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The Chaser’s Guide to Politics in Australia

Early settlers, exhausted after much colonising, copied and pasted Australia’s parliamentary democracy from the British Westminster system— and a little from the United States Congress system, just so they didn’t look too lazy.

Australian politics takes place in a building in Canberra, and a few select back rooms in Sydney and Melbourne. Here our politicians work tirelessly to represent the views of their constituents, as well as the company/union/evil-mining-lady who funded their election campaign. While opinions are divided on the policies that various politicians support, it’s fair to say that all Australians agree that their politicians are terrible people.

Technically, the Queen is still Australia’s head of state and she visits once every few years to make sure we’re not mucking around down here. In her absence, the governor-general is the Queen’s official representative. The governor-general is chosen by the government of the day, based on how nice their handwriting is and, since 1975, how likely they are to fire your arse. Australia’s democracy is one of the most stable and secure in the entire world, with coup attempts only coming from politicians toward other politicians. Elections are held once every three years, and leadership spills once every six months.

Voting was made compulsory in Australia in 1926, after politicians discovered that voters were just eating the sausage sandwich and then heading home. Australia has had 28 male prime ministers and one other prime minister. The two major parties are the Australian Labor Party, who represents workers, and the Liberal Party who represents yacht owners. There are three tiers of government in Australia. The federal government takes care of matters affecting the Commonwealth, state governments take care of property developers and local government takes care of smaller property developers.

The Four Branches of Australian Government

The House of Representatives
The House of Representatives is the chamber where politicians teach school children, seated in the balcony, that democracy is much better in theory than in practice. There are 150 seats in the House, despite the trend for standing desks. Each MP in the Lower House represents anywhere from 60,000 to 120,000 voters, and in some cases, even represents those voters’ interests. Like many green rooms, it is largely populated by hack comedians.

Prime Minister
The main responsibility of the PrimeMinister, while in the House of Representatives, is to read eulogies to former MPs. They must also speak regularly on the various failings and character flaws of the Opposition Leader.

Speaker
A glorified kindergarten teacher getting paid $341,477. The Speaker sacrifices their vote during a division and must make up for this lost vote by ejecting as many members of the Opposition as possible.

Back bencher
As an MP, without a ministerial portfolio, it is the backbencher’s responsibility to mindlessly read out questions given to them by ministerial staff. Any backbencher who can recite the question without following the words along with their finger, is immediately promoted to the front bench. They are also required to laugh rowdily at any joke a front bencher makes, no matter how unfunny.

The full version of this article originally appeared in The Chaser’s Guide to Australia (CQ4): buy it here. 


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