Court Politics in a Federal Polity
Rhodes, R. A. W. and Anne Tiernan, ‘Court Politics in a Federal Polity’. Australian Journal of Political Science 50 (4) 2015.
This article uses a case study from Queensland to demonstrate the court politics approach’s potential to reinvigorate executive studies. Court politics focuses on webs of interdependence within the core executive. It examines the beliefs and practices of elite actors and their fluid and contingent relationships. This article examines the relationships and patterns of executive politics that prevailed under the premierships of Peter Beattie and Anna Bligh. It seeks to answer three key questions. First, why is court politics a useful approach to studying the Australian core executive? Second, what is the nature and extent of court politics in Australian state governments? Finally, recognizing that local traditions shape the beliefs and practices of political elites, how does the court politics approach need to be modified for application in Australia? We identify four dilemmas that beset the court politics of Queensland’s central networks: contingency, fragmentation and coordination, the primacy of coping and survival in the calculus of political-administrative elites, the ever decreasing circle of close advisers supporting the leader. We conclude the court politics framework ‘travels’ effectively to the Australian context, but identify some key local differences, namely: the physical location of network members; the greater numbers of partisan staff supporting ministers, and the close and closed relationships among network members developed over the course of long-term governments.