Ever wondered how hard your elected MP is working in Canberra?
At UniPollWatch, we decided to find out—and instead of asking the politicians, we’ve consulted the calculators.
The House:Divided project is a large-scale data-driven project by Bond University students, which attempts to quantify political performance to see who’s working the hardest in the halls of Parliament, and who has barely showed up.
We’ve analysed the activities of all 150 MPs in the lower house, across the bulk of the current election term (166 sitting days, between November 12, 2013 and January 1, 2016), and graded them on their political performance.
MP performance has been ranked across four categories: attendance in parliament, committee work, participation in Question Time (by asking or answering questions, in person or in writing) and parliamentary speeches.
There are plenty of opportunities for praise in here: active committee workers like Dan Tehan, Tim Watts and Graham Perrett deserve a shout-out, as do community advocates like Gai Brodtmann, Lisa Chester and Cathy McGowan.
But the data raises issues of poor performance, too. The overall absentee rate for MPs is 4.24% and our pollies notched up about seven absences per person, not including approved leave. Clive Palmer missed almost 40% of the sitting days analysed.
The House:Divided data also identifies some trends in political performance.
For example, experienced politicians were more likely to be absent during the current term and women and regional/rural politicians were more likely to advocate for their electorates’ specific needs.
For a report card on your local MP, make sure you check out the interactive database to see how they performed across the four criteria.
The House:Divided project also provides a broader look at the happenings in parliament this term.
We’ve mined almost 3500 questions and 20,000 speeches to find out what issues have generated the most debate in Canberra, and which have slipped under the radar.
Parliamentary Question Time was dominated by economic and government affairs over the current term, while marriage comprised only 0.4% of questions and indigenous affairs only 0.2%.
Click through for detailed stories, and don't forget to check how your local MP fared using our interactive database.
A note about the data
Bond University students analysed the activities of politicians from the first sitting day of the current term (November 12, 2013), until January 1, 2016.
The House:Divided project, which is part of the UniPollWatch reporting on the federal election, uses official Australian Parliament and Hansard web data as its primary source—by digging through the records, we offer a perspective on political performance that is free of politicking and rhetoric.
But it’s important to note that the data represents parliamentary performance, and that we’ve focussed on those aspects that we can measure and collate.
Our assessment of MPs is restricted to attendance and performance in speeches, Question Time and committee work.
It does not capture work done in the electorate or outside of parliament.
The results also must be considered in context; politicians' ministerial or shadow ministerial responsibilities may contribute to lower performance scores in the attendance and committee work categories.
Data collected by Bond University journalism students: Freya Bidwell, Aydée Bigaton, Jessica Bristow, Gracie Clough, Isabella Domhoff, Taylor Eveleigh, Lauren Fenwick, Ashley Gaden, Chyna Hayden, Lily Hoffmann, Lucy Kinbacher, Jessica Lamb, Gary Muller, Sal Pellone and Chlöe Thomas.
Research design: Caroline Graham and Dr Roger Patching
Data analysis: Dr Donna Henson and Caroline Graham.