Sometime I exaggerate in my blog headings. I admit I have somewhat of a propensity towards hyperbole.This is not one of those cases: this has the very real possibility of radically transforming governance in Australia.
What is this you ask? The concept is simple: create an easily searchable online database which includes all government expenditure. Down to the last cent. Sounds rather innocuous at first glance, yet the implications of such a creation are profound.
Think about it for a minute. No longer can governments hide wasteful spending away from the public eye. Rather, they shall be forced to become accountable. Rather than only a few bureaucrats knowing where taxpayer money is going, an army of citizen journalists will be able to scour the data. Point out waste. Create savings. How many projects do you think would withstand such scrutiny? How many rorts and junkets would have to be cancelled? How much duplication and waste can be found?
Such legislation has been tried and tested. It has bipartisan support. The legislation to create such a site at the US Federal Level was co-authored by Senators Coburn, McCain, and Obama. Half the states in the US have transparency websites. So does London. And the EU. The cost is minimal. The savings are huge.
Josh Armstrong from the Sydney University Liberal Club wrote this great policy paper on applying this to the Australian context. You should all read it. Seriously. Do it now. If you pay attention to just ONE blog post I write, make it be this one. Read it. Please.
Update: You actually have to read the policy paper to be able to recognize the true genius of this plan. So far only about 25% of readers are doing so. PLEASE read the paper.
Update 2: The Sunlight Foundation has a list of “insanely useful Web sites for government transparency” that “provide a broad range of information available to track government and legislative information, campaign contributions and the role of money in politics.”
Update 3: Joh Henke at The Next Right has a great blog post on the politics behind transparency and how it can be achieved.