Parliamentary vote tracker project: The concept of policies and policy selection

This post is part of a series on our parliamentary vote tracker project. You can also read our previous posts: a technical update and an introduction to what we’re doing and why.

Apples and Oranges by Automania on Flickr

Advice from Richard Taylor has been a great anchor throughout the process of developing policies. This is that:

The first priority when creating new policies is that they should attempt to provide the public with information on voting behaviour that is intelligible and interesting to a wide range of users. The second priority should be that a reasonable, neutral observer would conclude that the language and topic contained in a the policy description was a fair representation of an MP’s voting behaviour, whatever side of the policy they end up on. The title and description of the policy can always be improved later.

For now we are continuing along, aware that the flaws that we have can indeed be improved later. We acknowledge the current flaws in our project and are looking for advice on how to improve them.

For now we have put together a patchwork of factors that we believe are important when defining a policy. These factors have been a checklist for us when deciding on a policy focus. These have included:

  • Issues that rank highly as concerns to Australians in polling data. For example Ipsos consistently ranks crime, cost of living, healthcare, education and asylum seekers as the top five concerns to Australians, so policies we have chosen engage with these concerns.
  • The focus on the issue in the media. While this has not been a deciding factor in policy selection, we have decided policies with an understanding of the coverage it is getting in the media. Often, however, we have been inspired to focus on issues that are not necessarily getting a whole lot of media coverage, for example ‘For Stronger Unions’.
  • Any potential impacts on the Constitution. For example, legislation introduced in the last sitting of the 43rd Parliament (2010-2013) had the potential to impact the Constitution, specifically how the relationship between the federal, state and local governments interact.
  • The turnout in Parliament, meaning how many representatives are present in Parliament during a division.
  • The number of rebellions in Parliament. A rebellion occurs when a representative votes crosses the floor to vote against the rest of their party.
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