Political Parties and the Australian Party System

Alan Fenna, Rob Manwaring

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Political parties are the central political actors in Australian democracy. While the political system emerged before political parties really took shape, modern democracy without political parties is inconceivable. Despite being held in low esteem, parties are the crucial link between citizens and government, expected to translate what the public want (their ‘preferences’) into political decisions. They ‘are the central intermediate and intermediary structure between society and government’ (Sartori 1976: ix). The chief way in which they do this is to provide a set of ideological and policy alternatives for voters to choose. The Australian political system is dominated by two main parties, the Australian Labor Party (ALP)on the centre–left, and the Australian Liberal Party, on the centre–right of the political spectrum as discussed in Chapter 6. ‘Third’ or ‘minor’ parties also play an important role, most notably the Nationals and the Greens, as discussed in Chapter 10.
This chapter focuses on the following key themes.
• The importance and role of political parties in a liberal democracy.
• The history of political parties in Australia.
• The different ‘types’ of parties.
• The concept of the ‘party system’.
• The degree to which economic and social changes have eroded the traditional left–right structure of the party system.
• The regulation of political parties.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAustralian Government and Politics
EditorsAlan Fenna, Rob Manwaring
Place of PublicationMelbourne, VIC
Number of pages19
ISBN (Print)9780655700746
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Political Parties
  • Australian Party System
  • Australian democracy
  • political system
  • modern democracy


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