Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Open Australia bridges democratic disconnect and puts you in touch with Parliament

A new website that makes the unfathomable depths of Hansard easily accessible will be a huge asset for serious voters in the 2013 election.

OpenAustralia has a simple goal - to be 'a non-partisan website run by a charity, the OpenAustralia Foundation and volunteers. It aims to make it easy for people to keep tabs on their representatives in Parliament.' <>

Parliament, OpenAustralia, Hansard, electorates, election, politics, politicians,
Screenshot of an electorate search using a postcode.
OpenAustralia has already been featured by the Global Mail which has used information sourced from the website to produce charts showing how politicians use language to describe issues. Check out its Party Lines interactive feature.

The OpenAustralia website describes its function as a bridge for the 'growing democratic disconnect':

'For all its faults and foibles, our democracy is a profound gift from previous generations. Yet most people don't know the name of their representative, let alone what they do or say in their name. We aim to help bridge this growing democratic disconnect, in the belief that there is little wrong with Parliament that a healthy mixture of transparency and public engagement won't fix.'

OpenAustralia traces its origin to a similar site in the UK run by charity, mySociety, which built TheyWorkForYou.com.

'Back in 2004 Matthew Landauer and Katherine Szuminska were lucky enough to accidentally find themselves at the launch of the UK site...  at a nerdy techno conference, NotCon 2004. The talk inspired them hugely and they left with a desire to make this happen in Australia too. It took a few years, other people came on board to help and here you can see the fruits of their labour.'

OpenAustralia accesses The Australian Hansard for its statistical and informational reports and does so with permission.

After signing up to the site, you can ask it to email you every time certain words are mentioned in Parliament or to email every time your local member says something.

Australian Christian Voter registered and signed up for a couple of searches but is yet to receive an email - perhaps our local member and the words we searched are off the radar?

Voter Value: Providing this beta version website is able to deliver all it promises, it provides a great opportunity for you to assess the views and work-rate of your local member and to monitor issues of interest.

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