So the ABC, in conjunction with the Universities of Melbourne and Sydney, has released an “interactive online application to help voters engage on important policy issues during the 2013 Australian federal election campaign”. Basically it asks you a bunch of questions on different policies/issues, and gives you a general idea of how you line up with different political parties (with the option of weighting them by importance). Here is the chart and associations created from my answers:



On the face of it, I think this is probably a good tool. I cannot quite express how annoying I find entrenched voters, especially entrenched voters who vote for parties that don't line up with their opinions and best interests. Maybe this will give some people a new way to conceptualise how their opinions and interests line up with those of a party.

However, there are some problems with this tool. For example, the way the questionnaire is set up, and I admit I can't think of another way to do it, allows for no nuance. One of the questions goes like this: “The national budget deficit should be reduced, even if it means fewer public services.” You can either choose to “strongly disagree”, “somewhat disagree”, “somewhat agree”, “strongly agree”, be neutral or skip the question entirely. I chose “strongly disagree”, which they have interpreted as me being aligned with the Greens and Labor. But there are many caveats to my answer. In the current economic climate, where Australia has an enviable credit rating and one of the lower debt to GDP ratios in the developed world, but is facing an increase in unemployment, the end of the mining investment boom, and below trend growth, no I do not think Australia should reduce it's deficit in the short term. Furthermore, Australia desperately needs to invest in it's future, especially in skills (unfortunately University funding has recently been cut) and infrastructure -things like a National Broadband Network to allow us to transition away from a resource and (subsidy driven) manufacturing economy into a 21st century economy. Macroeconomics 101 tells us that these are vital for higher GDP growth in the long term. But on the whole, Australia has a low savings rate, and is staring down the barrel of historically low interest rates, so it is plausible to argue that piling government debt is crowding out investment. It is definitely not something we want to do for long.

I can see the value in this tool to allow a new conceptualisation of politics. It illustrates how similar our parties are, and I hope it does allow people to see who they agree with. But I also see the danger in yet another way for important issues to be overly simplified.