Australia is a democracy. This means every person has the right to form an opinion and tell other Australians what they think about any aspect of society, as long as they don’t break the law. All Australian citizens 18 years or older have to vote, and have the right to join or form a political or activist party.
Australia has three levels of government:
Each level of government is accountable to Australian citizens who vote.
When you vote in State and Federal Elections, you are choosing one representative from the political parties to represent you at their level of government. The party with the most number of representatives wins the election and becomes the Government.
Each party votes for their leader, and whoever is the leader of the winning party becomes the Premier or Prime Minister.
For more info on all of this, check out ‘The Political System’ in this Toolkit.
There are over 50 political parties contesting the July 2016 Federal Election.Generally speaking, the major parties seek to be influential across a wide range of issues, while the smaller parties seek to be influential on specific issues.
Each party is registered with the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) and has at least one person who is a member of the Federal Parliament and/or has at least 500 members with no other political ties.
To find out more about the political parties contesting the July 2016 election, check out the Political Parties Portal by clicking here.
Questions about the Aussie Political System: go to the VirginVoters Facebook page, ask a question and we’ll get back to you.
Green Ballot PaperThe green paper has a number of boxes and lists all of the people you can vote for in your local area.
To vote, number each box starting with 1 for your first preference, 2 for your second preference, 3 for your third, etc.Do not use crosses or ticks and make sure you number all the boxes. If you don’t fill in each ballot paper correctly, your vote won’t be counted and will be a complete waste of time.
Click here to practice how to vote on the AEC website.
White Ballot Paper
There are two ways you can vote for the Senate using the white paper:
1 – Above the Line.
2 – Below the Line.
You must number at least six boxes above the line or at least 12 boxes below the line, otherwise your vote won’t count and will be a complete waste of time.
The Australian Federal Election is on Saturday 2nd July 2016. You can vote anytime between 8am and 6pm at a local school, church hall or public building.On the day, the school, church hall or public building might be referred to as a Polling Place. This simply means you can go there to vote.If you won’t be in your local area but will be in your home State or Territory on election day, you can cast an absent vote at any Polling Place.
If you won’t be in your State or Territory, or can’t make it to a Polling Place for any reason, you can cast a Postal or Pre-Poll vote.
To do this, it’s best to contact the Australian Electoral Commission as soon as possible.
The Political SystemAussie politics use the Westminster system of government, and has two ‘Houses of Parliament’. So does Great Britain and most Commonwealth countries around the world.
There are two important things you need to know about Aussie politics:
2- on election day, you need to cast two votes – one for each House of Parliament.
The House of Representatives (or the Lower House) is green and is made up of 150 local representatives from around Australia.
The Senate (or the Upper House) is red and is made up of 76 representatives from around Australia.
Generally speaking, the House of Representatives think up and vote on new laws for Australia. When a proposed law gets a majority vote, it goes to the Senate where it’s discussed, debated, tweaked and voted on a second time.
When the proposed law gets a majority vote from the Senate, it goes back to the House of Representatives who look at any changes that have been made in the Senate, and vote on it again. If it gets a majority vote for a third time, it becomes law. If not, it is back to the drawing board and a new law is proposed.
The Electorate and the Government
Australia is divided into 150 sections with each section having approximately the same number of people. Each section is called an electorate, and is informally referred to a ‘seat’.
The political party that wins the majority of seats in the House of Representatives wins the election and becomes the Government, and the leader of the party becomes the Prime Minster.
In Australia, there are 150 seats up for grabs in every Federal Election. To win an election, a party needs 76 seats or more.
The Senate is made up of 76 seats, and has 12 representatives from each state and 2 representatives from each territory. At this Federal Election, all Senate seats are up for grabs because of the double dissolution of Parliament called by Prime Minister Malcolm Turbull.
Counting the Votes
Australia uses a Preferential Voting System. This means we have to number all of the boxes provided on ballot papers when we vote. When counting votes, the ballot papers are sorted according to first preferences (shown by a 1 in the box). To win a seat, a party must win an outright majority of votes.
If a party does not have an outright majority of votes after all of the ballot papers have been counted according to first preferences, the ballot papers from the political party with the least amount of votes are re-sorted according to second preferences (shown by a 2 in the box).
If a party does not have an outright majority after all of the votes have been counted, the ballot papers from the political party with the least amount of votes are resorted according to third preferences (shown by a 3 in the box).
This process continues until one party has a clear majority of votes, and wins the seat.
To vote in Australia, you must be:
If you’re an Aussie citizen and 18 years or older, you need to enrol to vote with the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC).
If you meet the criteria but don’t vote, you’ll need a very good reason or you’ll be fined.