Sunday, July 25, 2010

Australian Politics explained for American readers (Part II)

Following up on my earlier installment, I have put another two or three minutes of exhaustive research into this subject in order to round out the course of instruction.

Although Australia is a parliamentary democracy, the Prime Minister is only the head of government; the head of state is the British monarch (currently Elizabeth the Second, who was named after a famous cruise ship). This arrangement stems from Australia's membership in the "British Commonwealth", an organization of independent countries that were formerly British colonies ("commonwealth" is a term that refers to the tendency of those countries to treat private wealth as if it were the property of the state).

The issue of monarchy has generated controversy in recent years, as there are those who have argued that the Governor-General – the Queen’s representative – is actually the head of state. This matter is yet to be fully resolved; however, it is anticipated that the Queen and the Governor-General will eventually settle the argument through the legal procedure known as “trial by combat”, a sort of duel in which two combatants would traditionally don armor and wallop each other with swords or maces until they ultimately wound up looking like a couple of aluminum garbage cans that had been handled for six months by unionized trash haulers. Over time, trial by combat has been substantially watered down, so that in this instance it will most likely feature a cucumber-sandwich-eating contest.

There is a movement in Australia to do away with the constitutional monarchy, led by Republicans; however, like their American counterparts, they are largely marginalized and ineffectual. Nonetheless, it has been noted that every time Queen Elizabeth gets a head cold, the fortunes of the Republicans begin to look up (this is known as the "Prince Charles" phenomenon).

There is also a “Green Party" which is best known for using insulation to burn down private residences. Contrary to the party’s hopes, this policy has not led to increased support for its platform.

An interesting sidebar to a discussion of the Australian political system is the country's efforts to lead the way in developing an official information technology program; Australia even operates a blog known as Tim Blair (this is probably either some kind of acronym, or perhaps the name of a well-known figure in Australian history; unfortunately I don’t have time right now to look it up).


JeffS said...

A cucumber-sandwich-eating contest? Can cucumbers even grow in Australia, it being desert and all? Besides I thought "beet root" was the national veggie Down Under (not to be confused with "Vegemite", which appears to be a petroleum extract mislabeled as being safe for human consumption.

I suppose they could import cucumbers, if the Governor-General and the Prime Minister insisted. But that sounds most anti-Australian to me.

And this "Tim Blair" -- I recall reading that he's President of Australia. Or that he was once nominated for the title during a pub crawl one night.

TW: hystoret. Indeed, Paco, this series of posts on Australian politics is historic.

RebeccaH said...

Thanks for these edifying clarifications, Paco. I think I've got a handle on Australian politics now (not all that different from ours, really, when you get right down to brass tacks).

Now if you could only explain that peculiar game they play... let me think... the one named after some kind of insect.

wv: purgickn - An Australianism, I believe, for some kind of political battle.

JorgXMcKie said...

Now, could you explain American politics?


RebeccaH said...

JorgX, there is no explanation for American politics. Even we don't understand it.

Paco said...

Rebecca's right. Just try to picture a zoo run on the honor system.

Old Sailor Man said...

Pretty close, Paco. You did leave out the important fact of the G-Gs power. He/she can legally dismiss the Prime Minister.

Just like the labor party can.

Old Sailor Man said...

RebeccaH.... the insect game is "cricket" (not cockroach) and can best be described, at least in its' traditional form, as a civilised antecedent of baseball.

Paco said...

I always thought cricket was a combination of baseball and sleep.

Paco said...

Or maybe it's baseball that's a combination of baseball and sleep (There! Beat you all to it!)

bruce said...

In Australia, the Republicans are what you in USA call 'liberals' while the Liberals are an alliance of conservatives and libertarians.

Or as Seinfeld would say, 'It's bizarro world!'

Yojimbo said...

I thought that was "so-called Blair.":)

I dunno about that honor system thing. Hopefully the Tea Party movement can restore some of that. If not we might have to bring back the wood chipper for both parties, speaking of Blairistan.:)

Bloomberg was saying tonight that Labour had a four point lead on the Liberal Party but that was down from seven.

bruce said...

Cricket is Croquet speeded-up.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps some of our American friends can help here. We spell differently (and more correctly) than you people. For example:- valour, colour, clamour,labour. You leave out the "u".
But the laughably named major party of the left is the Labor Party. Any thoughts?

bingbing said...

I wondered who you'd been talking to. Not surprised it turned out most likely to be Australia's analogue of HAL9000.

That par about the Greens is a bit hopeful but.

Despite Australia voting for a government that has wasted more money than any other in history, yet almost paradoxically being the same government that dumped on who was for a while one of the most popular PMs ever, the average voter has apparently concluded that a double dose of moronity is warranted.

The Greens have had a pretty good run lately, and are probably releasing their second chakras like never before as a result.

With most Greens' supporters being doctor's wives (though thankfully not Mrs Dminor), it gives a whole new very icky meaning to Oz having egg on its collective face should the Greens actually manage to get the balance of power in the Senate again.

Australia, despite being the most remote decent place on the planet, never got the Concorde thanks to the Greenies.

Bob Belvedere said...

Quoted from and Linked to at:
Australia, Australia, Australia, We Love You - Amen!

Steve Skubinna said...

I almost figured out cricket one afternoon in 1982, watching a game at the Singapore Cricket Club.

A few years later, I made the mistake of asking an Aussie to explain the game to me. When he was done, I knew less than before.

Paco said...

Steve: I ran into a somewhat similar problem years ago when I was trying to explain baseball to an Austrian.

"But, he hit ze ball. Vy is dat a shtrike?"

"Because it was a foul ball."


"A foul ball. The batter hit it, but it was outside of the baseline. So, now he has two strikes; one more and he's out."

Next pitch is hit foul

"Ach, zo he iss out now, ja?"

"Well, er, no."

"But he hit a foul ball!"

"Yes, but, ahm, if he already has two strikes, the next foul ball doesn't count as a strike."

"Isn't dere a soccer game on TV?"