Wednesday, March 17, 2010

How To Vote

The state elections in Tasmania and South Australia are nearly here.  By this time next week (or maybe a little longer if there is a hung Parliament) we will know who will be leading the decision-making in each of these state's public policy for the next four years.  In the case of people living with disability, indeed anyone living with additional vulnerability, this is particularly important.  We cannot yet say that Australia is a country where every citizen gets a fair go at a good life.

So if you care about this issue, it makes sense to cast your vote in a way that can help (I know that some people can get a little jaded about the vote, along the lines of 'what's the point, nothing will change'.  But while it's true that yours is but one vote among many, the 'many' is still entirely comprised of individual votes. So ultimately your vote truly counts).

But how to choose which party/person to vote for?

Neither I nor the Julia Farr Association profess any formal political affiliation, so I'm not about to tell you who to vote for.  However, it may help to think the matter through in the same way as any other proposition to buy into something.  

For example, if I want to buy a new appliance in my price range, such as a vacuum cleaner, I will want to know what it will do to make my life a little better.  The considerations could include sustainability (how long will it last?), goodness-of-fit (does it do what it actually says it will do,and how will I know?), reliability (will it work without my having to cross my fingers each time?), the 'me' factor (is it the look that I want?  Does it fit my lifestyle?), and some measure of assurance to give me confidence I'm not buying a dud (is there a warranty?).  If I apply these considerations to each of the available vacuum cleaners, then the one that has the strongest showing is the one that I might buy.
I am confident that many of us apply this sort of thinking (let's call this the Suction Test) to the purchasing choices we make, so why not apply it to the voting choices we make also?

Given the fact that many people living with disability remain shut out from a good life, I think it reasonable, necessary even, to expect every current and aspiring Parliamentarian, and party, to have a formal policy on disability.  I therefore recommend that voters apply the Suction Test in each case.

To do this, you first need to familiarise yourself with each party's policy.  For South Australia, here are click links, in alphabetical order, to the disability policy of Democrats, Dignity for Disability, Family First, Greens, Labor, and Liberals.  The only thing I could find from the National Party was their National Party Social Justice policy as part of their overall 2009 policy document.

For Tasmania, I found it much harder to find Tasmania-specific disability policies. Here are click links to the disability policy of Family First,  and Liberals.  I couldn't find anything for Labor, Nationals or the Democrats, and all I could find from the Greens was the Greens' Social Inclusion Policy.

In each case, you could apply the Suction Test by posing the following questions:

Sustainability: will the policy bring lasting benefit?
Goodness-of-fit: does the policy make sense to you, in terms of matching the issues in the disability sector, or is it missing some things? Is it likely that the policy can achieve what it says it will achieve? Does the policy contain clear and tangible measures to assess its impact, or is it fuzzy? 
Reliability: can the policy be relied upon to be fair to people and to maintain an honourable relationship with people seeking assistance?  Does the policy mean that people can go about their daily lives without getting unpleasant surprises about support levels/availability? Can the policy be relied upon to adequately reflect the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled Persons?
Me factor: does the policy enable people to develop customised support arrangements so that they can lives of choice?
Assurance: what is the degree of warranty, the extent to which the party is guaranteeing that it will do what the policy promises?

Whichever party's disability policy has the best showing against the Suction Test can maybe help you to decide how to vote this weekend.  Good luck with your choice.


  1. Just a comment about the NDIS which seems to have been forgotten about by individuals with disabilities and yet is already upon us -- the Productivity Commission "community consultations" with start in April. I have written my open letter of protest at
    I was wondering if you were going to comment in relation to the Terms of Reference for the Productivity Commission inquiry into the NDIS Robbi? Not a criticism, just a question.

  2. Hi Robbi,

    Appreciate the link to our national disability policy but for people in SA here's the Greens link to our state election platform on

    Warm regards,
    Tammy Jennings
    Greens Lead Candidate
    SA Legislative Council