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  • Writer's pictureBronwyn Kelly

With the Australian Better Futures Commitment Index we can rise above the political hype.

In the 2022 federal election, the major parties are all campaigning on their commitment to deliver a better future for Australians. But just how committed are they? The new Australian Better Futures Commitment Index provides and easy way for voters to decide.

It’s election 2022. Amid all the clatter of ad man’s one-liners and pork-barrell promises to our lesser selves – not to mention the misinformation – what chance have Australian voters got of deciding which party is acting in their best interests, the best interests of their kids and the nation’s best interests overall?

Political pundits will say the people always get it right in the end – on balance. But how can they when the distortion, confusion and noise are ramified by the 24-hour news cycle, the concentration of news media ownership into a duopoly with a one-sided bent towards conservatives and big business, and the ill-disciplined, mischievous echo chambers of social media? Our chances of “getting it right” have been diminishing, which is no doubt why we have seen a spate of election results, particularly since the 2016 election of Donald Trump, that until then would have been thought improbable.

In recent elections various community agencies have tried to extract themselves from the noise and melee. They’ve stepped away from the bias of the political parties and developed scorecards to help voters check at a glance whether the policies and commitments of the main parties are actually contributing to what matters most to them. For the federal election in 2022 there’s now a bunch of scorecards available to voters from the Climate and Health Alliance Australia, the Australian Alliance for Animals, the Australia Tibet Council, Dieticians Australia, NSW Council for Civil Liberties, and ANTAR.

The Greens website assembles these and others on a single page, no doubt because they all give favourable scores to the Greens, lower scores to Labor and quite poor scores to the Liberals. But these are mainly single issue scorecards. They merely show how the major parties and some other prominent candidates score in relation to a small number of interests likely to be held dear by some Australians but not necessarily the nation as a whole.

For the 2022 election, however, there is a new scorecard voters can use to look at the full array of issues that Labor, Liberal and the Greens have seen fit to campaign on and check how well those parties might perform in relation to the short term and long term interests of all Australians.

This new scorecard is called the Australian Better Futures Commitment Index and it’s the nation’s first fully independent and comprehensive assessment of whether the stated policies of major parties contesting the election are likely to result in a better outcome for the nation as a whole now, for future generations, for the environment, for different social groups and genders, and for First Nations. So in addition to looking at how well the interests of all Australians might be served under a government led by the different major parties, it also looks at the issues affecting two interest groups that don’t vote – the as yet unborn and the natural environment.

To make the assessment a valid and fair one, the Index uses a yardstick that is not one set by the political parties. It tests each party’s policies against a newly consolidated statement about the future Australians have been saying they would prefer. Assembled by the new, non-aligned research foundation, Australian Community Futures Planning, the statement is called the Vision for Australia Together. It’s based on the findings of research about how Australians have described their preferred future when they’ve been asked about that over the last decade in a variety of surveys and community engagement programs.

Luckily for Australians, it turns out that when it comes to the future they all want the same things. We come together as a nation when we think about what we want for our kids. That makes it quite straightforward to draft a statement about the future Australians would like a share of and the kind of country they would like to live in.

The Vision for Australia Together is that statement and although it’s only a draft it is highly likely to be spot on about the country and future the Australian people want. Its antithesis is also very likely to describe the future and country we don’t want. As such, it’s particularly useful as a yardstick for assessing whether each party’s policies will drive us toward the future we want or toward the one we don’t.

So how do the major parties fare? The answer is clear and the differences are stark. The Index lists and adds up all their headline policies and assesses which ones will take us toward the preferred future described in the Vision, which ones will take us away, and which ones won’t have any effect either way. It’s easy to calculate a net result on balance.

And on balance it’s clear that Greens Party policies if implemented would offer the nation the strongest chance of making their preferred better future a reality. Labor’s policies are on balance significantly less likely to achieve that result but at least they don’t take us backwards overall. Liberal Party policies can have no other effect than to take us 180 degrees away from the future we prefer.

If Australians want the future described in the Vision for Australia Together, they’re simply not likely to get any of it by voting for the Liberal Party. The stark difference in results is likely to prompt incredulity and claims of bias. But bias is being neutralised in this assessment methodology by the fact that the yardstick against which each party’s commitment is being assessed is a reflection of what Australians value overall, not what the parties, and more to the point their donors, value. The yardstick in this case – the Vision for Australia Together – is a reflection of the national interest for the future rather than the sectional interest of the parties for the present. To get a different result than the one arising from the Index, Australians would have to reverse the Vision and agree to track towards its opposite. A brief glance at the Vision will show that’s extremely unlikely. Find the Australian Better Futures Commitment Index and the evidence for the result here.

Watch ACFP's video summarising the results of the Election 2022 Australian Better Futures Commitment Index here.

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