This website will be progressively updated as the final outcome of the election of 2 July is known, and as the 45th Parliament meets.

Learning

Party system

Closer Look – Parliament and Congress [PDF 1.59Mb, 16 pages]

Political parties exist to represent the interests of different groups and individuals in society; their ultimate goal is to have members elected to represent these interests. Each party has a unique structure and culture reflecting its distinct history and value system. 

Although the political systems in Australia and the US are dominated by two major parties, Australia's Parliament contains a greater representation of minor parties and Independents. The reasons for this are complex, but the enormous cost associated with mounting a political campaign in the US is often cited as a major reason for the under-representation of minor parties and Independents in Congress.

The following table provides an overview of the distinguishing features of both nations' party systems:

The party system
AustraliaUnited States

Major parties

  • The two major parties are the Liberal Party of Australia and the Australian Labor Party (ALP).
  • Other parties include the Nationals, the Australian Greens, the Country Liberal Party, Katter's Australia Party the Palmer United Party, the Liberal Democratic Party, the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party and the Family First Party.

Major parties

  • The two major parties are the Republican Party and the Democratic Party.
  • Although other parties exist, they are rarely elected.
  • A political party may win the presidency without controlling Congress.

Party discipline

  • Party discipline is very strong and party members are expected to vote with their party.
  • The ALP is the only party that has formal party rules to discourage its members voting against the party, or 'crossing the floor'.

Party discipline

  • Party members decide on an individual basis how they will vote.
  • Party discipline is not imposed, yet party unity in voting is strong.

Independents

  • Both houses may contain independent members of parliament.

Independents

  • Independents have occasionally been elected; however, they often become associated with one of the two major parties.
Similarities

In both systems:

  • two major parties dominate the legislature
  • Independents constitute minor membership of the legislature
  • the status of Independents is greatly enhanced if they have the 'balance of power' (the ability to affect a majority vote if the numbers are even) in either house.