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Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Quantifying Election Promises

Australian election campaign promises are quantified:

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.

Is there some sort of obvious flaw to this idea that I'm missing, or is good old self-interest the reason no one else does this? I suppose one can worry about some sort of institutional bias in public servants for parties that would expand their role, but then such dishonesty runs the risk of incurring some pretty nasty wrath if those evil right-wing budget slashers make it in.

I guess I'm trying to find alternative explanations besides the obvious. Anyone else have thoughts on this?

Posted by Kelvin on September 29, 2004 in International Politics | Permalink


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It would overly politicize public servants in that questions would be raised as to how objective/neutral the evaluation of the country/province's books is.

How can a public servant retain the ability to even pursue a career in the civil service if they're constantly evaluating publicly the promises the elected members are making?

A fixed election date with an auditor general's audit of the books published at least six months before would be the best way I can think of doing something like this...

Posted by: Jonathan | 2004-09-29 10:59:23 AM

I agree that there is an impartiality issue at stake. But it's an interesting idea nonetheless. Aussies have a tendency to be experimental in their political processes. This law has been in place since 1998, so there's been only two elections where it was in use. So I haven't been able to find that much information on its effectiveness.

Fixed election dates are good for a variety of reasons. An independent audit is also prudent, but I would prefer something else as well that would hold the opposition parties to account as well. Ideally, the parties would agree to an independent auditing firm that would crunch the numbers before polling day, but then ideally I'd live in a mansion and drive a Mercedes.

Posted by: Kelvin | 2004-09-30 1:29:10 AM

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