They Vote For You – There’s something wrong with Andrew Wilkie’s voting record!

Picture 1 - Something's wrong with the voting record

Since it launched last year, we’ve received a few emails from the offices of Members or Senators that ask us to change their voting record on They Vote For You in some way because they think it’s inaccurate. But when we ask them to tell us what the error is, we don’t hear back from them again. That’s what made Tim’s email different.

Tim is an Adviser to Andrew Wilkie MP and he was concerned that there was something wrong with Mr Wilkie’s voting record on live animal export. But instead of leaving it there, he actually explained what was wrong and why it was inaccurate. He also told us exactly which divisions were causing the problem: one from 16 June 2011 and another from 20 June 2011. And he was right. In fact, Tim’s email was so refreshingly helpful that we’ve published it in full. Read on to see the changes we’ve made in response.

Dear OAF team

I would like to request a correction to Andrew Wilkie’s voting record on They Vote For You.

The page states that Andrew voted “moderately for live animal export”. As you may be aware, Andrew is one of the most, if not the most, outspoken critics of the live export trade in the Parliament.

The “moderately for” claim appears to come from the two divisions on 16 Jun 2011 and 20 Jun 2011 relating to a motion moved by Bob Katter, the Member for Kennedy. There are two issues about this motion that are important to clarify.

Firstly, Andrew did not second or support this motion because he supports live export (you can read his speech outlining his reasons here – The Member for Kennedy’s motion called on the Government to act to put in place appropriate animal welfare safeguards in Indonesia, and to make the existing live export trade as humane as possible. Andrew supports improved animal welfare standards even though he advocates an overall end to the live export trade. Therefore I don’t believe the claim that “People who are for live animal export would have voted Yes” is correct.

Secondly, both the 16 Jun and 20 Jun divisions relate to a motion to suspend standing orders. It is important to note that members of the crossbench have to consider every vote, whether it be on a Bill or a procedural motion, on their individual merits. In Andrew’s case, he will often support a suspension of standing orders (or oppose a gag motion) because he believes in free and open debate in the Parliament or he believes that the Parliament should debate a certain issue. This is not an indicator of his opinion on the substantive issue as that is not what the division in question is about. Members of the crossbench will also often find themselves seconding motions or bills that they might not necessarily agree with or vote for, because such items of business require a seconder which the major parties are not willing to provide.

On the live export issue, I understand that They Vote For You looks only at divisions. But to look at other parliamentary business, which is often much more important and telling than divisons, Andrew has introduced four Private Members’ Bills that would end live animal export cruelty, asked countless questions without notice, and given a number of speeches. I can provide links to those for you if you would like. I think that these other items of parliamentary business are far more relevant than divisions when it comes to Andrew’s position on live animal export. Some things never come to a vote, and as much as Andrew would like his Private Members’ Bills to come to a vote in the Parliament the Selection Committee, controlled by the Government and the Opposition, have complete control over if and when private members’ business comes to a vote.

Thanks for your time and please don’t hesitate to contact me on the below if you would like any further information.

Kind regards


The problem he highlighted was that these two divisions were not actually about live animal export. Instead, they were on whether to let the House of Representatives vote on another motion, which was about live animal export. Divisions like these are common because there are many times when a Member or Senator want to do something they’re not allowed to do because of the standing orders (that is, the rules about when to talk, when to be quiet, when to vote etc). According to Tim’s email, Mr Wilkie often votes ‘yes’ in divisions like these “because he believes in free and open debate in the Parliament or he believes that the Parliament should debate a certain issue”.

Fortunately, They Vote For You is designed to make it easy for anyone to correct a problem like this so that the site is as accurate as possible.

First, we find the troublesome divisions and click on their link.

Picture 2 - The troublesome motions

Second, once we’re on the division page, we scroll down to ‘Votes’ and click on the link ‘Add or update related policies’.

Picture 3 - How to correct the error

Third, under ‘Related Policies’, we find the live animal export policy and (because we now realise that this division isn’t really about live animal export) we click ‘remove’.

Picture 4 - How to correct the error cont.

Then we’re done. We can now go back to the live animal export policy page and see how things have changed. For example, Andrew Wilkie has now moved from being a moderate supporter to a very strong opponent – which is quite a difference! Other politicians have also moved so that the policy now reflects their positions more accurately.

Picture 5 - All fixed

That’s all there is to it! Three easy steps for us and a giant leap for accuracy. And we don’t have to stop there. The more relevant divisions that we can add to a policy, the more accurately that policy will reflect the positions of our Members and Senators. So why not pop over to Divisions to see if there are any others that we can add?

And next time a division looks out of place, try fixing it yourself. And maybe, as you go, you’ll discover a new issue that can be made into a policy. I’m now wondering if a policy about suspending standing orders to allow further debate could work…

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