The Effect of Events on Discussion in the Australian Federal Parliament (1901–2017)

The Effect of Events on Discussion in the Australian Federal Parliament (1901–2017)

We systematically analyse how parliamentary discussion changes in response to different types of events in Australian history.

We first create a dataset of what was said in the Australian Federal Parliament from 1901 through to 2017 based on available public records. To reduce the dimensionality of this dataset we use a correlated topic model, and then analyse the effect of various events using a Bayesian hierarchical Dirichlet model.

We find that:

  • changes in government tend be associated with topic changes even when the party in power does not change;
  • elections that do not result in a change in government are rarely associated with topic changes;
  • economic events, such as financial crises, have less significant effects than other events such as terrorist attacks; and
  • that the effect of events have become more pronounced in the past two decades.

Our findings have implications for how we think about the longer-term trajectory of government policymaking as the media and political cycles becomes increasingly focused on short-term events.

About the presenter:

Rohan Alexander is a PhD student at the Australian National University. His research focuses on Australian political history. His current projects involve exploring: the impact of various events on discussion in state and federal parliaments; who voted for Federation; and which politicians get an incumbency effect.

Date & time

Wed 24 Oct 2018, 12pm


LJ Hume Centre, Copland Building, ANU


Rohan Alexander


Feodor Snagovsky


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