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The impeachment process in the United States of America

On 12 July 2017 United States (US) congressman Brad Sherman, a Democrat from California, formally introduced articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump into the US House of Representatives. The measure was co-sponsored by Texas Democrat Al Green. The articles of impeachment accuse the President of obstruction of justice in relation to the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), including ‘through threatening, and then terminating, [FBI Director] James Comey’. The impeachment measure is likely to meet with substantial opposition in the Republican-controlled House. Read more...

Government losing votes on the floor of the House

On 1 September 2016 the Coalition Government lost three divisions on the floor of the House of Representatives: one motion to adjourn; one motion on closure of debate; and an amendment requiring the House to consider a message from the Senate immediately. Prior to this, the last time a majority Government lost a division in the House was in 1962. In the 43rd hung Parliament (2010-13), the minority ALP Government lost many divisions, mostly on procedural matters and private members’ motions. The votes lost by the Government in 1962 were as follows: A closure motion on 21 August 1962 A closure motion on 3 October 1962 Opposition’s dissent from... Read more...

It's my party

In the last few months two sitting senators have announced that they are registering their own political parties (the Jacqui Lambie Network and John Madigan’s Manufacturing and Farming Party). Far from being an act of narcissism, doing this is implicitly encouraged by Australia’s electoral legislation. Read more...

Big changes to Queensland’s electoral laws

On 22 May 2014 the Electoral Reform Amendment Bill 2013 was passed in the Queensland Legislative Assembly, amending the Electoral Act 1992 (Qld). Changes effected by the legislation include: a deep cut to taxpayer funding to political parties for campaign and related purposes increasing the percentage of votes parties or independents must attract to receive public funding  from four per cent to six per cent raising the threshold at which donations must be declared from $1,000 to $12,400 which is more in line with Federal electoral law removing the limit on what can be spent on election campaigning in each electorate the publication on the Electoral Commi... Read more...

U.S. Presidential election results and the changing nature of political communication

Despite predictions of a down-to-the-wire election, the US presidential election on 6 November 2012 provided incumbent President Barack Obama (Dem) with a definitive win both in Electoral College votes and the National Popular Vote. When Associated Press called Florida, the last state to be finalised, for President Obama, it gave him the overwhelming lead of 332 Electoral College votes, well in advance of the 270 votes needed to win and of Governor Romney’s (Rep) 206 votes. A Democrat win was in contention in the lead-up to the election partly due to an electoral redistribution as a result of a national Census in 2010. This changed the Electoral College map, making Virginia, Iowa, Florida, ... Read more...

Disclosing the political dollars: US and Australia

On 1 February 2012, the Australian Electoral Commission released the 2010-11 annual financial disclosure returns from political parties, associated entities, donors and third parties who incur political expenditure. The combined receipts totalled almost $231 million. Not all of this came from donations. The annual returns from donors totalled around $25 million—but only donations above the threshold of $11 500 have to be declared.Clearly, modern party politics involves substantial sums of money. And as the recent Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters (JSCEM) report into the funding of political parties and election campaigns stated, transparency and accountability ‘must remain centra... Read more...

The Australian Greens 2008-2011

The Parliamentary Library has recently published a research paper which examines the electoral fortunes and parliamentary activities of the Australian Greens from 2008 to the end of the first year of the 43rd Commonwealth Parliament in 2011. The paper updates and expands on an earlier paper, The rise of the Australian Greens, published by the Library in 2008. It presents a brief introduction to the structure, ideological underpinnings and policies of the Australian Greens, and includes a brief history of the development of Green politics internationally and in Australia.In the 2010 federal election, the Australian Greens emerged with the balance of power in the Senate and shared balance of p... Read more...

A Handbook for the 43rd Parliament

The Parliamentary Library recently published the 2011 edition of the Parliamentary Handbook. The Handbook is a comprehensive guide to the 43rd Parliament. The biographical section includes details of the parliamentary service and political career of each Senator and Member, as well as some personal particulars. The Handbook also provides statistics on the age, length of service, qualifications and previous occupations of the current Parliament, together with data on the 2010 elections as well as a map of federal electoral divisions. Valuable lists and tables concerning the history of the Australian Parliament are provided, such as lists of Governors-General, Presiding Officers, Prime Ministe... Read more...

Pre-selecting candidates using US-style ‘primaries’

At its recent State Conference the NSW Branch of the ALP decided to trial US-style primaries for preselections. Primaries are candidate preselection processes that tend to involve more people than just, say, party delegates, officials or financial members of parties. The NSW trial process—in five electorates—would give members of the community a 50 per cent say in the selection of the candidates. Similar initiatives had been recommended at national level by the authors of the ALP Review (Steve Bracks, John Faulkner, Bob Carr) following the 2010 federal election. They proposed—in non-Labor held seats or seats where Labor candidates are retiring—preselections which would involve 20 per cent co... Read more...

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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