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Background of Australian Politics

Discuss about the Rise of Micro-Parties in Australian Politics for Westminster Model.

The politics of any country is shaped by its history, its people and its shared values and principles. Some countries are democratic, and some are monarchy and some are a mix of both. Australia being a former colony of the British Imperialism also imbibed a lot of its governance and administrative structure from the British Westminster Model. Being a commonwealth, Australia is under the monarchy of Queen Elizabeth II. The essay attempts to elucidate the Australian Political System and the rise of the micro parties in the political scenario of Australia. The rise of micro parties in Australia also poses numerous challenges in the running of the government, some of which are mentioned. The essay explains the Australian political history and the Major Political Parties as well the Micro Political Parties functioning together in the running of the government. The disadvantages of having numerous micro political parties are also explained in detail.

Micro Parties are those parties, which focus on a single issue or cause. In Australia, micro parties are identified as those parties, which have small number of party members, less amount of electoral support, have extremely micro parliamentary presence and focus on a single issue or cause. Micro parties are different from minor parties as minor parties have higher number of party members, higher amount of electoral support, higher parliamentary presence and focus on more than one issue as compared to micro parties. The micro parties pursue a single policy approach and these policies are achieved easily by attracting the electoral votes. The various types of micro parties functioning in Australia include the Australian Cyclists Party, The Australia Antipaedophile Party, Voluntary Euthanasia Party, Smokers Rights Party (Prosser and Denniss 2014). A common feature of micro parties is that they have attractive names which instantly resonates with the issues they are supporting and the voter is able to identify as to which cause the party is supporting. This provides them to create an impression in the minds of the voters.

The Australian nation is often called as a federation because the Constitution follows a Federal System of Administration wherein the powers are equally divided among the central government and the six state governments (Australia.gov.au, 2018). At present, two major political parties exist in Australia while several other minor political parties are functioning besides the two major political parties, and they have all contributed immensely in shaping the history of the Australian nation. The two groups, which dominate the Australian Political scenario, are the coalition amongst the Liberal Party of Australia, the Nationals and the Liberal National Party (Kavanagh 2013). The other group is known as the Australian Labor Party and it is based on the philosophy of the social democratic ideals. Since the formation of the Federation of Australia in 1901, either of the two major political parties has formed the government (Melton 2013).

Major Political Parties in Australia

Australia also has another group of political parties, which are known as the Micro Political Parties, and these parties represent the numerous causes and issues, which affect the common citizen of not just Australia but affecting the whole world as a whole (Van Haute and Gauja 2015).These micro parties may focus on one issue or a wide range of issues. Among the micro parties, the two important ones are the Nationals and the Greens. The Australian Democrats is the largest micro party in the Australian political system. The Australian Greens (AG) has emerged as the third force in Australian politics.


Along with the major political parties of Australia, the micro parties also involve representing a wide range of ideologies such as the Democrats, the Greens or for supporting issues like nuclear disarmament, socialism, environmentalism and religious groups. The micro political parties are also important for Australian Political functioning as they help giving voice to concerns of the citizens and to the various issues faced by them in their lives (Highfield and Bruns 2015). The Micro parties are important for the functioning of the democracy of Australia, because the two major political parties due to their strict party discipline, which the party must adhere to, do not address many issues. The micro parties act as a pressure group and exert pressure on the major political party whichever comes to power.

The micro parties are used as a testing ground for new ideas and policies. If any issue is supported by a micro party and succeeds in gaining the electoral support, then the major political parties are bound to include that policy within their own list of priorities. Thus, the dominance of the two major political parties are reduced by the emergence of the micro political parties as they prove to be decisive at the time of a hung mandate or a closely contested election and their votes counts and helps the major parties to form a government (Best 2013). The micro political parties also help in making the major political parties accountable and stop them from indulging in abuse of power by consolidating the Australian bicameral system. In this way, the micro parties maintain a balance of power in the Senate and prove decisive in blocking some Government bills, which the major political parties attempts to pass (Anderson, Stuart and Rosen 2015).

