They say you should never work in three areas: with animals, with kids – and in politics!
But we say the world’s your oyster! The recent election – and its consequent results – might have you even more curious about what working in politics could look like.
So, allow us to speed walk you through politics in Australia, voting, and a few exciting career opportunities you could step into!
Politics in a (Really Small) Nutshell
You probably know and engage with political ideas every day without realising – we all do! – but sitting down to think about and answer the question ‘what is politics?’ can be trickier than it sounds!
Politics is the set of activities associated with making decisions in groups or other forms of power relations between individuals, such as distributing resources or status.
Individuals are elected to discuss, debate, and agree on decisions that impact the groups who live in their communities.
Politics covers and impacts various sectors, including education, health, public services, food production and distribution, and welfare.
Politics in Australia
Australia has a mixed system of government; it is a representative democracy and a constitutional monarchy.
- A Representative Democracy: In a representative democracy, citizens choose candidates to represent them in a parliament. In Australia, federal elections are held every 3 years to select members of parliament to represent Australians and make laws on their behalf.
- A Constitutional Monarchy: In a constitutional monarchy, the monarch does not have absolute power, and they must follow the country’s constitution. The Australian head of state is Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. The Queen appoints the Governor-General to act on her behalf in Australia.
Australia is also a federation of states – This is when a group of states join together to form a single country.
In 1901, six British colonies joined together to form Australia. For at least 50 000 years before this, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples lived on the Australian continent and practised traditional cultures and languages.
A federal Parliament was created to make laws about matters that impact all states, including defence, immigration, trade and foreign affairs. The Australian Constitution—the set of rules by which Australia is run—sets out how the federal and state parliaments share the power to make laws.
The Australian Constitution defines three groups (the Parliament, the Executive and the Judiciary) and how they share power. A separation of powers also ensures that no single group has all the power. Each of the three groups is responsible for one area of power:
- Parliament (the Legislature) makes and changes the law.
- The Executive puts the law into action.
- The Judiciary settles disputes about the law.
Australia’s system of government is based on the existence of political parties – the individuals we vote for will belong to one of these parties. Each party sets out their policy agendas for the key areas that affect the public.
There are several different parties that you can vote for in Australia. The three key parties in Australia are:
- The Australian Labor Party – is the oldest political party, established in 1901.
- The Liberal Party of Australia – was formed in 1944
- The Nationals – previously named the National County Party and the National Party of Australia.
Still with us? Great! Let’s take a look at voting in Australia!
Voting in Australia
Australia uses a voting system called preferential voting. Preferential voting means that voters rank each political candidate according to their personal preference.
Votes are then tallied – if no candidate has a majority of votes, the candidate with the fewest first preferences is eliminated from the count, and their votes are re-allocated according to the preferences on the ballot papers.
The process is repeated until one candidate receives a majority of all votes cast, at which point they are declared elected.
Voting in Australia is compulsory – meaning you’ll face a fine if you don’t vote. To vote, you must be:
- At least 18 years old on the day the elections take place.
- Be an Australian Citizen
- Be registered on the Electoral Roll.
In recent years, there has been discussion about lowering the age of eligible voters to 16 years old. Many believe that young people can make informed decisions about what directly impacts them.
Careers to Explore in Politics
Because politics impact so many different parts of our society, there’s a broad scope of work and career pathways available – it’s not just about becoming a politician!
Here are a few different opportunities worth exploring with a career in politics:
- Policy Officer: Policy officers use research and analysis to advise the government, think tanks and businesses to help them make informed decisions. The central part of their work is conducting research, analysing data, and presenting information to others. They liaise across departments and organisations and often play a role in communicating policy changes and campaigns.
- Political Risk Analyst: Political risk analysts examine issues that may impact policies and the public and inform organisations and government departments on risk analysis relating to those issues. This includes economic conditions, crime levels, government stability, trade and regulations, and human rights issues. They may analyse risks based on country, specific sectors or industries, or particular issues.
- Politician’s Assistant: Politician assistants provide administrative support to an elected politician. They help with secretarial tasks, research and publicity. They’re involved with ‘behind the scenes’ work to help their politicians achieve their campaign goals and represent their constituents effectively.
- Public Affairs Officer: Public affairs officers draw on their knowledge of the political system to offer their clients political and public policy advice. Clients may include private sector companies, trade associations, charities, not-for-profit organisations and overseas governments. Public affairs officers leverage their networks, media sources and contacts to stay up to date on political developments and uncover essential information to assist their clients and keep them informed.
These roles are just scratching the surface – from IT to marketing, finance to campaign management: there are many ways to get involved with a political career!
Building an understanding of politics can – and will – take time. There’s no rush to have a complete understanding right now, and with things changing so rapidly, it pays to start reading up and educating yourself now so when the time comes for you to vote, you’ll be able to make an informed decision that matches your values.
Our tips for staying educated include:
- Reading the party websites and their policies.
- Reading the profiles of party members in your local area, and even attending public talks if you can.
- Developing an understanding of what matters to you in your community and seeing what parties align with this.
- Speaking to parents, teachers and others, you trust about what they think about the different political parties.
Our ability to vote and have a voice over who gets to decide on some key things that impact all our lives is a privilege we need to take ownership of. And it’s never too early to start thinking about what that looks like for you.