WHY IS VOTING COMPULSORY?
Australia’s political system is unusual in that voting is compulsory. Voter turnout is still high despite the fine for not voting a token 20 Australian dollars ($14).
Compulsory voting was introduced in 1924 because public apathy toward elections during the first two decades of federation cast doubt on the legitimacy of the results.
The system means voter turnout is high even when many are not particularly attracted to a candidate.
There are 17.2million people registered to vote in Saturday’s election, or 97% of eligible adult citizens among Australia’s total population of 26million. In the last elections of 2019, 92% of registered voters voted.
Because voting is compulsory, the Australian Electoral Commission goes to great lengths and expense to make the process convenient with more than 7,000 voting centers across the country.
The commission expects this election to cost 400 million Australian dollars ($281 million), plus approximately 70 million Australian dollars ($49 million) which will be distributed to political parties based on the number of votes that they attract. A temporary team of 105,000 employees has been hired.
Government regulations were changed on Friday to allow people who recently tested positive for COVID-19 to vote by phone.
Over 40% of votes were cast in advance or by post in the 2019 election and the proportion is on track to exceed 48% in the 2022 election due to the pandemic.
Early voting began on May 9 and the commission will continue to collect postal votes until 13 days after Election Day.
WHAT ARE THE ELECTION ISSUES?
The Australian Parliament is a mixture of the British and American models.
The British model could not be fully replicated as Australia lacked the aristocracy to populate an antipodal House of Lords.
Australians vote for all 151 seats in the House of Representatives and 40 of the 76 seats in the Senate.
A majority of seats in the House of Representatives is required to form a government.
The government held a minimum majority of 76 seats in the last legislature. The centre-left opposition Labor Party held 68 seats and seven were held by non-aligned lawmakers.
Governments rarely hold a majority in the Senate due to its higher proportion of fringe parties and independents.
The government had 35 senators in the last Parliament, the Labor party had 26 and the others were not aligned.