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2020, August, 15 publication

Parliament In A Time Of Virus Feature

Is Parliament A ‘Non-Essential Service’?

The emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia saw an unprecedented expansion of the authority of the executive at the expense of the Parliament. In my article in pdfAustralasian Parliamentary Review (vol 32, no 2) I review the executive’s use of emergency powers and the innovation of a national Cabinet to manage the crisis response, while Parliament was reduced to an unrepresentative “rump” and then adjourned for twenty weeks. I argue that this eliminated or substantially compromised Parliament’s ability to perform its principal functions of representation, executive legitimisation, authorisation, deliberation and accountability.

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2020, August, 14 publication

Morrison's Miracle Feature

morrisons miracleHow did Scott Morrison’s campaign managers pull off their miraculous win in the last Federal election? I’m one of 36 political scientists and analysts whose response to that question has just been published by ANU Press.

My chapter looks at campaign communications, especially TV ads, and argues the Liberals were superior at both the strategic and tactical levels. Labor’s vaunted fieldwork (DVC) campaign also lacked impact. The whole book, and individual chapters, can be downloaded.

Download: Morrison's Miracle


2020, May, 5 publication

Election Debates

Do they have a future in Australian election campaigns?

Leaders debates have been a feature of every federal election campaign since 1990. But whether they will continue to occupy a privileged position in the Australian electoral landscape is unclear. With my colleague Professor Rodney Smith, I reviewed the Australian debate experience as part of an international study of the debate phenomenon, published by Routledge. We argue that, debates will only occur in the Australian context when, in each election contest, participation suits the strategic calculation of an impermanent cast of leaders and campaign officials within each of the two major parties and, further, when a broadcast partner is attracted by the debates’ news value or commercial ratings. This might not be a formula for a sustainable future.

2020, March, 1 review

The Parthenon Marbles: London or Athens?

Just to get away from election campaigns for a minute (but definitely sticking with thems of democratic governance), I finally decided that the British Museum should hand back its ill-gotten Parthenon marbles. It is unlikely, but it should take place as part of a wider reckoning of imperial plunder held in Western museums – including in Australian. My review of the book by celebrity barrister Geoffrey Robertson appeared in Inside Story.

2019, August, 19 publication

Early Voting

Scourge or boon?

In many elections these days, it’s not uncommon for more than a third of voters to cast their votes before election day. But there’s a trade-off for this increased convenience: political parties and candidate struggle to get their message out. I was a co-researcher in a big study of early voting in Australia, published in late 2018 by the Electoral Regulations Research Network. Since then, with my colleague Martin Drum, we’ve published two updates of our findings in The Conversation. We argue that a three week period of pre-polling had serious implications for the conduct of democratic elections.

Stephen Mills