Why compare politicians’ voting patterns?

Why is comparing how politicians vote important? Because what they say publicly and how they vote – often don’t line up.

Many grass-roots movements have been springing up around Australia with the aim of getting an independent elected. These groups generally fall into two categories:

The Tony Abbott has got to go groups: These groups are trying to get rid of an incumbent who fundamentally doesn’t reflect the values of the community. Tony Abbott, Craig Kelly and the like have completely lost touch with their community (and in some cases reality). With these groups it’s not so much about the Party it’s the individual who has to be replaced.

Nice enough person, but..: The second group is when you have a local member who seems nice enough, does good things locally, might even say the right things – but, and here’s the rub, still votes 100% with a party the electorate no longer agrees with. Dave Sharma and Trent Zimmerman are prime examples.

It’s this second type of politician in particular where it’s crucial to understand that no matter what they say publicly they vote 100% with their party – and if their party is aligning with the right, then so are they. While this applies to all major parties, Labor and Liberal are making a bit of an art-form out of trying to pitch to all-sides by allowing politicians to say what they want regardless of how they actually vote. And, of course, Liberals are in power so the focus is on them.

We’ve taken the fabulous work done on voting by They Vote For You and pulled together when politicians voted on the same legislation. We then took those numbers and hit them with some maths to come up with a number for how aligned the politicians voting is. Now this isn’t perfect; but it is an extremely good indicator of what’s going on.

The nature of our parliamentary system means that comparing voting between houses is, well, bodgy. You can do it and again you get an indication of alignment – but within each chamber there’s a lot of horse-trading going on that makes the voting patterns on a particular policy different in the House of Representatives to the patterns in the Senate.

We made a couple of gadgets. Our favourite is the Votes-Like-Dutton-O-Meter. Pick a politicians and we’ll show you how closely their vote aligns to Peter Dutton’s. The obvious question is: why Peter Dutton? Well a straw poll had him come up repeatedly as the exemplar of the right-wing of the Liberal Party – there are others who are further right, but they tend to fade into the lunatic fringe pretty quickly. And he just sort of fit…

There’s also a gadget, Pol-arity, allowing you to compare any two pols voting patterns.

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