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From Secret Ballot to Democracy Sausage


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Alone among English-speaking democracies, Australia compels its citizens to vote . . . It forces politicians to consider the impact of their policies on all groups of Australians, especially the disadvantaged and marginalised, and so contributes to a more equal and just society.

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.


'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.' -- Andrew Leigh MP, Shadow Assistant Treasurer
'Voting is compulsory in Australia and, were it up to me, so would be reading this book.' -- Benjamin T. Jones, Honest History
'Immensely readable history of our electoral system... Brett has a knack for making institutions fascinating.' -- Readings
'Brett's writing is capable of extraordinary clarity, insight and compassion.' -- Monthly
'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.' -- Antony Green
'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.' -- Annabel Crabb
'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.' -- Waleed Aly
'A tightly written history of Australia's electoral system... this is a fantastic read for an election year!' -- Readings
'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.' -- Inside Story
'Magnificent...Brett has constructed an excellent, fast-moving narrative establishing how Australia became one of the world's pre-eminent democracies...[She] skilfully weaves her way through what would be in the hands of a lesser writer a dull, dry topic...Brett is right to point out that we need "more than the Anzac story" to understand our success. From Secret Ballot to Democracy Sausage: How Australia Got Compulsory Voting will be an important part of that conversation.' * Weekend Australian *
'Excellent...Brett's book shows how democracy sausages are the symbolic culmination of the proud history of the Australian contribution to electoral and voting practice around the world.' * Canberra Times *
'A book that reminds us how proud we should be on election day: if not of the result, at least of the way it's conducted.' * Sydney Morning Herald *
'Brett's research is meticulous...Want to know how and why Australia is one of only 19 electoral democracies worldwide that demand compulsory voting? This is compulsory reading.' * Adelaide Review *
'As Brett's splendid book reminds us, the fundamentals of our electoral system should make us all proud.' * Sydney Morning Herald *
'A fantastic read' * 6PR *
'Relatively brief but seriously compelling history of how we do democracy from one of Australia's best academic writers on all things political... You might not think politics and democracy are exciting topics that would make a riveting read, but Brett proves that to be a total misconception.' -- Dennis Atkins * Courier Mail *
'Engaging and informative and well worth a read for anyone interested in where our modern electoral institutions came from.' * Dictionary of Sydney *
'[Judith] Brett has produced a paean to the Australian election, but her fascinating story of how we vote also discloses larger truths about what we are like as a people.' * Australian Book Review *
'Judith Brett takes a fresh look at our democratic quirks - just in time for the 2019 general election.' * Weekly Times *
'Judith Brett should be congratulated for producing a work that restores many long-forgotten personalities to life. It deserves wide readership if only to ensure we value what we have.' * Newtown Review of Books *
'From Secret Ballot to Democracy Sausage is written for Australians, but should be read across hemispheres, encouraging the world to recognize Australia's many contributions to free, fair and inclusive elections.' * Pacific Affairs *

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