The Law of Politics: Elections, Parties and Money in Australia (Paperback) book cover

The Law of Politics

Elections, Parties and Money in Australia

By Graeme Orr

© 2010 – Federation Press

320 pages

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This book is the first dedicated monograph on the law on democratic politics in Australia. It synthesises the law on elections, with a central focus on political parties, parliamentary elections and referenda at Federal and State levels.

It unearths the rules that apply to elections and referenda, campaigning and political broadcasting, and political parties and money. It explains them in their political context and, while it draws on some local government case law, its focus is parliamentary politics. The longest chapter of the book is devoted to the role of courts in overseeing elections, particularly the jurisdiction of petitioning or challenging election outcomes.

Orr uses all five sources of electoral law, its development, expression and interpretation, in Australia: constitutions; courts and tribunals; legislation; parliamentary committees; and electoral commissions. He documents the extraordinary detail of the legislation (there has to be a pencil in each electoral booth!) and the array of obscure cases the law has given rise to.

Supported under a grant from The Law Foundation of South Australia.


At the heart of any democratic system lie the rules of engagement, the laws that define the who, how, where and when of elections. The law can also strengthen democracy by empowering the weak and circumscribing the powerful. From the basics of elections to the unresolved problems of regulating parties and money, this book sets out the legal framework of politics in Australia. For a country with a long and proud history of open democracy and electoral experimentation, the only surprise is that until now Australia has not had a basic text on the law of politics.

Antony Green, Election Analyst, Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Graeme Orr's new treatise on Australian electoral law is most welcome and it is likely to be the indispensable reference for decades to come. But it is far more than a reference. Wisdom, common sense, and wit are present on almost every page, together with Orr's acute analysis and encyclopaedic knowledge of the sources. I had high expectations and Orr exceeded them.

Daniel H Lowenstein, Emeritus Professor UCLA Law School

Comprehensive, insightful and clear, this is undoubtedly the best book yet written on the law of politics in Australia. Not surprisingly, it comes from the nation's leading authority on electoral law.

Professor George Williams, University of New South Wales

Table of Contents

Foreword by Professor Colin Hughes 1.Defining the Law of Politics: Values, Games and Rituals 2. Mapping Parliaments and Weighting Votes 3. The Franchise 4. Enrolment and the Roll 5. Initiating an Election 6. Political Party Regulation 7. Campaigning 8. Political Broadcasting 9. How We Vote 10. Judging Elections: The Role of the Courts in Electoral Practice 11. Political Money 12. Referenda and Direct Democracy

About the Author

Graeme Orr is an Associate Professor of Law at the University of Queensland. He specialises in the law of electoral politics, including as a regular media commentator, contributor to government inquiries and as a consultant and pro bono adviser (eg in the One Nation deregistration case). He has published several dozen articles and chapters in the field and is a board member of the international Election Law Journal. Graeme's PhD examined electoral bribery.

Graeme has taught the Law of Politics and Political Institutions at both Griffith and Queensland Universities, and has taught electoral law to Australian and New Zealand parliamentary clerks. He also researches and teaches labour law, and is a columnist in that field for the Australian Journal of Administrative Law and a board member of the Australian Journal of Labour Law.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LAW / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Criminology