Exploring crossbench voting alignment

The crossbench is becoming more influential in Federal Parliament and there’s every chance that the next election will see increased numbers of independents. So it’s interesting to take a look at how their votes line up against the major parties.

Now in some theoretical place divorced from reality the crossbench would be a group of agnostic independent thinkers that judge each issue on its merits – and we’d then see an even spread of voting alignment. But that’s not reality; nor, arguably, is it the role of the crossbench.

The crossbench is made up of people who are not the major parties but that doesn’t mean they don’t have alignments that either reflect their electorate or their own position. So, for example, Zali Stegall was elected as (a) not being Tony Abbott, (b) being overtly for climate change action and (c) aligning Liberal on economic issues. She was elected with an agenda which you’d expect to direct her voting.

Zali Stegall is also a good example of the weakness of just looking at numbers. Stegall’s voting alignment skews towards Labor in a way which you might not expect from a representative of traditionally blue-ribbon Liberal seat. And, in fact, the current Liberal attack ads are pointing to this as a failing. But when you think it through and realise that Stegall’s core issue is climate change – and the Liberals are completely at odds with her on that issue – it’s not surprising that Stegall’s votes tend to align away from Liberal. While a slight tendency to align Labor / Green might make for a good attack ad by the Liberals, it probably pretty much exactly aligns with what her electorate expects of her until the Liberals really tackle climate change.

I found it interesting that the person who’s voting alignment most closely reflects the theoretical independent is Bob Katter who sits almost perfectly in the middle of the graphs.

Trying to work out a way to judge alignment and display it was an interesting challenge. (Just by the way, the other challenge is that so many independents chose to use orange as their primary colour!) The simplest way to judge alignment seems to be to see how closely the crossbencher’s vote aligns with the leader of the major parties – so what we’re showing is technically alignment with Morrison, Joyce, Bandt and Albanese as proxies for alignment with their parties.

We’ve taken that information and displayed it in two ways. The first shows alignment against all four major parties. The second shows just against Liberals and Labor – which is easier to see. This second approach is also probably most accurate as a judge of voting direction because the major parties are the ones introducing most of the legislation.

Another obvious issue, by the way, is that Craig Kelly’s voting history is driven by him being a member of the Liberal party until recently. We’ll have to see how this changes over time – always assuming he has much time in which to change at all.

This data is dynamic and updated daily. So what you see is what you’re getting.

The Crossbench voting alignment gadget is updated when Parliament sits. The gadget is here. Our range of voting gadgets is here.

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