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Type: Thesis
Title: Cross-Party Collaboration in the Australian Federal Parliament: Testing the Limits of Institutional Constraints and Enabling Factors
Author: Lausberg, Adele Klara
Issue Date: 2018
School/Discipline: School of Social Sciences : Politics & International Studies
Abstract: This thesis identifies and explores the use of cross-party collaboration (CPC) in Australian politics. It investigates why politicians collaborate across party lines in the Australian Parliament and how this relates to political representation. Although there are some earlier examples, CPC rose to prominence when it was used to achieve legislative change in 2006 by four women Senators. These women employed CPC to circumvent institutional norms by presenting a co-sponsored bill concerning the medical abortion drug RU486. Their success contributed to an acceleration of CPC. This thesis finds that both women and men have become more likely to adopt the previously rare practice of CPC since 2006. The occurrence of CPC is stimulated by enabling factors which include: electoral shifts; a shared cosmopolitan outlook that compels actors to disregard localised party policies in favour of a higher universal law; and desire for community leadership. For women using CPC to represent women, there are some differences in the enabling factors: critical actors and a critical mass of women; minor parties; and parliamentary groups/committee minority reports. CPC has occurred despite the existence of institutional constraints which deter politicians from seeking collaboration across party lines. These constraints include: strict party discipline; party leadership style; and limitations in the norms, practices, and structure of parliament. The phenomenon of CPC has not been holistically analysed in Australian political science, and this thesis offers in-depth analysis of the topic. It combines critical constructivist and New Institutionalist theories to understand the broader implications of CPC by unveiling power dynamics and questioning institutional norms. The methods used include analysis of Hansard, media reports, and political-party documents, complemented by original interviews with politicians and participant observation in parliament. The investigation focuses on six case studies involving socio-moral issues that in many respects transcend left-right party-political cleavages: RU486; pregnancy counselling; same-sex marriage; asylum seekers; banning cosmetic testing on animals; and gene patents. While this thesis explores CPC generally, including examples from before 2005, there is a close focus on women’s use as they have participated more than men. As women intensively used CPC in 2005 and 2006 this thesis examines gendered practices in parliament that help explain why they adopted the practice. It also explores whether this constitutes a substantive representation of women. Other actors with less power, including backbenchers of major parties, minor party members, and independents, noted women’s success in 2006 and after became increasingly likely to use CPC for their policy interests. While the success of CPC has been limited, politicians with the requisite political will continue to pursue collaboration across party lines to achieve their policy aims. This thesis identifies CPC as a form of representation which provides a means of opening debate over hitherto ignored and/or contested issues in the political realm. It allows a wider variety of views to be represented by offering an alternative way to agitate for policy change. As parliament has become more volatile through close or hung numbers, CPC is increasingly recognised by politicians as a useful strategy to represent issues.
Advisor: Hill, Lisa
Johnson, Carol
Dissertation Note: Thesis (Ph.D.) -- University of Adelaide, School of Social Sciences, 2019
Keywords: Politics
Provenance: This electronic version is made publicly available by the University of Adelaide in accordance with its open access policy for student theses. Copyright in this thesis remains with the author. This thesis may incorporate third party material which has been used by the author pursuant to Fair Dealing exceptions. If you are the owner of any included third party copyright material you wish to be removed from this electronic version, please complete the take down form located at:
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