“My fellow Australians…”
After months of collating and hand-transcribing reams of scanned speeches, I’m pleased as punch to introduce the museum’s Australian Federal election speeches website—a research resource and central repository for Australian election policy speeches delivered by incumbent and opposition party leaders from 1901 to the present.
For each speech we’ve provided contextual information about the election year and a brief candidate biography. Speeches are navigable by date, by candidate and by topic. You can also search for phrases and topics across the speeches.
I love the clean design and how easy it is to find and read the speeches, but perhaps the most exciting part of this site is how you can explore the speech data. By transcribing hardcopy speeches into digital format we’ve been able to visualise the speech data in a number of interesting ways—specifically we’ve looked at word frequency, language complexity, sentence length and speech length.By exploring the frequency of particular words across the speeches we’ve found that the graphs generated tend to reflect the big topics of the day (and this has been strangely satisfying). For example searching the frequency of ‘broadband’ produced these results:
This is consistent with the Australian Labor Party’s pledge to establish a national broadband network for Australia in 2007 and 2010 elections.
The results from the language complexity and speech length graphs, however, were completely unexpected. We had assumed that prose would simplify over time—it hasn’t, and that there would be some correlation between speech length and whether the candidate was successful—there isn’t.
Perhaps success was more reliant on the delivery of the speech and less about speech length? Alas, if only there was some way to compare the level of passion and conviction in the words spoken!
It’s our hope that students, researchers and Australian history buffs will find this site a useful research resource. And for all you creative types out there, we’ve made the data available as raw text and machine-readable APIs for your mashup pleasure.
Some parting words from Mr. Deakin that have stuck in my head after months of hand-transcribing. My how the use of language has changed over time…
From the perpetual summer of New Guinea to the spring in Ballarat, now in its blossom, and in Hobart, where the buds are scarcely beginning to break, from the place where I speak to you tonight to Perth, where the sun has yet to set, the Commonwealth flag flies over it all.
Alfred Deakin, 1903