Where are Australian political parties headed?


Associate Professor Anika Gauja

This is a review of a lecture given by Anika as part of the Australian Senate Occasional Lecture Series on 30 September 2016 at 12.15pm in the Main Committee Room at Parliament House, Canberra


Anika’s research interests broadly centre on the comparative analysis of political institutions in modern representative democracies. Her work to date has looked at the operation of political parties and parliaments, assessing the continuing relevance of these institutions as mechanisms for citizen participation in politics and their ability to represent diverse and conflicting interests. She is particularly interested in how political parties adapt to organizational and social change…. She is currently undertaking research projects on party legitimacy and the dynamics of organizational change, the meaning of contemporary party membership, ‘third parties’ as electoral actors, candidate selection and on the partisan use of state resources (ref. Anika’s handout).

Anika spoke to a packed audience (including a clutch of Vintage Reds), virtually without drawing a breath, for a solid hour.  Of course Jeremy Corbyn provides fertile ground for discussion of future directions of the ALP with its move to membership vote for parliamentary leader. However, as often is the case this talk raised more questions than provided answers e.g. what is to be done with a parliamentary party out of step with its membership?;  how is membership to be constructed and with what rights?; supporters?; who devises and controls policy? etc. etc.etc.

Then there’s the questions of unweildiness and even of the superfluousness of parliaments with the development of interactive internet forums.   Participatory democracy gone mad or not – what do you think?