We’re thinking of changing to the Science Party: Here’s why

The Future Party will hold a vote at its upcoming Special General Meeting to change the party name to “Science Party”.

We are suggesting this name change to make it easier for the public to quickly identify the types of policies we stand for. This is a huge change for the party, but we hope it will bring us closer to achieving its objectives.

Rationale behind changes

The Future Party has been working hard to represent a better future for Australia, through a detailed policy platform, and dedicated volunteers running in elections, organising the party and contributing regularly to senate inquiries. Unfortunately, we have not seen the party’s highly detailed policy platform and commitment from members translate into votes at the ballot box.

The word “Future” is ambiguous

We love the name “Future Party”; it represents what we believe is a positive future for Australia and the world. Unfortunately, the name suffers from ambiguity. Just what type of future do we represent? Is it a technological one with social reform? Or is it a right-wing future? Or a left-wing future? Or a Christian future? At face value, the average voter struggles to quickly identify our motivations. This is very different to many other parties. For example, it is easy to identify the Greens as being for the environment. It is easy to identify the Labor Party as being involved in the union movement.

A name such as ours has just the right amount of policy anonymity that a right wing party would like to use. Names like "Australia First" and "Choice", etc., are used to hide nefarious policies. In fact, in New Zealand, the "Future New Zealand Party" was a conservative Christian party, and that later joined with a centrist party to form "United Future Party".

Previously in Australia, "Helen Caldicott's – Our Common Future Party" ran on anti-nuclear power position (albeit with an anti-munitions aim). The word "Future" is not necessarily indicative of our intentions to the general public, even though it is to us. When you joined as a member, the name “Future Party” either indicated to you what the party stood for, or you investigated the party independently of the name. Not all people will understand “Future Party” to mean the same thing you do, and as such you and the rest of the membership are self selecting in favour of a name such as “Future Party”. We, in our party, are not a representative sample of the politically engaged people of Australia, let alone the general voting populace.

A name change is not without precedent

You might be interested to know that The Greens was formally known as the United Tasmania Group. Although the name change is probably not the only contributing factor, The Greens experienced considerably better outcomes following their name change.

How we decided on the change

This is not a change that we have made lightly. This has been a long-term consultation process with highly active volunteers.

Early internal discussions were started on the 1st of April 2015 where multiple people supported changing the name to Science Party. It has been on the backburner for some time, but the North Sydney by-election kicked us into gear. We found that polling booths staffed with Future Party volunteers gained, on average, 3.2 times the number of primary votes for the Future Party (compared with booths without Future Party volunteers). This increase, while partly due to the smiling faces of the friendly volunteers, was a result of the public becoming aware of the nature of the party. Skepticism at the name turned to happiness that there was a party standing up for more science and education funding.

Further internal consultations occurred. Multiple names were suggested, including Education Party, Innovation Party, Nerd Party and Science Party. It was clear that although some people really liked Nerd Party, many people did not like the idea of changing to Nerd Party. However, many people came out strongly in favour of Science Party.

As an evidence based party we wanted to understand what people thought about the names when they first heard the words suggested. Many of our volunteers consulted family and friends to do word associations. We tried to classify the words as being positive or negative, and also words that we would like to be associated with. There are multiple ways to classify the words, as a word may be positive to one person and negative to another. The word “Science” was found consistently to have a very low rate of negative word associations especially in comparison to “Future”. “Science” also had high rates of positive word association, but just how much of a difference depended on the classification. “Innovation” also scored well, however out of a subset that was asked which was their favourite party name, “Science Party” was most popular.

We believe the changing the name to “Science Party” will have a positive effect on voter engagement with the Party and following on from that increased votes at the ballot box. Although evidence presented lends weight to the belief that changing the name will increase our chances of success, the magnitude of the increase is unknown.

The final step in the change is endorsement of the change by the membership at a Special General Meeting.

What this changes

This motion would change the party name to “Science Party”. This will appear on ballots along side our candidates names. This will also change our branding, in particular our logo will need to change, and the way we present ourselves on our website will change.

What this does not change

This name change does not change the policy, aims or principles of the party. We will continue to be a party with a broad policy platform, however with a name such as “Science Party” our ability to promote the idea of evidence based policies is increased.

Risks and benefits

With any substantial change comes risk. In particular, we understand that there will be some members who disagree strongly with the change or no longer identify with the party. We do, however, have the benefit of potentially appealing to a new section of the population who believe strongly in rational, evidence-based decision making.

Specific changes to the constitution

  • That all instances of “Future Party” in the title and in §§1–2 are replaced with “Science Party”;
  • That all further instances of “Future Party” (§§3–12) are replaced with “Party”;
  • In §7.1, “A branch based on non-geographic criteria may alternately be referred to as a "wing". For example, "Young Future" may be a youth wing of the Future Party for members under a certain age” is replaced with “A branch based on non-geographic criteria may alternately be referred to as a "wing", for example a youth wing”.

Other minor changes

  • In §7.2, “A branch must be based on an additional, fixed set of membership criteria” is replaced with “A branch must be based on a fixed set of membership criteria”.
  • In §3.7 “This shall be taken by Party officers to be the members' address as recorded in the membership roll” is replaced with “This shall be taken by Party officers to be the members' addresses as recorded in the membership roll”. (typographical)