Australia day: 7 things to know about the country's politics

It’s Australia Day – here are seven things to know about the country's politics.

1. Australia's states and territories

Like Trump's United States and Merkel's Germany, Australia is a federal country in which states have significant levels of power. Australia is comprised of six states, as well as numerous territories including the Australian Capital Territory. Each state has its own parliament or legislative.

2. It still has the monarchy, but there is a strong republican movement

The country’s head of government is the prime minister, but its head of state is the British monarch. In 1999, Australia held a referendum to remove the monarchy and install a republic, but a majority of citizens voted against this. Nonetheless, republican sentiment remains strong within the country, indeed the Guardian has reported that the country’s Labor Party has pledged to hold a vote on the monarchy if it wins the next election.

3. Its government and legislatures

The country has a parliamentary system with a prime minister and cabinet. The lower chamber, the House of Representatives, contains MPs while the Senate contains senators.

4. Voting systems

The House of Representatives uses the instant-runoff voting system to elect MPs, which is essentially the Alternative Vote system that Brits rejected in a 2011 referendum. Senators are elected via the Single Transferable Vote, which is used in Ireland and to elect councillors in Scotland.

5. Australian House of Representative elections are held every three years

Bizarrely, compared to elections in most other democracies, Australia’s elections take place every three years. In the UK, the Fixed Term Parliaments Act ensure that elections (usually) take place every half decade while in America, elections take place every four years for president, six for the senate and two for the House of Representatives. Three-yearly federal elections are an oddity that Australia shares with its New Zealand neighbours. According to the Museum of Australian Democracy, the three year term was picked to mirror the three-year terms in most Australian colony elections although most state parliaments now have four-year terms.

6. The 2016 election

At the 2016 election, the governing Liberal/National coalition won a second-term in power. Led by Malcolm Turnbull, who had replaced Tony Abbott ahead of the election, his coalition won 76 out of 150 seats in the House of Representatives, thus securing a marginal majority. Labour gained 14 seats, but fell significantly short of winning a majority. The Greens held on to their one seat while the Xenephon Team secured one seat.

7. The next election

In order to win, the Labor Party need to make a handful of gains, a move that would return them to government for the first since they lost power in 2013. Current polls put the two main parties neck and neck although Labor has the edge when only the two main parties are included.

Happy Australia day!

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