Political parties have become an essential part of Australia's parliamentary democracy and Australian governments tend to work from a ‘party system’. This means that the party or the coalition of parties with the largest number of elected members in parliament usually forms the government of the day.
Political parties are formed by groups of people with common interests and outlook, who come together with the aim of either forming government or strengthening their influence on government. Each party creates policies to achieve its aims and then presents candidates for election to parliament.
If a party's policies are attractive to enough voters they will achieve a majority of members in parliament and form government, where they can then put their ideas and policies into action.
The party with the second largest number of members usually forms the official ‘Opposition’. Parties with only a few seats in parliament are referred to as ‘minor parties’. Individual citizens who are not members of a party may also be elected to parliament. They become known as ‘independents’.
When neither major party holds a majority of seats in parliament (known as a hung parliament), the minor parties and independents can have a strong influence on which party forms government (by lending support to a particular party) and in how it governs.
Parties vary in size and in the ways they organise themselves, as well as in their policies. Some operate both nationally and in each of the States, while others operate only at a state level. As society and issues change, so do the parties. They may change their policies, their support base, their organisation and, sometimes, their name. Some parties have a very short lifespan, while others are able to maintain themselves as long-term players on the political stage.
Political parties in Australia
Australian Labor Party
Country Liberal Party
Democratic Labor Party
Katter's Australian Party
Liberal National Party
Other Parties and Independents
Political parties need to be registered with the relevant State or federal Electoral Commission before their name can appear on ballot papers.
The current list of registered political parties is available from the Australian Electoral Commission.