Comparative Politics: Australia and New Zealand

NZThis bibliographic essay by Marian Sawer, Kirsty McLaren and Norm Kelly for Oxford Bibliographies has now been updated by Marian and republished June 2018. Australia and New Zealand are good candidates for comparative study, having more in common than the Union Jack and Southern Cross. Journals that have provided a natural home for such comparative studies include the UK-based Commonwealth & Comparative Politics and the Australian Journal of Political Science, but not, surprisingly the New Zealand journal Political Science.

Early comparative studies included foundational works at the beginning of the 20th century on the introduction of non-contributory old-age pensions and legally enforceable industrial awards, as well as women’s suffrage. Such innovations, initially seen as evidence of Australasian exceptionalism or socialism without doctrine, were later viewed through the conceptual lens of policy transfer.

The adoption of policy innovations already tested somewhere with institutional and cultural similarities helps take the risk out of policymaking. Progressive income tax and land tax was another area where policy diffusion took place between the colonies, while more recently there was a notable failure of policy transfer when comprehensive no-fault accident insurance failed to cross the Tasman in the 1970s.

Other topics covered in the comparative literature include the moves away from Britishness towards multiculturism/ biculturalism in both countries and increasing differences in political architecture despite shared Westminster legacies. Shifts away from the shared and distinctive model of compulsory arbitration have also taken different forms. New topics include the loss of social and political rights by New Zealand citizens resident in Australia, despite the freedom of movement between the two countries. The gendered media treatment of Prime Ministers in the two countries has also been compared (it’s better to be a woman PM in New Zealand).

Themes covered in the bibliographic essay include:

Foundational works (Métin, Pember Reeves, Bryce and Castles)

Politics, Institutions and Identities (including trends to multiparty governance)

Labour movement and trade union politics (shift from national to transnational narratives)

Women, Politics and Representation (impact of electoral systems on representation)

Electoral behaviour (decline of class voting, the rise of populism)

Electoral systems (impact on behaviour of MPs and politics of electoral reform)

Comparative public policy (convergence and divergence, globalisation)

Sectoral studies (including health, immigration and refugee policy)

Public sector management (institutional transfer of new public management)

Women’s policy (comparison women’s policy machinery, effects of federalism)

Environmental policy and politics (the greening of politics and policy responses)

Policy transfer (including tobacco control and tax)

Indigenous affairs (settler societies, policy similarities and differences)

Trans-Tasman relations (including ANZUS, economic policy, trans-Tasman migration)