As James Shaw famously told Jamie-Lee Ross in the Minor Party Leader's Debate, "don't believe everything you read on the internet". Sadly this election season that extends to the practice of rating party policies. While some are very rigorous - in particular TVNZ's Vote Compass - there are many others that are sloppy and some that are outright biased towards certain political parties.
TOP welcomes open debate and we back any attempt to create an informed voting public. That’s why we’ve taken time to reply to every request, based on our published, evidence-based policies. But from our experience in 2020, there are five main problems with election scorecards.
The first and most obvious is that some organisations only included the parties in Parliament, so TOP missed out completely.
The second problem is priorities. The parties that do well on scorecards often promise everything to everyone. The risk with that approach is that when push comes to shove politicians have to prioritise, and could end up being nothing to nobody. There isn't the money or time to do everything, so you should ask what is really a priority for a party and whether that matches up with your priority. NZ First suffered that problem in 2017, and by the looks of 2020 the Greens will be following suit.
Some scoring systems use questions that are, well, questionable. They often don't get to the core of the issue. Some of them even look like the questions were written based on a particular parties policies so that they could award them a top score. To really understand a scorecard you have to look at the questions pretty hard and understand the scoring criteria and values that underpin each.
Some scorecards were based on looking at policy on our website rather than asking questions. Often this has led to relevant policies being missed. This is a particular problem for TOP since our policy is so interrelated.
Some organisations have been good enough to change their ratings based on better information. Jessica Hammond, our candidate for Ōhāriu, recently contested the Equality Networks Scorecard of the Parties on Facebook. In response the Equality Network was delighted to lift TOP’s score from one star, to one-and-a-half stars. This means a lot - it also raises our ranking to ’second equal’, based on their assessment. You can read more here <http://business.scoop.co.nz/2020/10/13/equality-network-lifts-tops-score-on-their-party-scorecard/>.
5. What works?
TOP is neither left nor right, but focussed on what works. So we have to ask ourselves how do we know what works? At TOP we pride ourselves on being an evidence-based party, which means we listen to the experts in their fields. On the other hand, we concede that the evidence is not always 100% certain and the experts won't always agree.
At TOP we try to prioritise the evidence that is more certain and make our best judgement on the rest. We have an independent Policy Committee that makes those calls.
Some of the special interest groups powering these scorecards think they know better than the experts. A good example here was the response we got from Ora Taiao. Not only did Ora Taiao's scorecard suffer from many of the problems above (especially missing relevant TOP policies) but they also called into question the evidence that TOP used to create its policy. This is unfortunate, as TOP is trying to achieve similar goals to this organisation by looking for win/wins between health and reducing climate emissions. In particular TOP wants to encourage medium density housing around our public and active transport networks, which would be a win for equity (affordable, warm and dry housing), health (more active transport) and the climate (lower transport emissions).
When writing, assessing and critiquing our policy and positions we take our data from places like the Climate Commission & PCE. They’re the experts. It takes time to assess outcomes, challenge assumptions, solve root causes and critically analyse reports, but that’s how we believe decisions should be made.
We responded to Ora Taiao setting out the things they had missed and misunderstood in our policies. However we were staggered to receive a response that on certain issues Ora Taiao think they know better than our Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment:
for example the PCE report which makes significant assumptions that are debatable at best and dubious at worst (indeed it is simply asking the wrong question)
This is an incredible claim for an organisation to make about Parliament's premiere independent adviser on all things environmental. At best their interpretation of the PCE report is mistaken and arrogant, at worst it suggests hidden agendas.