Contemporary australian political party organisations book launch


This book we are here to launch today was edited by my very good friends Narelle Miragliotta, Anika Gauja and rodney Smith.

With 17 chapters this book will change your worldview on cappo-9781922235824-cover-printwhy parties still very much matter in Australian politics (and at 17 chapters is not dissimilar to a very fine and shareable buzzfeed style listicle).

But despite being fundamental to how we do democratic, representative politics, parties rarely get a very good rap in the general public deflate and political imagination.
For example when I looked up famous quotes about political parties on the internet this morning I found:

First, a view that is old but still aptly describes how people think and feel about politics today:

“There is no act of treachery or meanness of which a political party is not capable; for in politics there is no honour.”

Benjamin Disraeli

And second, from a very learned fellow who contrasts what participation means with joining a party:

“But, you know, I’m sorry, I think democracy requires participation. I mean, I don’t want to proselytize but I do feel some sort of duty to participate in the process in some way other than just blindly getting behind a political party.”

This is from GenerationX hero John Cusack: (gross pointe blank and High Fidelity being high points and, after a distinct career slump, this years movie Love and Mercy where he plays the older Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys – 4.5 stars from me).

And a third quote particularly applies to Australian politics:

“The Australian public are very fair and they are always prepared to give the leader of a major political party a fair go.”

Tony Abbott

But back to the book. There are surprisingly few books in auspol history that really study the Australian party system. We have the 1983 classic by Dean Jaensch’s Power Politics: the Australian party system and then Ian marsh’s edited collection of 10 years ago,  Parties in Transition?

This book will quickly become the definitive reference point. It starts off arguing

“political parties are a central element of the Australian political system. They dominate the main arenas of political life from the selection of candidates for public office, to electoral contests and ultimately control of parliaments and government formation. Parties bring order to complex political process, while also challenging the norms of those systems that their presence is intended to tame”.

This quote is important – we can have no order or democracy without parties in Australian political life. But parties are far from static, nor are the systems they reside within. Scholars need to constantly problematise and redefine this tension between parties and systems. They also – as the authors do here – need to place dynamism and change within a broad comparative context.

This book features distinct 17 chapters on all major parties, on internal party processes, on external processes in political institutions, on party relationships with the media and interest groups, and also the changing nature of election campaigns and public opinion.

But the book also heralds an important moment, in Australian political science, of generational change – it is edited by a genY, a GenX and a youngish boomer – with many chapters by younger scholars and not the ’usual suspects’ (well except the nod to dean jeansch in chapter 15). We know that the study of Australian politics is flourishing, and in safe hands.

No matter what Tony Abbott may now actually be thinking about the ’fair go’ in party politics.

Ariadne Vromen is a Professor at the University of Sydney 

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