They Vote For You is a website which tracks how parliamentarians vote on whatever issue you care to name1. As they say in their ‘About’ page, “Forget what politicians say. What truly matters is what they do. And what they do is vote, to write our laws which affect us all”2.
This website is a way to track how individual politicians vote on every issue. You can look up any politician by name or, using your own postcode, chase up your local representative and see how they vote on the issues that concern you. I have used this website to demonstrate that the concept of a ‘Liberal moderate’ as embodied by the seemingly urbane Trent Zimmerman is a myth. While Zimmerman portrays himself as a moderate and utters ‘moderate-sounding’ platitudes, his voting record argues otherwise. Nobody could accuse the current member for Hughes, former Liberal Party member and now Clive Palmer’s pet, the deranged climate change denier, antivaccination activist and ivermectin promoter, Craig Kelly, of being moderate, much less urbane. However, Craig Kelly and Trent Zimmerman have an almost identical voting record3. While I have used this site to uncover the hypocrisy of Zimmerman, you can just as easily use it to track how Anthony Albanese4, Tanya Plibersek5 or Joel Fitzgibbon6 vote.
Now, two of the most vacuous members of the House of Representatives, Dave Sharma, member for Wentworth7, and Senator from New South Wales, Andrew Bragg8, have written to regulators including the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC) arguing that the site is biased and should be stripped of its charitable status. Bragg whined in a letter “Its primary purpose is to provide curated content and present information in a highly partial, polemical and partisan light,” and that its actions were incompatible with its duties as a charity not to promote or oppose candidates for political office9.
Matthew Landauer, co-founder and director of the OpenAustralia Foundation that runs They Vote For You, denied the site was partisan in any way, saying its purpose was to make sure people could reconcile politicians’ rhetoric with their votes. Landauer said. “We do our absolute best to make what’s visible on the site as [a] true and accurate reflection of the real votes and the voting intentions of those politicians.” He said the website was open about its methodology, and had previously fixed errors when MPs had found problems. Landauer invited any MPs who felt aggrieved to engage with the site but said none had done so for years. He also noted that the charity regulator had not been in touch either. Landauer added “It’s very easy for an MP to misrepresent reality because they say a certain thing but then they vote a completely different way”9.
Despite Sharma’s and Bragg’s protestations that They Vote For You is biased, their concerns in this regard do not seem to apply to the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) which is also classified as a charity. This is an organisation which is ultraconservative and has constantly denied climate change, something that could hardly be construed as being ‘beneficial to the general public’, one of the purposes a charity is supposed to have. Indeed, denying climate change is harmful to the public10.
It has also argued against plain packaging for tobacco products (it has been funded in part by the tobacco industry), and stridently argued against Aboriginal self-determination. The latter was ironically the reason that Rio Tinto abandoned the IPA11. In recent years, one of the major funders of the IPA has been Gina Rinehart12. Several IPA alumni have been in parliament and currently include Liberals Tim Wilson and James Paterson11. In addition, the IPA often indulge in political campaigning and advertising. The latest effort was an attempt to prevent the Nationals coming to an agreement with the Liberals on net zero emissions in their recent tiff13.
The IPA and the Liberal Party have almost been joined at the hip since the creation of both in the 1940s after the spectacular loss of the UAP-National coalition in the 1943 election, and the subsequent collapse of the UAP, respectively14. When Herald Sun hack Andrew Bolt was found to have breached Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act in 2011, the IPA was outraged and immediately launched a campaign to repeal the offending section. A full-page advertisement was taken out in their journal of choice, The Australian. It included the names of senior Liberals such as Jamie Briggs, Michaelia Cash, Mathias Cormann, Mitch Fifield, Nick Minchin and Andrew Robb14.
For Bragg and Sharma to whine against bias from They Vote For You and not from the IPA is extraordinary hypocrisy. What they are mostly concerned about is keeping the truth hidden. When you look at their voting record it demonstrates that the platitudes they utter in their campaigning are at best disingenuous, at worst, lies. That The Vote For You uncovers this is what Bragg and Sharma hate.