The rise of the micro parties in Australia has been a cause of concern for several reasons. Although the major parties are working in close coordination with the micro political parties of Australia to keep the democratic process working, it is seen that the micro political parties are functioning on the influence of grabbing every opportunity, which comes their way, and on the influence of lobby groups. The lobby groups are those groups which get their objectives fulfilled by supporting the micro political parties (King 2015).The micro political parties are a hindrance in the running of the administration and governance in Australia mainly due to the following reasons- The expenses of having multiple micro political parties alongside the major parties poses an unbearable expense on the exchequer of Australia (Chen 2013).The parties attempt to convince the people to vote for them and in the process of convincing people, the parties invest in rallies, advertisements in both the print media as well as the electronic media.

Micro Parties in Australian Politics


The micro parties also invest heavily on the radio and television advertisement and many other platforms to grab the attention of the voters and the public and this requires spending huge amounts of money and funds. Another disadvantage of having a too many micro parties is that it results in the polarizing of the citizens (Golding 2013). Australia being a multi-ethnic and having people from different strata and race, religion and ethnic background, faces the threat of intolerance and racism. Racism being a topic, which is highly debated in the country, needs careful handling (Fox 2017). Now, if any micro political party raises the issue of polarizing citizens based on immigration and ethnicity, then it becomes very difficult for the authorities in charge to stop the anti-social elements to spread hatred amongst the common citizens (Baker and Rowe 2014). The micro parties also provides numerous options and choices for the common citizens due to which the major topics loses focus and attention, while all the irrelevant topics are discussed upon. This results in the electorates getting confused with too many options and choices.

The rise of micro parties has also resulted in the vote share of the major political parties being divided because of which the major political parties are finding it extremely difficult to form a government on their own (Brightwell et al. 2013). The coalition government thus formed is weak and lacks the political will power to make any decisive acts to come into force. The micro political parties also hinders in the continuity of a single policy for the development of a country (Kitschelt and Rehm 2015). It has also been noticed that the presence of so many micro political parties fighting with the intention of being a part of the ruling government end up with the emergence of unnecessary conflicts and rivalry with each other, thus retarding the development of Australia and indulging in unnecessary controversies (Mark 2014).


The Micro Parties also create confusion in the minds of the voters as to which parties are micro parties. There is an ambiguity regarding the definition of micro parties among the common people. The election commission has operationalized the micro parties in a haphazard manner and as such, the micro parties are non-conforming to the actual definition of the concept of micro parties. The media journalists are also confused as to how relevant the micro parties are in the scenario of Australian politics. The common perception among the journalists is that the micro parties deflect the major political parties from the objective of solving the major political and social issues of the country. The micro parties pursue their own agenda and their main concern is to garner more votes to secure their political existence in the Parliament of Australia. The main pressing issues get unnoticed. The micro political parties also get confused with the minor political parties due to the already fragmented political scenario of Australia. The micro parties are considered as problematic because the micro parties blackmail the major political parties in order to form the coalition with them (Electoralreformaustralia.org, 2018). The micro parties as well as the minor parties are not able to form the government on their own, due to the less number of political representations, which they have. The micro parties become significant in the scenario of a hung mandate or a closely contested election when the vote of the micro parties becomes crucial and the deciding factor for ensuring victory to the major political parties. As such, the major political parties let go of the main agendas and issues, which need to be solved immediately and agree to support the micro parties and fulfill their demands. The Micro Parties are single-issue based parties and their main priority on the fulfillment of those priorities. The micro parties are very objectively clear about the issues, which they are promising to fulfill. They cater to the needs and demands of a certain number of electorates. The issues supported by the micro parties are specific to a certain population and they contest election in those areas where the majority of the electorates who support the agenda of the micro parties reside. The Micro Parties, despite being problematic, also has certain positives. One such positive is that in a democratic setup, the presence of micro parties means that the representation of a large number of people is possible. The presence of Micro parties enables the demands of the minor groups come to the notice of the common people. The micro parties, which are supporting the issues faced in the countryside, make the citizens as well as the leaders aware about the problems and aspirations of the rural people (Curtin and Costar 2015). The micro parties along with the major parties make the complete representation of the Australian people in the Political affairs of Australia. The juxtaposition of the Micro Parties with that of the Major Parties also implies that the Major Parties are not indulging in an Abuse of Power and there exists checks and balance to the Major Parties as well as the Minor Parties.

