When Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced the next federal election for Sept. 14, 2013, she promised that she wasn’t announcing the date early to start the nation’s “longest election campaign”. Although that remains to be seen, here’s what you need to know before political campaigning gets into full swing.
What you need to know
When is the election?
The election has been called for Sept. 14, 2013. Although the date has been set, it could possibly change, but this is unlikely. The latest possible date the next federal election could be held is Saturday Nov. 30, 2013.
The last time Julia Gillard called an election was on July 17, 2010, and she set the date for Aug. 21, 2010 – a little over a month later. This time around, she has given voters seven and a half months notice. Why the swift turnaround three years ago and the delay today?
The answer is political, of course. Back in 2010, Gillard was keen to pounce on Labor’s rise in the polls after she wrestled the leadership from ousted prime minister, Kevin Rudd. More than two years later, she sees no need to rush and says she announced the election date early in an effort to dispel media speculation.
“I can act to clear away the carry-on that comes with speculation about when the election will be held,” she said.
“And I can create an environment in which the nation’s eyes are more easily focused on the policies, not the petty politics. I can act so Australia’s Parliament and government serves their full three-year-term.”
Will you be voting for the next Prime Minister?
In a nutshell, no. You are not electing a leader, you are electing a parliament.
Collectively, we are voting in the 2013 Australian federal election for 150 individual contests around the country to represent us as part of the 44th Parliament of Australia.
Who you will be eligible to vote for depends on where you live. For instance, current PM Julia Gillard holds the seat of Lalor in Werribee, Victoria.
The leader of each party is up for the top job of prime minister.
Each politician can represent one of any number of parties, including the two primary contenders:
- Australia Labor Party (ALP): A centre-left government, led by current PM Julia Gillard.
- Liberal Party of Australia: A centre-right party, led by opposition leader Tony Abbott.
Or one of the smaller parties:
- Greens: Formed in 1992, the Australian Greens cite four core values: ecological sustainability, social justice, grassroots democracy and peace and non-violence. Led by Christine Milne.
- Nationals: Traditionally representing graziers, farmers and rural voters generally, the National Party’s federal parliamentary leader is Warren Truss.
- Family First: A socially conservative party that believes in strong family values, based on Christian ethics. Family First has no federal representative.
- Bob Katter’s Australian Party: Bob Katter’s party, based on the idea that Australia was founded on Christian principles and a responsibility to one’s fellow man. Bob Katter is the federal representative.
How does your vote count?
You will vote for people to represent you in Parliament’s House of Representatives and Senate. The party that controls the House is the winner of the election; it forms the next government and its leader becomes prime minister.
The Senate was set up to keep an eye on the government. It is rare for one party to control both the House of Representatives and the Senate, which means that to get things done, most issues must be negotiated in the Senate.
Do you have to vote?
Voting is compulsory in Australia and you can be fined for not voting. You can also be fined for not being on the electoral roll. It’s your responsibility to ensure that you’re enrolled for the correct location: Visit the Australia Electoral Commission to ensure your details are up to date.