Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Quantifying Campaign Promises 

Suffering from US election overload, I've devoted my attention to the Australian election campaign. Like the US campaign, it's a tight race as well, although John Howard's Liberal-National coalition seems to be building a slight lead over Labor in recent polls.

What struck me, though, was the occasional story about the Treasury jumping in to discuss the costs of one election promise or another. This seemed rather bizarre for a Canadian, so I did some digging and found the following:

The Charter of Budget Honesty Act 1998 outlines arrangements under which the Secretaries to the Departments of the Treasury and of Finance and Administration may be requested to cost Government and Opposition election commitments during the caretaker period for a general election. The Charter also provides that the responsible Secretaries may, jointly, issue written guidelines recommending approaches or methods to be used in the preparation of policy costings.

Suddenly the costs of campaign promises aren't just randomly generated numbers, but figures backed up by a non-partisan authority. The question is why doesn't anyone else do this? Is there something obviously wrong with this idea that I'm missing, or is it just the usual self-interests of the parties in power?

Note: Australia has one of the more convoluted electoral systems out there, which makes for a larger proportion of news stories that get technical and arcane with terms like "two-party preferred" and voting "above the line". It's not all that complicated in reality, but it's still good to have reference sites like australianpolitics.com and Antony Green's Election Guide.
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