Politics of Australia and the US compared

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Australia and the United States of America share common links with the United Kingdom and have inherited the Westminster system of government. Both governments have a bicameral structure with a lower house known as the House of Representatives and an upper house known as the Senate.

Contents

House of Representatives

In both countries the House of Representatives is the lower house and has more members. In the United States there is 1 member representing each of the 435 congressional districts, while in Australia there is 1 member representing the 150 electoral districts. The average population of each of the congressional districts of the US is approximately 650,000 people while in Australia there are approximately 90,000 people per electorate. In both countries the areas of the electoral districts vary according to population density. Electoral districts in more densely populated (metropolitan) areas are smaller than in less densely polulated rural or isolated regions. In the US the number of districts is set by law at 435 while in Australia the number, size and location of electorates can change to reflect changes in population. This process in known as electoral redistribution. Members of the Australian House of Representatives serve a 3 year term whereas US members of the House serve for 2 years.

Senate

The Senate is the upper house in the respective parliaments of both nations. In each country, the Senate represents the states equally. There are 100 senators in the United States, 2 from each of the 50 states, while in Australia there are 76 senators, 12 from each state and 2 from each of the 2 territories. Senators from both countries serve 6 year terms.

President and Prime Minister

In the United States the President is elected directly by the people. A system of Electoral Colleges and primary ballots determine who will be the candidate from each of the two major parties. The president can be from any party or an independent so long as he or she wins enough votes. In Australia, the Prime Minister is the leader of the party which forms the government. This is either that party which wins more than fifty percent of the seats in the House of Representatives or the dominant party in a coalition of parties which jointly have won more than fifty percent of the seats. In recent parliaments the Prime Minister has been from either the Liberal or Labor parties.

The United States constitution restricts the Presidency to a maximum of two terms or eight years in office. There is no such restriction on the Australian Prime Ministership.

Voting

Australia uses a different system of voting called preferential voting where candidates are ranked in a list from 1 -5 for instance whereas the United States uses plurality voting where a candidate can win with less than 50% of the votes. In Australia voting is compulsory and the penalty for not voting is generally around $50. This is the reason that voter turnout is one of the highest in the world and generally at 95%, while in the US it is not compulsory and turnout is generally around 50 -60%.

Minor Parties

In Australia it can be said that minor parties are more represented due to 2 main factors which are preferential voting and proportional representation in the Australian Senate. There are no minor parties in either House of Representatives although there are 3 independents in the Australian House of Representatives. In the Australian Senate which uses proportional representation there are 11 out of 76 senators from candidates other than the 2 main parties, while the US Senate has only 2 independents (Joe Lieberman and Bernie Sanders). It pretty common for most electorates in Australia to have close to 10 contestants while the equivalent in the United States is around 4.

States

Both countries share similarities in size and each state has their own parliament. In Australia and the United States every single state has 2 chambers just like at federal level except for (Queensland and Nebraska) respectively who have a Unicameral Legislature.

Courts

Both countries have an independent judiciary called the Supreme Court in US and the High Court in Australia which interprets the constitution and acts as a final court of appeals.

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