What Can We Really Learn from Australian Democracy? (1)

And there it goes; the Australian Labor Party has won the recent Federal Elections in Australia. In this previous post – What Can We Learn from Australian Democracy? – I made a statement suggesting that we Malaysians can and should learn about Australian democracy.

Admittedly, Australian democracy is complex. One blog post or even a series of blog postings can never capture the essence of Australian democracy. In fact the subject of Australian democracy is so complex that universities devote specific departments in order to study it. And so there is a tremendous amount of research and literature about Australian democracy. Nevertheless, we as laymen and novices in the subject of Australian democracy (and even in the broader subject Democracy in Malaysia) can and should learn and make statements about the subject. After all, the essence of democracy should prevail even to up to the intellectual level. In other words, we should dispense with academic elitism and things like “I know better than you”, “you don’t enough to make intelligent remarks”, “your cause is not as important as ours” and the so called “I am holier than thou attitude”. See this post for some explanation.

Some may say that the recent elections in Australia is just another election. But, the elections held on the 24th of November is unique. In a way this election is a test of Australian Democracy itself. This election is a referendum on one essential concept of democracy – the change of federal government through the ballot box. During the election campaigns John Howard portrayed himself as an experienced leader, vis a vis the inexperienced Labor leader Kevin Rudd. John Howard claimed that a change of government would harm the prosperity that Australia has experienced in the 11 years of his leadership. Moreover John Howard’s Liberal-National coalition portrayed the Labor party as a business-bashing, union-controlled, environmental-fanatic, economically harmful mob.

But things are not as simple as that. With Labor victory, that party now controls the Federal government and all state governments. With the elections victory, power is now more concentrated to one political party more than before. This is the irony. If before, power is separated by John Howard’s Liberal-National coalition holding power at the federal level whilst the Labour hold political power in all states. Now, Australia is experiencing the so called wall to wall Labor and also Labor at the top of the federal political system. This almost is similar to the current situation in Malaysia. In Malaysia the ruling BN coalition rules in almost all states plus the federal level. However, unlike Malaysia, Australia has a vibrant Senate (Upper House) in which Labor has no majority. And thus even though Labour controls federal and state executive and legislative apparatuses, the Senate can thwart Labor’s policies by blocking legislations.

 This post is continued = here.

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