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From Secret Ballot to Democracy Sausage

From Secret Ballot to Democracy Sausage: How Australia Got Compulsory Voting

Judith Brett

It’s compulsory to vote in Australia.

We are one of a handful of countries in the world that enforce this rule at election time, and the only English-speaking country that makes its citizens vote.

Not only that, we embrace it. We celebrate compulsory voting with barbeques and cake stalls at polling stations, and election parties that spill over into Sunday morning.

But how did this come to be: when and why was voting in Australia made compulsory? How has this affected our politics? And how else is the way we vote different from other democracies?

Lively and inspiring, From Secret Ballot to Democracy Sausage is a landmark account of the character of Australian democracy by the celebrated historian Judith Brett, the prize-winning biographer of Alfred Deakin.


3RRR (1:18:00)
ABC News: A History of Compulsory Voting in Australia
ABC Radio National
ABC Radio Sydney: Drive
Australian National University: Experience ANU podcast [autoplay]
Australian ($): Op-ed
Canberra Times
Channel 7 Plus: Weekend Sunrise
Honest History
Inside Story

Judith Brett
About the Author

Judith Brett is the author of Robert Menzies’ Forgotten People and emeritus professor of politics at La Trobe University. The Enigmatic Mr Deakin won the 2018 National Biography Award, and was shortlisted in the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, NSW Premier’s History Awards and Queensland Literary Awards.

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5 March 2019
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Praise for Judith Brett
andFrom Secret Ballot to Democracy Sausage

‘A great treasure that sizzles like the sausage in the title. I’ll be surprised if, by the time you’ve finished it, you don’t, like me, feel a little bit prouder of the Australian democratic system.’

‘Voting is compulsory in Australia and, were it up to me, so would be reading this book.’

‘Immensely readable history of our electoral system… Brett has a knack for making institutions fascinating.’

‘Brett’s writing is capable of extraordinary clarity, insight and compassion.’

‘Australia led the world in broadening the franchise and introducing the secret ballot, but few nations followed us down the path of compulsory voting. This absorbing book explains a century-old institution, how it came to be, and how it survives.’

‘The Australian way of voting seems – to us – entirely ordinary but, as Judith Brett reveals, it’s a singular miracle of innovation of which we can all be fiercely proud. This riveting and deeply researched little book is full of jaw-dropping moments. Like the time that South Australian women accidentally won the right to stand as candidates – an international first. Or the horrifying debates that preceded the Australian parliament’s shameful decision to disenfranchise Aborigines in 1902. This is the story of a young democracy that is unique. A thrilling and valuable book.’

‘This book unravels mysteries, and explains the quirks and triumphs of Australia. It answers questions you didn’t even know you had. I learned something on every page.’

‘A tightly written history of Australia’s electoral system… this is a fantastic read for an election year!’

‘Politics aficionados might find this very readable and informative book hard to put down. The solution is simple: read it in one sitting, as I did.’

Other editions ofFrom Secret Ballot to Democracy Sausage
  • From Secret Ballot to Democracy Sausage
    ISBN: 9781925626810
    5 March 2019
    Buy ebook