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1370.0 - Measures of Australia's Progress, 2013  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 14/11/2013   
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Measures of Australia's Progress

Trust

Australians aspire to institutions and governance processes they can trust and hold to account
Graph Image for Level of generalised trust(a)

Footnote(s): (a) Proportion of persons that agree or strongly agree that most people can be trusted.

Source(s): ABS General Social Survey: Summary Results, Australia, 2006 & 2010 (cat. no. 4159.0)

Image: Tilde - Not changed greatly

Trust has not changed greatly in Australia in recent years

    Indicator: Level of generalised trust

    Why is this theme important?

    Australians told us that governance systems and processes needed to be open, honest, unbiased and trusted by society. This related to government, non-government bodies and with people within communities. People wanted governance processes to be free from corruption, favouritism and conflict of interest. They wanted government and private institutions to behave responsibly and with integrity in support of societal wellbeing. Where governance processes impact on society, people wanted information about this to be transparent to the public. In addition, trust between members of the community was also seen as an essential aspect of the general idea of trust, ensuring communities and societies functioned effectively.

    How have we decided things haven't changed greatly?

    We have decided that there has been little change in trust in Australian institutions and governance processes in recent years because the level of generalised trust (our headline progress indicator for trust) hasn't moved much.

    For trust in Australian institutions and governance processes to improve, we would expect to see an increase in the level of generalised trust, indicating that people in the community were more trusting of one another.

    In 2010, 54% of Australians agreed or strongly agreed that most people could be trusted, the same proportion seen four years earlier in 2006.

    Why this headline progress indicator?

    Being able to trust others in the community is an important part of the aspiration for trust in Australian institutions and governance processes.

    The level of generalised trust is considered a good measure of progress for trust in Australian institutions and governance processes because it captures whether people in the community feel that they can trust one another. While there are many personal and circumstantial factors that influence the level of trust people have for one another, governance systems in society are likely to also play a role due to the significant influence they have over many aspects of people lives. If people feel that governments and private institutions lack integrity and have poor governance, then this is likely, at least in part, to be reflected in generalised levels of trust.

    Quality assessment (see key)

    Image: Icon for 'Indirect measure' This indicator is an indirect measure of the concept of trust in Australian institutions and governance processes as described above (based on Aspirations for our Nation).

    Image: Icon for 'Acceptable quality' The data source is of acceptable quality.

    But that is not the whole story...

    There is more to trust in Australian institutions and governance processes than the level of generalised trust. Look through the other tabs on this page to see if the elements of trust in Australian institutions and governance processes have progressed.

    Check out our further info page for useful links, a glossary and references relating to this chapter.
A data gap currently exists for integrity

In MAP there are several types of data gaps where:
1. the concept is not yet developed enough to measure;
2. the concept is important for progress but may not lend itself to meaningful measurement;
3. there is no data of sufficient quality to inform on progress; or
4. there is only one data point, so a progress assessment cannot be made.

A range of possible indicators are being considered for integrity. In order to capture the spirit of this idea in a measure, further development will need to be undertaken. We will continue to explore options for a suitable indicator in the future.

But that is not the whole story...

There is more to trust in Australian institutions and governance processes than integrity. Look through the other tabs on this page to see if the other elements of trust in Australian institutions and governance processes have progressed.

Check out our further info page for useful links, a glossary and references relating to this chapter.
A data gap currently exists for transparency


In MAP there are several types of data gaps where:
1. the concept is not yet developed enough to measure;
2. the concept is important for progress but may not lend itself to meaningful measurement;
3. there is no data of sufficient quality to inform on progress; or
4. there is only one data point, so a progress assessment cannot be made.

A range of possible indicators are being considered for transparency. In order to capture the spirit of this idea in a measure, further development will need to be undertaken. We will continue to explore options for a suitable indicator in the future.

But that is not the whole story...

There is more to trust in Australian institutions and governance processes than transparency. Look through the other tabs on this page to see if the other elements of trust in Australian institutions and governance processes have progressed.

Check out our further info page for useful links, a glossary and references relating to this chapter.

A data gap currently exists for accountability


In MAP there are several types of data gaps where:
1. the concept is not yet developed enough to measure;
2. the concept is important for progress but may not lend itself to meaningful measurement;
3. there is no data of sufficient quality to inform on progress; or
4. there is only one data point, so a progress assessment cannot be made.

A range of possible indicators are being considered for accountability. In order to capture the spirit of this idea in a measure, further development will need to be undertaken. We will continue to explore options for a suitable indicator in the future.

But that is not the whole story...

There is more to trust in Australian institutions and governance processes than accountability. Look through the other tabs on this page to see if the other elements of trust in Australian institutions and governance processes have progressed.

Check out our further info page for useful links, a glossary and references relating to this chapter.

Graph Image for Informal votes in Australian federal elections
Trust in governance processes and systems in Australia has regressed since 1998


Indicator: Informal votes in Australian federal elections

Why is this element important?

For institutions in society to work most effectively, Australians thought it important that they maintain community trust and support. When governance processes and systems are perceived to lack integrity, operate dishonestly, or function inadequately, people felt this could impact on people's sense of fairness and empowerment, affecting their wellbeing. Trust in governance processes and systems was seen as important because it may encourage public institutions to behave in a manner aligned with the expectations of the community.

Go to the overall progress tab and further info page for more information about trust in Australian institutions and governance processes.

How have we decided there has been regress?

We have decided that trust in governance processes and systems in Australia has regressed in recent years because informal votes in Australian federal elections (our progress indicator for trust in governance processes and systems) has increased.

Between 1998 and 2010, the proportion of votes cast for the House of Representatives that were informal increased from 3.8% to 5.6%. For the Senate, a more modest increase was seen during this time from 3.2% to 3.8%.

Why this progress indicator?

Individual engagement in federal elections is an important part of the aspiration for trust in Australian institutions and governance processes.

Informal votes in Australian federal elections is considered a good measure of progress for trust in governance processes and systems because it measures the extent to which people cast spoiled ballots in federal elections. A ballot paper is considered informal if it is not marked at all, does not bear an official mark, identifies the individual voter, or the voter has incorrectly filled out the ballot paper. If trust in governance systems in Australia were to be low, then one area where we would anticipate this to be reflected by the community is in a high rate of informal voting at federal elections. This measure intends to capture some of this likely effect.

A limitation of this indicator is that it only measures trust with respect to the federal government and in particular, the political sphere. Trust for other forms of governance such as in councils, state governments, non-profit organisations, the public service and the private sector, are not captured by this indicator. Furthermore, a high rate of informal voting may reflect a range of other unrelated issues. Legitimate voter mistakes, literacy challenges, complicated ballot papers, or political disengagement can all contribute to informal voting. For these and other reasons, this indicator is considered an indirect measure of trust in governance processes and systems.

Quality assessment (see key)

Image: Icon for 'Indirect measure' This indicator is a indirect measure of trust in governance processes and systems.

Image: Icon for 'High quality' The data source is of high quality.

Let's break it down!

Long-term trends show that the recent increase in informal voting continues a trend that began in the early 1990s. Trends also demonstrate the significant impact electoral reforms can have on the level of informal voting. This is particularly notable in 1984 where the proportion of votes that were informal for the Senate decreased markedly with the introduction of 'above the line' voting.

Use the drop down menu on the graph to look at other breakdowns of the indicator (graphs are also available on the further info page).

But that is not the whole story...

There is more to trust in Australian institutions and governance processes than trust in governance processes and systems. Look through the other tabs on this page to see if the other elements of trust in Australian institutions and governance processes have progressed.

Check out our further info page for useful links, a glossary and references relating to this chapter.


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