Australian Politics

I am writing this mostly for my own university review process:

 

Liberalism:
Emphasises the importance of the individual and their value, with the ability for the individual to decide how they live their life through individual freedom.  The state exercises coercive power over a geographical area (territory).  Liberals believe that the state is necessary to preserve order and protect individual rights, but are wary of the state’s potential for power abuse threatening individual rights and liberties.

There are many examples of states imposing on people’s individual rights and freedoms and an individual’s right to do (x) thing is often core to many debates.  Some examples are:  Reproductive freedoms, euthansia, substance use and sexual rights.  But, many others are argued including, seatbelts, helmets, speed limits, right to free speech, right to free association, right to free belief.

Democracy:
Democracy is a separate concept to liberalism.  Democracy is a type of governance which allows the people to rule themselves – ie. rule by the many/the people.  Representative democracy has taken precedence in the modern age, allowing a hierarchy for democratic governance, due mostly to logistical issues.

Representative democracy is controversial in some circles, as it appears to water down the people’s ability to self-govern.  Democracy can also threaten the rights and freedoms of the individual through the “tyranny of the majority”, lynch crowd mentality etc. people who are in minority groups are often suceptible to discrimination and often the need for safety is used to remove or potentially remove individual rights and liberties.
A Liberal Democracy aims to create safeguards in order to circumvent these problems.

Liberal Democracy:
In Australia, we have a representative democracy with regular and competitive elections and universal adult (18) suffrage, liberal democracies vary in many ways though.  There are protections on democratic rights, such as freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, although in Australia this is mostly by convention, rather than legislation.  Political pluralism is also a necessary facet, as this allows for a wide range of views to be expressed and discussed, rather than legislating one particular paradigm or another.
Government is limited in certain ways, such as its requirement to rule by law, meaning it has to adhere to a process rather than someone’s idea of how to use their political powers.  Governments are also required to follow a constitutional framework, which outlines the powers and processes of government.  Power should be fragmented and dispersed to disallow power to grow in one place or another.  A strong civil society is another element, as it ensures the government does not pervade in to all walks of life.

Different liberal democracies put these concepts in to place in different ways.

The British (Westminster) system uses the concept of responsible government to limit executive power.  Responsible government has been eroded by strong, disciplined partisan politics.  Responsible government is a concept which operates mostly through convention.
The US system does not have this conventional concept of reponsible government, with government power dispersed and limited instead.
Australia has a blend between the two above described forms of government.  Australia has a formal constitution, but we are heavily dependent on constitutional conventions; Commonwealth dominance over the states, but dispersed power through federalism; Government dominance over the House of Represenatives but a strong Senate (through different voting methods); Prime ministerial dominance but regular elections with a variety of parties.

Political parties are a crucial part of our system, but the vote share of the major parties has fallen, as has identification with the parties.  The party system is strongly shaped by the electoral system.  First Past The Post tends to mean a two-major-party system will arise.  Preferential is less likely to allow this to happen.

The media has changed the nature of politics as technologies have emerged, especially with the rise of the 24 hour news cycle.  This has led to the rise of what has been deemed the “PR state”.

Some suggest that changes in the media have led to a watering down of some ideologies in political parties, leader-focussed campaigns (personality driven) and a weakening of party identification.

 

Thank you Nick, that’s ok Nick.

In Lak’ech Ala K’in

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