Importance of Micro Parties

From the above discussion, it can be concluded that the emergence of micro parties in Australia comes with its own advantages as well as disadvantages. Australia being a multi-cultured and multi-ethnic country, which lays great emphasis on promoting social harmony among its plural society, must ensure that the micro political parties do not engage in promoting such issues and topics, which pose a threat to the harmony and peace of its socially diverse population. Attention must also be given to the fact that the political parties address the main issues of concern properly and that the irrelevant topics do not diverge the policy makers from their main task. The existence of having too many micro political parties also end up dividing the electoral share, thereby resulting in a coalition government which generally proves incapable of showing strong political will and taking bold decisions for the welfare of the country.

Reference

Anderson, J.R., Stuart, A. and Rossen, I., 2015. Not all negative: Macro justice principles predict positive attitudes towards asylum seekers in Australia. Australian Journal of Psychology, 67(4), pp.207-213.

Australia.gov.au. 2018. How Government Works | australia.gov.au. [online] Available at: https://www.australia.gov.au/about-government/how-government-works [Accessed 27 Apr. 2018].

Baker, S.A. and Rowe, D., 2014. Mediating mega events and manufacturing multiculturalism: The cultural politics of the world game in Australia. Journal of Sociology, 50(3), pp.299-314.

Best, R.E., 2013. How party system fragmentation has altered political opposition in established democracies. Government and Opposition, 48(3), pp.314-342

Brightwell, I., Cucurull, J., Galindo, D. and Guasch, S., 2015. An overview of the iVote 2015 voting system.

Chen, P.J., 2013. Australian politics in a digital age. ANU Press.

Curtin, J. and Costar, B., 2015. 16. The Contest for Rural Representation: The celebrated contest over Indi and the fate of the independents. Abbott’s gambit: the 2013 Australian federal election, p.275.

Electoralreformaustralia.org. 2018. Micro Parties: the curse of Australian politics | Electoral Reform Australia. [online] Available at: https://electoralreformaustralia.org/?p=466 [Accessed 14 May 2018].

Fox, N.J., 2017. Personal health technologies, micropolitics and resistance: a new materialist analysis. Health:, 21(2), pp.136-153.

Golding, G., 2013. Australia's Experience with Foreign Direct Investment by State Controlled Entities: A Move towards Xenophobia or Greater Openness. Seattle UL Rev., 37, p.533.

Highfield, T. and Bruns, A., 2016. Compulsory voting, encouraged tweeting? Australian elections and social media. The Routledge companion to social media and politics, pp.338-350.

Kavanagh, D. ed., 2013. The Politics of the Labour Party Routledge Library Editions: Political Science (Vol. 55). Routledge.

King, T., 2015. 17. The Advent of Two New Micro Parties: The Palmer United Party and Katter’s Australia Party. Abbott’s gambit: the 2013 Australian federal election, p.293.

Kitschelt, H. and Rehm, P., 2015. Party alignments. Change and continuity. The Politics of Advanced Capitalism, pp.179-201.

Mark, C., 2014. The 2013 Australian Election: Political and Policy Implications. KwanseiGakuin University social sciences review, 18, pp.67-79.

Melton, J., 2013. Do constitutional rights matter? The relationship between de jure and de facto human rights protection (pp. 1-39). Working Paper.

Prosser, B. and Denniss, R., 2014. Policy in the margins: new issues for parliamentary legitimacy and accountability.

Van Haute, E. and Gauja, A. eds., 2015. Party members and activists (Vol. 6). Routledge.

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