Create political parties

Investigate how the party system operates in Australia, and how government is formed in Parliament with this classroom activity. Explore the concepts of parliamentary majority, hung parliament, minority government and the balance of power in the Senate.

Students
Year 5 to 12
Duration
1 to 2 lessons
Related Resource
Run an election campaign

Activity

Forming political parties

  1. Divide your class into 3 to 5 groups of different sizes. Put one third of the students into one group which will be the government party then divide the others into smaller groups who will be the opposition and smaller parties. If you wish you can leave one or two students to work alone as independents. Tell the class that they are going to form their own political party.
  2. Give each group 10 minutes to decide who their party is and what their party platform should be. Ensure that the government party has a platform and policies which would be acceptable to a majority of Australians. Ask each group to address these questions:
    • What is your party's full name?
    • Who is your party leader? (Ask each party to choose a leader)
    • What are your party's main beliefs? (party platform)
    • What are three policies—plans of action—which your party would like to implement? (party policies)
  1. Ask each group leader to tell the class about their party.

Negotiating a bill

  1. Ask the leader of the government party to choose one of their party's policies and make sure that their party supports that plan of action.
  2. Ask the government to turn their plan of action into a bill—proposed law. They need to give it a name and explain what it is about. For example, The No Homework Bill. A Bill for an Act to ban homework in all Australian schools.
  3. Write the title of the bill on the board in the classroom: The                                           Bill. A Bill for an Act to                                                                       .
  4. Explain that the government's bill needs to be agreed to in the Senate, where the government does not have a majority. It will need the support of sufficient other parties/independents to pass the bill.
  5. Give the class 5 minutes to have party meetings. Ask the government to think about their plan of action in more detail, and come up with ways in which they would be prepared to compromise on their policy in order to persuade the other parties to support their policy. The non-government teams need to decide whether they are going to support the bill oppose it or negotiate changes to it.
  6. Give the class 5 minutes to meet as a whole or in small groups to negotiate the bill. Ask the government to seek support for its bill among the other parties, and negotiate changes until they have a majority of students in the class who will support the bill. Ensure that the whole government agrees to any changes which have been negotiated. If there is no agreement for the bill after 5 minutes, the bill has failed.
  7. Reflect on the fate of the bill. Ask each team to discuss what they thought of the negotiations and whether they are happy with the fate of the bill.

Reflection

  1. Ask students to consider:
    • What was the negotiation process like? Were all negotiations based on the content of the bill or were there other considerations? If you made a speech in parliament about this bill what would you say? Keep in mind that other parliamentarians, the media and the Australian people may be watching you? For example, did you stand up for your party's beliefs? Would the people of Australia be happy with your representation?
    • Why does a political party need a clear and effective platform? For example, to express its views and policies.
    • How does a party platform influence how people vote? For example, by attracting support for the platform.
    • How do political parties influence change in Australia? For example, successful parties form government and implement law; unsuccessful parties form opposition and scrutinise the actions of the government; minor parties introduce issues to get them on the national agenda.
    • How well do you think parliamentary parties represent different parts of the Australian community?