In federal elections Australians can now take the lead in setting the agenda for their nation

May 4, 2024
Good vote, election, get out and vote, etc. illustration.

In 2025 Australians are due to vote in another federal election, this time to elect their nation’s 48th parliament.

In past elections Australians have been required to cast their votes in favour of whatever candidates might stand for office. But those candidates have always set their own agendas and their electoral tactics have relied on dividing the nation so that it cannot think as a united community working towards an agenda that caters to all. In this arrangement of the electoral process it might be expected that we at least end up with majority rule, which for all its faults and the exclusion of minorities that it engenders, might be considered the best we can expect from a representative system of government.

But in reality, with the distortion of our election processes that comes from uncontrolled political donations and other system faults, elections in Australia now result in nothing more than minority rule – that is, rule in favour of big corporate and very wealthy private donors. And since these donors’ interests are more often than not antithetical to the public interest there is next to no chance that those who are elected will govern for all. Candidates will assert that, if elected, they will not exclude the less influential, but our political system makes that impossible. Capture of the state by corporate and wealthy private donors has reduced Australia’s election process to a farce.

But all that can now change. We can rescue the election process so that it gives ordinary voters far more influence in the outcome and the chance to build a strong democracy of engaged political equals who are accurately informed about progress on all the agenda items that matter to them.

We can do this because, prior to the next election, Australian voters will all have free and full access to a comprehensive, independent report providing factual details and summarised information on whether, during the term of the current federal parliament, Australia moved towards or further away from the wellbeing, security and fairness its citizens have repeatedly said they want. This sort of report was in fact available in the lead-up to the last election. It was called The State of Australia 2022 and it provided Australians with facts about the 46th parliament’s performance. For the election of the 48th parliament Australians will have access to The State of Australia 2025 which will report on the performance of the 47th parliament.

These reports on the state of Australia are currently being produced by Australian Community Futures Planning (ACFP). They assemble in one document a large array of factual details about the wellbeing and security of Australians and their country, and they monitor and summarise changes in all that. The consolidated reports on the changes are produced just before each federal election and they function as an easy one-stop-shop for factual information about whether things have got better or worse in the areas of policy and services that matter most to everyday Australians. Video summaries are made available to help everyone get the facts they need quickly and in accessible formats.

Instead of focussing on what politicians might say matters, these reports help Australians focus on what they have said matters most to them, and then to assess the extent to which each candidate in their electorate might be committed to that. With the reports on the State of Australia – and another associated report on the policies being offered in the lead-up to the election by the major parties (a report called the Better Futures Commitment Index) – voters can now also assess whether the policies of major parties will actually help us become the nation we have said we want to be and take us to that preferred future via the safest paths.

Australian voters will be able to easily assess all this for themselves because, after years of research about the values and preferences of Australians, ACFP has developed a draft consolidated statement of what people who live here have said they want for their future. This draft is called the Vision for Australia Together and it assembles on one page a list of the preferences expressed by Australians for the best future they can imagine whenever they have been asked about that in the 21st century. ACFP has also developed a structure for a plan that Australians can use to draft an integrated set of Targets and Strategies to make that Vision a reality. This integrated, long term plan is called Australia Together.

All this this makes it possible for the electors to set the preferred direction and agenda for the nation, instead of the candidates. And the reports on the state of Australia consolidate factual information on progress towards or away from that preferred direction and agenda. It all adds up to a comprehensive report card on how well those we elected last time worked together to improve wellbeing and security for everyone – fairly and safely. From there we can each make informed decisions about whether we want to elect them again.

This is a completely new way to approach elections. By describing what we want to be and become as a nation – and by describing that before we go to elections – the Vision for Australia Together gives voters a clear yardstick by which they can assess the fitness of candidates for parliament based on their demonstrated commitment to what Australians really value for themselves and future generations. It effectively provides political candidates with a job description – an outline of the ultimate purpose for which we are electing them.

Any candidate or political party willing to commit to the Vision for Australia Together will readily emerge in this process as one more likely to deserve our trust. Any candidate or party whose policies are at odds with that Vision will emerge as less likely to deliver the future we prefer. It’s a simple extra step we can take to help us select parliaments that will work for us.

Find out more here about how this works to help Australians set their preferred agenda and build commitment among politicians to what we value and want.


Join author Bronwyn Kelly and former federal senator Margaret Reynolds on the Pearls and Irritations podcast in discussion about this new way of running our elections soon.

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