I’m very excited to see that OpenAustralia, the local version of TheyWorkForYou is online and in beta testing. Congrats to everyone involved. It’s something I’ve been wanting to see happen in Australia for years.
Reading through the site and its’ associated blog tonight, I discovered a couple of interesting points about transparency in Australian politics, good and bad.
The good was Kevin Rudd’s explanation of the nationwide FuelWatch system he’s implementing, to the chagrin of the opposition. From his explanation in Parliament this week and this release on his website (which is a couple of months old but, hey, I’ve been busy), it sounds like a good system to me. I think providing transparency on the issue of petrol prices is exactly what the government should be doing. It prevents them from interfering in the market by either placing a ceiling on petrol prices or getting more directly involved in competition regulation. They provide information and let the people decide which retailers they will buy their petrol from. It’s pretty hard to argue with. Interesting to see the Liberals *still* siding with the oil companies even after losing the last election so badly. All of the post-election rhetoric about having to change and listening to the people has obviously been put aside.
The bad thing I read was on the OpenAustralia blog where they have been trying to get access to the Register of Members’ Interests. What’s that? According to OA:
As you may know, the Register of Membersâ€™ Interests says who or what organisations are paying what to members of the House of Representatives. This is a really important document that explains who is financially influencing your Representatives.
So basically you get to see who is bribing your local MP to send them a favourable vote. You would think that this information would be pretty important in a representative democracy, right? So, where is it? Here’s what OA was told:
Not only, as mentioned before, is the register only kept in one office in Canberra, and not available online for everyone to see, it is not even available in electronic form.
Rather, the Register of Membersâ€™ Interests is a set of 7 binders with around 1500 A4 sheets in them, which are continually updated (by hand) throughout the course of the parliamentary term. Supposedly, many of the sheets are handwritten.
In other words, it is being deliberately made difficult for members of the general public to get access to. This has to be changed. We need to start a campaign to build awareness around this issue and get the Rudd government to address it. We all should have the ability to see who is lining our politicians’ pockets. This information should be readily available to everybody.