

    For any non-Aussies wanting a primer on Aussie politics and where you would fit in, try this. If you are an Aussie, even better.

    For Americans, I think the Dems would be about dead centre on the graph produced at the end, and the Repubs would be somewhere beyond the bottom right hand corner of the screen.

    I’d be interested to see where UK New Labour and Lib Dems would be positioned, if any Britishers want to give it a crack.

    Also, further to AussieMike’s recommendations, here’s a plug for the Chaser crew and their election shows.

  21. ck says

    I miss the Rhinoceros Party of Canada. After getting a few too many votes that made them sometimes the second or third place candidate for a particular riding, the Liberals changed the law to make it far more difficult for joke parties to get on the ballot.

  22. Atticus Dogsbody says

    Since our system doesn’t naturally encourage satirical parties such as the UK’s Monster Raving Loony Party

    I guess you don’t recall the Ice Cream Party or the Sun-Ripened Tomato Party.

  23. mikeyb says

    Yes, but the counterargument is Australia excreted Rupert Murdock first to the UK to produce Thatcher and then the US to produce Faux News.

  24. sonofrojblake says

    For those joining the love-in for Mr. Oliver, may I direct your attention to the FREE weekly podcast he does with his buddy Andy Zaltzmann. 245 episodes of sheer quality, all of them available for download for the princely sum of exactly no dollars at all. I particularly recommend episode 69, not merely because hey, SIXTY-NINE, DUDES!, but because in a piece of puerile synchronicity that makes you think the universe is being run by a snickering fourteen-year-old, that week was the one when the story broke about the English teenager who had painted a sixty-foot wang on the roof of his parents’ mansion, a wang they remained blissfully unaware of for over a year until it started showing up on Google Earth. Oliver and Zaltzman did briefly acknowledge that other news had happened in the world that week, but correctly pointed out that the Second Coming, an incipient meteor strike or the outbreak of global thermonuclear war were mere footnotes compared to the news that there were satellite photographs of a sixty-foot wang on a mansion.


  25. says

    Aussies may be interested in http://belowtheline.org.au/ This will, shortly after the candidates are finalised (this Friday), help you to make out a custom senate ticket so you can prepare to vote below the line.

    “What does that even mean?”, the rest of the world may ask. Well, basically, in many of the larger states, the senate ballot papers get ridiculously big, what with multiple candidates from the major parties and multiple minor parties & independents.You need to fill out numbers from 1 to 67 or 123 or whatever, which is a pain. So you can choose to vote by group instead of by person, and let the group (a party or a collection of independents) assign your preferences how they will. This can lead to problems, as the wheeling & dealing over who preferences whom leads to some very shady choices and you end up with labor preferencing ghastly fundies to keep the greens at bay or whatever. So it’s better to vote below the line if you can.

  26. Suido says

    @mikeyb #30

    A correction, please. Murdoch was very anti-establishment in his younger days (and apparently believes that this is still the case…) and was actually somewhat of a socialist. His papers in Australia supported the ALP and Gough Whitlam’s platform of universal free healthcare and tertiary education in 1972, for example. When he first acquired his UK papers they were also Labour friendly, until the appearance of Thatcher. Once he’d flipped and thrown his support behind Thatcher and Reagan, he never looked back.

    His earliest years as a newspaper owner indicated he was independent, so I think it’s only right to blame the UK for turning him into a neo-con hack.

  27. ravenred says

    @Suido #30, Re: Murdoch’s support of Whitlam. His staff at The Australian went on strike a few years later in protest at his heavy editorial hand against that same Government during (if memory serves) during the election period following the dismissal.

  28. mildlymagnificent says

    Alethea, I just lurve that below the line site.

    We first used it 2(?) elections ago. It was pretty clunky then, but it was heaven to be able to just copy all the entries down the page and not walk away with any nagging fears that you’d fucked it up. And, let’s be honest, that’s the main reason why most people vote above the line, to make sure their vote’s valid rather than for any love of the preference deals their party might have put their mucky fingers into.