Tools to cut the confusion

Posted on August 13, 2010 by


You’ve seen Electioneering, so you know there’s an election coming up. You’ve browsed our coverage, so you know a thing or two about the campaign trail. You’ve read Zach Kitschke’s excellent guide to voting, so you know how to fill out the ballot. But what should you put on the ballot? Who’s going to tell you that?

Some people might say you have to decide that for yourself. But that’s old fashioned thinking! It’s not for you, oh cyber-wanderer, oh vagabond of this limitless infoscape, oh hardy pioneer of the sci-fi world of tomorrow, today. In this modern world, even in the knowing of your own preferences, there is software that can help.

There are some who like to know the details of government policy, but I suspect most people don’t care about the finer points of most of what the government does (until it starts to affect them). For those who want just an overview of what’s been offered, the Fairfax press has put together a Vote-a-Matic quiz. The quiz presents three sets of policies for ten major topics, described in neutral language, from which you can pick your favourite. At the end, it reveals – in a surprise twist! – that these were the policies of the major political parties all along! Labor, the Coalition and the Greens all get included; no representation for the Citizens Electoral Council, sorry. The quiz is short and regularly updated as campaign promises are made. (Sadly it can’t distinguish between core and non-core promises; you’ll have to make the necessary adjustments yourself.)

If you like a more detailed look at individual policies, and you don’t mind a no-frills presentation, you can try the Vote-o-matic 2010 (I know, I know). This quiz is a community effort, put together by a volunteer based on volunteer data. It presents many more individual policy proposals, but allows you to choose only whether you support, oppose or are neutral towards the policy. While more customisable than The Age quiz(-a-matic), it only presents simplistic for-or-against positions, which can leave you scratching your head. For example, the quiz proposes “Legalisation of currently illegal drugs”; there’s no way to say “marijuana but not meth” or “ban alcohol”, just yes or no. Some of the policies are laughably oversimplified; my favourite reads simply “The Murray-Darling Basin” – support / neutral / oppose?

If you’re not interested in being told who to vote for but would like to see at a glance where different parties actually stand on many issues, there’s a resource for that too. But if you were turned off by the previous site’s hokey presentation, be warned: this one is a very bodgie spreadsheet. Still, as a first reference for determing which party likes what, plus a bit of discussion on the side from the many people checking it out at any one time, it’s very handy. I’m amused to see Wikipedia being cited as one of the primary sources for this project; this is voluntary community information-gathering built on voluntary community information-gathering. It’s enough to make Tony Abbott’s head spin.

Hey, there’s an idea for a green energy policy!

Words – Fraser Allison

Image –  Wheezy Jefferson