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On many criteria, Australia has been a pioneering democracy. As one of the oldest continuing democracies, however, a health check has long been overdue. Since 2002 the Democratic Audit of Australia, a major democracy assessment project, has been applying an internationally tested set of indicators to Australian political institutions and practices. The indicators derive from four basic principles - political equality, popular control of government, civil liberties and human rights and the quality of public deliberation. Comparative data are taken from Australia's nine jurisdictions, as well as from three comparator democracies, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, to identify strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for reform. Some of the findings are disturbing. For example, Australia has fallen well behind in the regulation of private money in elections and in controlling the use of government or parliamentary resources for partisan benefit. Transparency and accountability have suffered from relatively weak FOI regimes and from executive dominance of parliaments. For those studying democracy or wanting to reform Australian politics, The State of Democracy provides a wealth of evidence in a well-illustrated and highly accessible format. Internationally, it is an important contribution to thedemocracy assessment literature and pushes into new areas such as the intergovernmental decision-making of federalism.... of their population born in non-English speaking countries and in Western Sydney there are four electorates with over 50 per ... An area where Australians from non-English-speaking backgrounds have made greater inroads is as elected officials in ... While the Labor Party was once a conduit for members of the manual working class to enter parliament, today most ... federal parliament after the 2004 election, 78 per cent had post-secondary qualifications, including 66 law degrees.

Author:Marian Sawer, Norman Abjorensen, Philip Larkin
Publisher:Federation Press - 2009-01-01


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