A guide to the Australian election for non-Australians

This is great — money manager John Hempton concisely explains how Australian politics works:

I have already been asked by email what the Australian election result means and what will result from it. At this point I do not know – and frankly nor does anybody else. However I hope – and removing my politics from this – to give a quick handbook for someone with almost no knowledge of Australian politics. So please forgive me starting very basic.

What you need to form government

Australian politics is based on a “Westminister system”. That is – like the UK – to become a national leader you first need to elected a local representative in the “house”. This representation is in single-member seats. To become the national leader (the Prime Minister) you need to control the votes of a majority of the members of the House. Normally this happens through tight “party affiliation”. When you elect a member you know which party they belong to – and so you are really voting – indirectly and by convention – for a Prime Minister.

There are 150 members of the house – so 75 members for both sides would be a tie. You need 76 members under tight control to form a majority government.

A short summary of the political parties

I need this to explain roughly where the political parties sit.

(…) Mostly to the left of the Labor party is the Greens. The Greens are hard-line on environmental issues (mostly), mostly very left-wing on straight economic issues and mostly extremely liberal on social issues. The Green policy summary for this election are (a) not just have an emission trading scheme for carbon but tax the polluters into the bargain, (b) make the miners pay the full-undiscounted original mining tax, and (c) legalize gay marriage.

The classic dividing line between the Greens and the Labor party is logging of high conservation value forests. The Greens are hard-line opposed. The Labor party is (mostly) inclined to take the position of the (unionized) forestry workers. They can irregularly (say once per 20 years) take a power-pragmatic position to align with the Greens in exchange for Green preferences in urban areas.

If you are mostly economically conservative, mostly socially liberal and fairly hard line on environmental issues there is simply no single party to belong to or vote for in that you will disagree with their positioning on something.

Read more » from there John profiles the three conservative independents and the Green to assess how they might toss their lot with the Coalition.