Saturday, September 7, 2013

Politics Factlets: Australia

Today is Election Day in Oz with the likelihood of a change in government.

Here are some factlets about Australian politics and government.


The Tree of Knowledge, Barcaldine, 1997

The Australian Labor Party (ALP) is descended from Labour parties, parties in various countries that were mostly social democrats or democratic socialists, traditionally allied to the labour movement and trade unions. The ALP was founded in the 1890’s in the Australian colonial parliaments prior to federation. The founding of Queensland Labour, and thereby the ALP, originated with a meeting of striking pastoral workers under a ghost gum tree, the “Tree of Knowledge”, in Barcaldine, Queensland in 1891. The Balmain,New South Wales, branch of the party claims to be the oldest in Australia. The tree was poisoned in 2006 and the ALP offered $10,000 reward for information as to the culprits. The tree has been successfully cloned and young Trees of Knowledge are growing Barcaldine. The preserved trunk of the original tree remains in Barcaldine and is pictured below.

The preserved stump of the tree today.

The ALP pre-dates both the British Labour Party (1900) and New Zealand Labour Party (1916) in party formation, government, and policy implementation. The name was changed from Labour to Labor in 1912 due to the influence of the American labor movement, a prominent figure in Labor politics being the American King O’Malley. That’s from the ALP website. It also made it easier to distinguish the name of the party from the labour movement in general. There is no truth in the suggestions that that all the “u’s” had been grabbed first by the union movement (TWU, AWU etc), or that there is no place or caring for you in Australian Labor.


The Liberal Party was founded by Robert Menzies in 1945 by an alliance of various free enterprise parties. Menzies claimed that it represented 'the forgotten people': office workers, shopkeepers and small business owners who supported themselves and their families and did not look to governments for assistance. 

Menzies had become Prime Minister in 1939 as the leader of the United Australia Party but led a minority government when the leader of the Country Party, Earl Page, refused to support him. By 1941 he had lost so much support within the UAP that he was forced to resign office. 

Having formed the Liberal party in 1945, he won office in 1949 and thereafter kept his bottom on the Prime Minister’s chair for a record 16 years, from 1949 to 1966, becoming Oz’s longest serving PM. Noted for his quick mind and ability to deal with hecklers, while he was speaking in Williamstown, Victoria, in 1954, a heckler shouted, "I wouldn’t vote for you if you were the Archangel Gabriel." Menzies replied "If I were the Archangel Gabriel, I’m afraid you wouldn't be in my constituency."

The Liberal Party today is regarded as conservative, right of centre with a platform of economic liberalism and social conservatism.


In 1932, Francis De Groot, a retired cavalry officer, managed to get himself selected as part of the honour guard at the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. When the ribbon was about to be cut, he galloped forward on his horse and slashed the ribbon with his sword, declaring the bridge open in the name of 'the decent citizens of New South Wales'. The ribbon was then tied back together and the ceremony continued. De Groot was carried off to a mental hospital, declared insane and later fined for the replacement cost of one ribbon.


Australia was the second country to give women the vote.

South Australia gave the vote to women in 1895; New Zealand did so in 1893,


The secret ballot was first used in Victoria and South Australia following the granting of responsible government. Other states introduced secret ballots as follows: 1856 - Victoria & South Australia 1858 - New South Wales & Tasmania 1859 - Queensland 1893 - Western Australia. The secret ballot was referred to as 'kangaroo voting'. Worldwide, secret voting is often referred to as the 'Australian ballot.


In 1954, Bob Hawke was immortalised by the Guinness Book of Records for sculling 2.5 pints of beer in 11 seconds. Bob later became the Prime Minister of Australia.

Bob Hawke, himself to become PM, Shows PM Whitlam how it's done.  Hawke's record was set with a jug, not a Yard of Ale, thereby avoiding the killer splashback.


Prime Minister Harold Holt went for a swim at Cheviot Beach, near Portsea on 17th December 1967, and was never seen again. The event has been referred to as 'the swim that needed no towel'.


The Australian Coat Of Arms has a kangaroo and an emu on it. The reason being, kangaroos and emus can’t go backwards, they can only walk/hop forward.

(I have read elsewhere that that is an urban myth but the website of DFAT, the Australian Government Depart of Foreign Affairs and Trade, states: “ It is thought the kangaroo and emu were chosen to symbolise a nation moving forward, reflecting a common belief that neither animal can move backwards easily.”)


Oops, wrong One Nation graphic

Australia is the only continent on Earth occupied by one nation.


The last convicts were transported to Western Australia in 1868. 

(Before anyone takes me to task and says that the pic above is outside Hyde park barracks in Sydney, let me say that I have deliberately used that pic to recommend an exhibition on there to 31.12.2016 of convict life and times. The Barracks were used to house Sydney's convicts and the exhibition is well worth a visit).

1 comment:

  1. The maps comparisons that represented here are not accurate.
    With a little help of google maps I have made 2 images of an exact size comparison of the continents which they can be viewed here:


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