Suiting themselves: Major parties, electoral databases and privacy

Peter van Onselen, Wayne Errington

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    The potential benefits and pitfalls ofinformation technology are on display in the databases used by Australia's major political parties. I The use of such technologies, which contain a host of information about voters and their policy preferences, are a potentially useful conduit between citizens and their elected representatives. instead, their development has been veiled in secrecy, and their operation puts vast public resources to use for partisan ends, invades the privacy of constituents seeking help from their Member of Parliament (MPj, and tilts electoral politics further yet towards the minority of swinging voters. With reform it is possible to avoid the major pitfalls associated with the use of electoral databases. However, a number of aspects ofthe Australian party system will likely prevent serious consideration ofthe role of databases. Both major parties gain benefit from information technology at the expense of minor parties, independents and other challengers. The major political parties will inevitably attempt to skew any new system to their own advantage. The development of electoral databases provides a significant example of members of parliament acting as gatekeepers for the rules under which they operate. For legitimate database usage to occur, the privacy of voters needs to be better protected.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)21-33
    Number of pages13
    JournalAustralasian Parliamentary Review
    Volume20
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2005

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