With only a month of living in Australia under my belt, I am surprised to say that I’ve quickly learned and began caring about Aussie politics and the current social and societal reforms taking place across the country. However, I must admit that I made one major assumption before traveling halfway across the globe: Aussie political issues would differ in most ways when compared to the concerns present throughout the United States.
In many ways, Australia is the most similar country to the U.S. that exists in our world. Both were surveyed and initially visited by multiple European nations; were colonized by the British; had indigenous peoples settled across their respective geographic regions; were exploited thoroughly for their natural resources both in the present and past; and possess roughly the same area in terms of continental square miles. The list can go on and on and span across the sociocultural and even economic boundaries that have formed to define both nations.
Naturally, given the uncanny similarities present throughout the inception, indoctrination and development of both countries, it only makes sense then that Aussie political issues and concerns closely resemble the contemporary topics that are present throughout the United States. Immigration and assimilation into Australia is perhaps the hottest issue throughout the entire country. Although migration into Australia has been one of the country’s defining features since its inception, nowadays, national sentiment has increasingly been linked to questioning just how big a nation Australia should become. An article from ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) titled “High Immigration Masks Australian Economic Decline” discusses how Australian economic growth without recession over the past three decades has been distorted by immigrants. The article describes how the influx of permanent and temporary migrants has fueled headline GDP growth, which has prevented recession but simultaneously distorted housing and labor markets. In a sense, Australian sentiment has shifted towards the notion that their exists a larger economic “pie,” but with increasingly more mouths eating from it.
Another topic of discussion in Australia that similarly has been debated, but settled upon recently in the U.S, is the idea of legalizing same-sex marriage. In fact, within two months, the results of a postal survey distributed to every citizen in Australia over whether or not they believe in same sex marriage will be known. In Sydney, the most LGBT friendly community in Australia, the city is buzzing in favor of a potential outcome that will demonstrate the nation’s support for same-sex marriage. However, as detailed in The Article “The Legal Maze of the Marriage Equality Survey,” from The Pursuit, the outcome of the vote has no legal binding effect. In actuality, it was made clear that instead, it is a statistics-gathering exercise that may or may not influence the government to act on legalizing same sex marriage. Unfortunately, this exercise will cost the taxpayers over AUD$120 million.
Other issues also at the forefront of national debate are discussions on environmental regulation, gender gap equality, university funding, legalization/decriminalization of certain banned substances, and universal basic income. When looking at Australian politics from a macro lens, there really are only a few differences in topics of debate. For example, questions still arise over whether or not the constitution should recognize the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and if Australia should end the monarchy (Elizabeth II is the head of state) and become a republic.
In many ways, the intersection of Australian and American politics is logical, but at the same time I find it incredible how two countries that are so vastly different geographically, are nearly identical politically. It’s evident that Australia and the U.S. share many more commonalities besides the language and colonial history supplied from Great Britain.