This project collated data from the past forty or so years of Australian parliament to see long-term shifts in property ownership of MPs. It found that Labor (centre-left) had gentrified so that its MPs are now on par with the centre-right Coalition in multiple property ownership, reversing a decades-long trend.
The story received 4,000 pageviews behind the paywall and received 3 new subscribers. My tweet about the story received 50,000 views.
It revealed the extent of the gentrification of Australia’s centre-left party and the rise of the political class.
I used R and Python to scrape and analyse data. This involved writing bespoke programs to go through interests registers that MPs submit to pull the number of properties they, their spouse, or children own.
Data wrangling and analysis was all done in R, and production charts were made in Flourish.
Context about the project:
Interests registers from before 2010 are not online. I had to travel to Parliament House in Canberra, book in times with the House of Reps clerk’s office — at their displeasure given a staff member had to supervise me — and sit in the office and transcribe — manually — the number of properties each politician had. Photocopying and photography was not permitted. It was an ambitious project of a scale not attempted prior in Australia.
What can other journalists learn from this project?
This project offers a rare opportunity to take a step back from the to-and-fro of daily politics and instead look at it with a macro perspective. Journalism tracks the most minute of developments in the halls of power that it often lacks the tools to describe, prove, and define longer-term changes. The gentrification of the Labor Party and the professionalisation of politics is a trend many have felt for a long time but has not been able to prove. This project, I believe, makes a contribution to that end.