New research into Australia’s political party policies during the 2022 election indicates the increasing difference between the major political parties based on their alignment with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The recent report on political party policies based on SDG alignment revealed the gap between the Liberal Party and Labor Party/Greens has increased as a result of the Liberal Party aligning fewer policies with SDGs.

Led by Dr Robert Hales, the study examined the policies of Australia’s three major parties and rated them on a numerical scale from 1 (minimal evidence of alignment with SDGs) to 3 (significant evidence of alignment with SDGs).

The rating system also included a score of 0, for policies that showed no evidence of alignment with the SDGs, and a ‘negative’ score, which indicated opposition to the SDG in question.

The scoring system was designed to favour any party that had a policy on the topic of the SDGs.

“Our aim in the analysis was to determine if the policy was on topic and not to determine if it would be achieved by the policy,” Dr Hales said.

Casting a vote

What are sustainable development goals?

The Sustainable Development Goals are a UN agreement – of which Australia is a signatory – which measures progress on economic, social and environmental performance.

There are 17 goals broken down into a further 169 specific targets. Australia is presently ranked No. 35 in the world for meeting the SDG’s.

“Support across all political parties for the Sustainable Development Goals would be an important step if Australia were to improve its ranking,” Dr Hales said.

As it stands, the Australian Greens and Australian Labor Party are the most closely aligned with the SDGs, ranking ‘significantly’ with the remainder of the goals ranking moderate.

The Liberal Party of Australia, conversely, ranked ‘significant’ for just one goal – Goal 3 – to ‘Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages’. For the remaining goals, 5 ranked moderate, 7 ranked minimal, and 3 ranked zero.

“The Labor Party and the Greens party policies both have mostly significant alignment with all the SDG targets, but there is still room for improvement in the quality of the policies to achieve greater outcomes,” Dr Hales said.

Rating of political party policies aligned with SDG targets.

Rating of political party policies aligned with SDG targets

Rating of political party policies aligned with SDG targets
Key: light green minimal contribution; green – moderate contribution; dark green significant contribution; A score + or – indicates movement from 2019 election analysis.
2019 versus 2022 results

Labor decreased in poverty alleviation as there were fewer specific initiatives and policies that aligned with the SDGs targets within that goal. Another decrease for Labor was in the area of climate change which appeared to be linked with a decrease in the espoused policies ranging across the climate change policy area for this election.

“The smaller parties were not included in the analysis as they did not have comprehensive policy platforms like the major parties. Additionally, some parties like One Nation actively opposed the SDGs in their policy platform,” Dr Hales said.

“In the case of Independents, they may have some comprehensive policies that align quite well with some SDGs but they tend not to have complete policy platforms that can cover all SDGs. The focus areas tend to include gender, climate change, inequality, peace justice and strong institutions.

“More broadly, it is evident that there is a significant variance in commitment to the SDGs, and the UN itself, among Australia’s parties, and it’s unlikely that we’ll see any genuine progress in these areas unless we’re able to achieve greater unity of vision in terms of the things that matter to us – and these goals should matter to us.

“The continued focus on economic development as the dominant measure and mode of progress in Australia needs to be broadened to include other aspects of progress. The SDGs are an important measure of ‘progress’ in Australia.”

Download Press Release SDGsFederalElection


Dr Rob Hales


Dr Rob Hales is the Director of the Griffith Centre for Sustainable Enterprise in the Griffith Business School.

His research interests include sustainable development goals (SDGs) in business and government, climate change policy and management, sustainable tourism and indigenous consent processes. He is also the program director of the Master of Global Development which is a rapidly growing development studies program at Griffith University. He teaches in the Department of Business Strategy and Innovation in such courses as Leadership for Sustainable Business and Research Methods.

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