2

I am not intimately familiar with the political process of voting on bills and reporting on results of votes, but I'm wondering:

  1. When politicians vote on bills in parliament, is information about the votes of individual politicians collected and publicly reported?
  2. Is there any specific online service where the results of these votes are published and broken down to lists of individuals?

I'm specifically interested in Australia, since we have an important vote coming up on mandatory metadata retention that requires opposition. However I would also be interested in other countries.

This question is similar to this one, but slightly different and that's already accepted. As mentioned there, GovTrack is a good example for the US Congress.

EDIT: I suspect there would be something on the Votes and Proceedings page of the Parliament website, but I have no idea what I'm looking at, so that alone isn't an answer.

4

In the Australian Parliament, there are two types of votes: "votes on the voices" and "divisions". Votes always start "on the voices".

When voting "on the voices", there is generally no record of which way an individual member or senator has voted. The Speaker (in the House of Representatives) or the President (in the Senate) will ask members/senators present to call "aye" if they are in favour of the motion, or "no" if they are against. The Speaker/President will then declare the vote. If two or more members/senators challenge the presiding officer's determination (by calling "divide"), the vote proceeds to a division. If only one member/senator objects, a division will not be called, however the member/senator has the right to have their dissent recorded in the Votes and Proceedings (House of Representatives) or the Journals of the Senate.

If the vote proceeds to a division, bells are rung throughout Parliament House (generally for 4 minutes) to allow members and senators to move from their offices or other parts of the building back into the chamber. The members/senators voting in favour of the motion then sit on the right-hand side of the Speaker/President, while those voting against the motion sit on the left-hand side. The Speaker/President appoints members from both sides as tellers, who record the votes of each individual member. These votes are recorded in the Votes and Proceedings and the Journals of the Senate.

The majority of votes in Parliament are merely procedural (e.g. rearranging the daily agenda), rather than substantive decisions on Bills. As a result, most votes are conducted on the voices and pass without much debate. Even with substantive debates on bills, many bills are uncontroversial and receive cross-party support, meaning they pass on the voices. For these matters, there are no records available regarding how individual members voted - only whether the motion passed or failed. Indeed, for most of these matters, most members/senators won't even be in the chamber to vote - they'll be off at meetings or working in their office instead.

However, in the case of contested bills, there will almost certainly be a division on what is known as the bill's "second reading". The results of these divisions can be found in the Votes and Proceedings, the Journals of the Senate, and also in Hansard (which is essentially the full transcript of parliamentary proceedings, rather than just the minutes). It is necessary to search through to find the relevant item of business, which can be a bit tricky. http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/ is useful for this - you'll want to search for the name of the bill you're interested in, along with the word "division". You should hopefully find something like this division on the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Bill 2014.

The OpenAustralia Foundation has just launched a new vote tracking side, They Vote For You.

Bear in mind though that the Australian political system has a much stronger notion of party discipline than the US or UK systems. In the US, representatives and senators are more or less free to make up their own mind on how they vote, as they're not subject to direction from the party leadership. In the UK and Australia, the party leadership will dictate official party positions, but Australian parties enforce this even more strongly than UK parties. As a result, while a vote tracker for the Australian Parliament is nice, it probably won't reveal too much we don't already know - Labor MPs will vote according to Labor policy, Liberal MPs will vote according to Liberal policy, and so on.

| improve this answer | |
  • This must be the most comprehensive answer ever :). Thanks so much. It's important to know about the process of divisions, too. I hadn't heard of OpenAustralia, and tbh don't really even know what to search for to find this stuff, but I'll definitely follow up with them. Finally, you may be right that there's not much new insight to gain from who voted which way, but making it easily accessible is an extra data point that I can take to my local member, which makes it easier for me to engage in the political process. – Pie21 Oct 6 '14 at 0:10
  • 1
    OpenAustralia's They Vote For You has just launched, and I have updated the answer accordingly. – ajd Oct 24 '14 at 5:52
  • Ah, fantastic. That actually looks really well done! Saves me the effort :). Thanks! – Pie21 Oct 29 '14 at 0:31

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .