Sunday, July 3, 2016


There was a major election yesterday in Australia. We aren't eligible to vote, because we aren't citizens. But for anyone who is eligible to vote, voting is compulsory. That means if you don't show up to vote, you are fined.

I saw a line of people waiting to vote earlier in the day, but otherwise being ineligible to vote made me pay less attention. There have been flyers at train stations, and large political ads. I received an automated phone call recently asking me to participate in a poll, but I wasn't eligible. So not really paying attention.

However, yesterday evening and this morning my news is filled with election news. The Liberal party, which is very conservative here, was in control, but the Labor party, which is more liberal, may have won some seats. And the papers are reporting that there may be a possible hung parliament or bare coalition majority. And since I didn't know what any of that meant, I asked Tim, who looked it up. He recommended reading the materials for the Australian citizenship test. Here's what I read.

Australia, it turns out, is a Constitutional Monarchy. You already knew that. The Queen of Australia, who is the queen of England, is the monarch part of that. She is head of state. And since she lives in a different country, she appoints a Governor General to act for her in Australia. The Governor General's job is to signs laws and regulations -- to give "Royal Assent" -- and to take care of "ceremonial duties." Probably things like holding afternoon tea during important cricket matches. And each of the seven states of Australia also has their own Governor, who can also give Royal Assent, I guess, and give the stamp of queen's approval to state business. And shows up to appropriate fancy dinners. The Governor General is part of the executive branch of government, along with ministers appointed by the Prime Minister.

The legislative branch of government, which actually makes the laws, is Parliament, and includes the House of Representatives and the Senate. And these are the ones elected democratically. After an election, they count up the number of elected MPs (Members of Parliament) in the House of Representatives, and the political party with the most members becomes the Australian Government! (With leading capital letters.) The leader of that party becomes the Prime Minister.
 So that's why a hung parliament is a big deal. Who will be Prime Minister? And who will form the Australian Government? Or the Opposition, which is the party with the next most members.

I know you are on the edges of your seats with anticipation. I certainly am, now that I know what the newspapers are talking about. Kind of.

If we're here in four more years when we're eligible for citizenship, I promise to become more informed. Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see what effects an election will have.

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