Another welcome development in the task of making it easier for the public scrutinise the work of their parliamentarians, with the launch of the Project Democracy website by the folks at GetUp! The Project Democracy site taps into the Open Australia site which I wrote about in this post.
Jason Wilson, who previously worked at QUT examining and encouraging citizen journalism, recently started working at GetUp! to develop projects such as this. It should help move GetUp broaden their work beyond the ‘sign this e-petition’/‘give money for this advertisement’ NOW type of campaigning into one which better encourages and enables people to get more dirctly engaged themselves.
The big drawback in the Australian political system is the fact we have a higher degree of rigid party discipline than virtually any other democracy on the planet. This reduces the value of following individual MPs and Senators and trying to hold them personally to account for their individual actions (except for the few Independents), but I still think it is something worth doing. Indeed, unless we try to do more of this we’ll have little chance of braking down that rigid party discipline and getting MPs to take more personal responsibility for the way they vote in Parliament.
It is a big contrast to the USA, where the voting records of individual politicians are a meaningful way of identifying their personal views and judgement. Sites like On The Issues lists the record of a whole host of political leaders – fir example, Vice Presidential candidates Joe Biden and Sarah Palin – on a wide range of issues, from the environment to tax to immigration to guns to abortion. At the moment, such a site in Australia would have far more limited meaning, as you may as well just list party positions and policies, as they would be identical for every MP from every party in all but a very few cases.