AQ: Australian Quarterly

FROM THE ARCHIVE Party spirit in politics

When William III [of England] determined to select his ministers from the dominant party in the House of Commons [in 1698], he created a distinction for future generations between politics and statecraft and between the politician and the statesman.


Wherever there is politics there will be political parties, just as whenever there is debate we find ourselves drawn to taking sides. We are, and always will be, a tribal species. The formation of parties is a necessary (and inevitable) evil – a shorthand for the broad aspirations of a community – but it is important to remember that they are in no way fundamental to the formation of government.

The existence of the Liberal and Labor parties are not enshrined anywhere. They could (and arguably should) wane and disappear as they fail to keep up with the will of the electorate – the cyclical renewal of a healthy democracy.

Despite the ‘major’ parties bleeding primary votes for yet another election, Australia is caught in a narrative of good and evil, ying and yang, Lib and Lab. Yet constantly framing Australia’s system in 2-party-preferred terms only perpetuates a myth that harms our nation’s health.

The very concept of parties contradicts the essence of representational democracy, in which constituents are meant to vote for the person

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