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A quick guide to plebiscites in Australia

When Opposition Leader Tony Abbott proposed a plebiscite to test Australians’ support for a carbon tax, the proposal was variously described in the media as ‘junk politics’, a ‘stunt’, a ‘serious misjudgement’ and ‘an expensive, bad idea’. But what exactly is a plebiscite?In Australia, a national plebiscite has quite a distinctive meaning. A plebiscite is a vote by citizens on a matter of national significance, but one which does not affect the Constitution. Moreover, plebiscites are normally advisory, and do not compel a government to act on the outcome. A plebiscite might be used to obtain electors’ views on, say, military conscription, or choosing a new Australian flag. Only the Australia... Read more...

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