Australia's political parties: relics of the 20th century shielded by compulsory voting?

24 Jul 2013

Australia has stuck with its three major political parties since just after WWII. ABC election analyst Antony Green looks  at how compulsory voting and 'ticket' voting seem to be creating  apathy, stifling new ideas, and encouraging the proliferation of spurious rather than serious minor parties.

Australia is still dominated by the three traditional parties—the Liberals, the Nationals and Labor.

And like many Western democracies, our major parties still reflect the class, religious, ethnic  and social divides of the 1920s. The Labor Party still carries the echoes of its working class past; the Liberal Party still appears as the party of rural and urban capital; and the Nationals maintain their tribal allegiance with smaller farmers and town dwellers.

For decades following Labor’s 1916 split on conscription, you would have also said these parties represented another divide, a religious divide on Irish/Catholic versus Anglo-Scottish/Protestant lines. That era has long gone, unpicked by the Labor/DLP split of the 1950s. Post-war immigration also made the division less relevant.

But while the general outlines of our major parties remain the same, they've managed to survive by being endlessly flexible in reacting to changing social conditions.

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