Year 12
Year 12

VCE Global Politics Units 3 & 4

Unit 3: Evaluating Australian democracy

This unit provides an overview of the operation of Australian democracy. Students study democratic theory and practice. They compare the practice of Australian politics and government with democratic ideals. The major elements of representative and liberal democracy are introduced and significant aspects of the Australian system are evaluated in terms of their democratic strengths and weaknesses. Students then compare the Australian political system with one other contemporary democratic nation. Students analyse key aspects of the selected political system, including the electoral process, the operation of the legislative branch and the protection of rights and freedoms. They then consider an aspect of the selected political system that Australia might adopt to strengthen its democracy. While the focus of this study is the twenty-first century and current events, historical events, examples and illustrations may provide students with contextual understanding and may provide unique examples of the workings of the Australian political system


Australian democracy
What is democracy? What are its most significant values and principles? How closely does the operation of the contemporary Australian political system reflect key democratic values and principles? What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Australian political system?
In this area of study students are introduced to the most important values and principles that underpin democracy. These include popular sovereignty, majority rule, respect for minority rights, the rule of law, the legitimacy of the government, constraints on government power, and political and legal equality of citizens. Students recognise that while a political system may advocate these principles, in practice it may fall short of achieving them. There may be a gap between the theory and practice of democracy.

Students examine the merits and shortcomings of the Australian political system in relation to democratic values and principles. They consider the system of voting and elections and analyse ongoing debates, including the pre-selection of candidates, and the operation of the preferential voting system. Students explore the effectiveness of the Commonwealth Parliament as a legislative and representative body, as well as the role of the parliament holding the executive government accountable for its actions and policies. They also consider the role of the Australian political system in protecting the basic democratic rights and freedoms of individuals and groups.

Outcome 1

On completion of this unit the student should be able to describe and analyse key aspects of democratic theory and practice, and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the Australian democratic system


Australian democracy in perspective
How does Australian democracy compare with other democracies? Does the Australian system of voting better reflect key democratic principles than the system used in other democratic countries? Is the Commonwealth Parliament more representative of Australian society than the legislative branches of comparable democracies are of their societies?

In this area of study students undertake a comparison of the Australian political system with the political system of one of the following: the United States of America, the United Kingdom, the Federal Republic of Germany or India. Students critically examine one of these systems in terms of their similarities to and differences from the Australian system, in terms of democratic values and principles including political equality, the fairness of the electoral system and the accountability of the government. Students also select and evaluate an aspect from the selected political system that Australia might adopt to strengthen its system of democracy.
By undertaking this comparison students develop an understanding that the concept of democracy is interpreted and applied in different ways in different settings. They learn that while modern democracies share some important elements, there are some significant differences between them.

Outcome 2

On completion of this unit the student should be able to critically compare the political system of Australia with one other democracy, and evaluate an aspect of the selected political system that Australia might adopt to strengthen its democracy

Unit 4: Australian Public policy

This unit focuses on Australian federal public policy formulation and implementation. During the formulation stage of many public policies, the government is subject to pressures from competing stakeholders and interests. Students investigate the complexities the government faces in putting public policy into operation. Students examine domestic policy, largely concerned with Australian society and affecting people living in Australia. They investigate a contemporary Australian domestic policy issue and consider the policy response of the Australian government. They analyse the major influences on the formulation of the policy and the factors affecting the success of its implementation. Students consider contemporary Australian foreign policy. As it deals with Australia’s broad national interests, foreign policy may be less subject to the pressures and interests of competing stakeholders. Students examine the major objectives and instruments of contemporary Australian foreign policy and the key challenges facing contemporary Australian foreign policy.


Domestic policy
What influences the policy decisions and actions of the Commonwealth Government? What opportunities exist for individuals and groups to participate in the decisions of government? In this area of study students investigate the formulation and implementation of domestic public policy. If the government has a strong electoral mandate, or there is a clear and immediate need for a policy response such as a national emergency, the formulation of public policy can be relatively straightforward. However, in other situations, policy making is subject to the input and influence of numerous factors, and can be a difficult, a lengthy and an uncertain process. Increasingly, these factors are global, as the Australian government is influenced by the policy responses of other nations in areas such as health, education and the environment.

Students analyse the contribution of numerous factors to domestic policy formulation. They examine the opportunities for stakeholders to participate in the formulation of domestic policy. Students learn that while such participation is a fundamental democratic principle, in practice the government is unable to respond to many, often competing, interests, which seek to influence the contents of domestic policy.

Students analyse a specific contemporary Australian domestic policy issue. Important areas of domestic policy include education, health, the environment, immigration and the economy. They examine the nature and context of the issue and the government’s responses to it. Once a policy is put into operation, the government is often required to amend some aspects of it, re-formulate important aspects of it or, in some cases, acknowledge the policy has failed to achieve its purpose and abandon it. Students consider these constraints on government in putting domestic policy into effect

Outcome 1

On completion of this unit the student should be able to explain how Australian federal domestic public policy is formulated and implemented, analyse the factors which affect these processes, and critically evaluate a selected contemporary domestic policy issue.


Foreign policy
What is meant by Australia’s national interest? In what ways does Australia use foreign policy to pursue its national interest? What are the key challenges Australia faces in contemporary foreign policy? In this area of study students consider Australian foreign policy making and implementation in the past ten years. They analyse the distinction between Australia’s foreign and domestic policies, and the impact this difference has on policy formulation. The most significant influences on the formulation of Australian foreign policy are considered, in particular the role of the executive and bureaucracy, and the extent of bipartisan support. Students investigate the major objectives of Australian foreign policy, as well as the instruments used by the government in pursuit of those objectives. They consider the main elements of Australian foreign policy and the key challenges it faces.

Outcome 2

On completion of this unit the student should be able to describe, analyse and discuss the nature, objectives and instruments of contemporary Australian foreign policy, and the challenges facing Australian foreign policy.


The award of satisfactory completion for a unit is based on a decision that the student has demonstrated achievement of the set of outcomes specified for the unit. This decision will be based on the teacher’s assessment of the student’s overall performance on assessment tasks designated for the unit.
The key knowledge and key skills listed for each outcome should be used as a guide to course design and the development of learning activities.

Percentage contributions to the study score in VCE Global Politics are as follows:
• Unit 3 School- assessed Coursework: 25 per cent
• Unit 4 School-assessed Coursework 25 per cent
• End of year examination 50 per cent