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Right or Duty? Compulsory Voting in Australia

When

In a democracy, should voting be a citizen’s right or a citizen’s duty?

Australia is one of a small number of countries – including Argentina and Egypt – with mandatory voting. Australia is rare, within this small group of nations, in imposing penalties on citizens who fail to turn up to vote. Compulsory voting has been in place here since 1924 and it sets us apart from other advanced democracies. Less than 60% of the US voting-age population cast ballots in the 2016 presidential election.

For this conversation, we’ll bring together citizenship law expert Kim Rubenstein and the eminent historian Judith Brett, author of From Secret Ballot to Democracy Sausage: How Australia Got Compulsory Voting. They’ll trace the history of our voting system and examine how it’s shaped the tenor of our debates and our sense of ourselves and our representatives. With Sally Warhaft, they’ll discuss donkey votes, ballot boxes, barbeques and the wide-ranging implications of compulsory participation.

Featuring

Sally Warhaft

Sally Warhaft is a Melbourne broadcaster, anthropologist and writer. She is the host of The Fifth Estate, the Wheeler Centre’s live series focusing on journalism, politics, media, and international relations, and The Leap Year, a Wheeler Centre podcast about Australians’ lives in the fog of ... Read more

Judith Brett

Judith Brett is emeritus professor of politics at La Trobe University. A former editor of Meanjin and columnist for the Age, she won the National Biography Award in 2018 for The Enigmatic Mr Deakin. She is the author of four Quarterly Essays: Relaxed and Comfortable, Exit Right, Fair Share ... Read more

Kim Rubenstein

Kim Rubenstein is a Professor in the Law School, a former Director of its Centre for International and Public law (2006-2015) and a Public Policy fellow at the Australian National University. A graduate of Melbourne and Harvard law schools, her many publications include her landmark book Australi... Read more

Location

The Wheeler Centre

176 Little Lonsdale Street Melbourne Victoria 3000

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The Wheeler Centre acknowledges the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation as the traditional owners of the land on which we work. We pay our respect to the people of the Kulin Nation and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders, past and present.