1 x 2-hour seminar weekly
Enrolment not permitted
POLI2045 has been successfully completed
Course context
Associated majors: Political Studies; Australian Studies
Topic description
This topic examines political parties, elections and voting in Australia, and analyses the nature of the Australian party and election systems. It analyses claims about a growing public cynicism toward politicians and political parties and seeks to explain why electoral support for the major parties is declining as minority parties and independent candidates appeal increasingly to voters. Specific subjects for examination include the ideological foundations and shifting values of the parties, the applicability to Australia of theories and frameworks concerned with the nature of political parties in western democracies, the study of voting behaviour, the nature of election campaigns, the study of recent elections and the role of opinion polls. Students are introduced to the national public opinion survey, the Australian Election Study series. Lectures and a number of instructional sessions in the computer laboratory will see students become adept at analysing polling data and pursuing their own lines of enquiry in consultation with the topic convenor.
Educational aims
This topic aims to provide a political science perspective on the Australian electoral systems, political parties, voting behaviour, and national and South Australian elections. It will introduce students to:
  • key features of Australian electoral systems and how they might be reformed
  • key moments in evolution of political parties and the reasons for the rise and fall of minor parties
  • the broad political values and ideology underpinning Australian political parties since federation
  • the study of voting and political behaviour via the use of opinion polls
  • a variety of backgrounds and interests - including political science, sociology and history - with a set of skills useful for employment as political and ministerial advisors
  • the development of a good standard of academic and professional written presentations
Expected learning outcomes
On successful completion of this topic, students should be able to:
  • describe the origins of the party system in Australia and understand the factors shaping the system's evolution
  • understand how Australian political parties relate to the theory of political parties in Western liberal democracies
  • describe the origins and evolution of the major and key minor political parties in Australia and to have an understanding of their current structure and platforms
  • appreciate the various theories that purport to explain voting behaviour in Australia and comparable democracies
  • understand the nature of the social surveys of political opinion and how to use these in a practical manner
  • understand the basis of, and limitations of survey data and public opinion polls such as Newspoll
  • understand the main issues involved in the recent South Australian and national elections
  • an appreciation of the central debates about the stability of the Australian political system
  • develop skills of argument, critical reading, professional writing and introductory quantitative statistical analysis