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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Vale Open Australia?

Well not the entire concept-but what ever happened to the wonderful Open Australia, the great volunteer initiative to follow Federal Parliament doings, which has ground to a halt with no postings of parliamentary debate since March. I sure miss the daily Hansard alert service. No response to an email to founder Matthew Landaeur a few weeks ago.


  1. Hi Peter,

    I sure miss it too! My name is Henare - I'm one of the volunteers behind the OpenAustralia Foundation that runs

    What happened is that about 6 months ago the Australian Parliament House once again changed the format of the Hansard data they provide, which breaks our software for downloading Hansard (it happened back in 2008 too).

    As you probably know we're a volunteer based organisation which either relies on people volunteering their time to fix these things or getting enough donations to be able to fund a few days development and this hasn't happened so far.

    Hopefully it does happen and we can resurrect from the ashes :)



  2. Henare,
    Perhaps what happened is known in some circles but I'm sure there are plenty of fans out there who are puzzled and rue the disappearance of such a great service. Are there any initiatives underway and how can we give this a boost?

  3. You're right - we should have been more vocal about the service being down. We were in fact very surprised that even the most enthusiastic supporters didn't seem to notice it was not updating.

    I'm hesitant to note that at our hackfest last weekend one person actually started the process to get the Hansard downloader working again. I'm hesitant because it's not a trivial amount of work and it's very common to have these efforts started with the best intentions but never quite finished.

    For the last few months when people have asked I've suggested they consider making a donation but again as it's not a small amount of work we'd probably need more than $5000 to pay for someone to work on it. So unless we were serious about starting a campaign to get it done we run the risk of starting something we can't finish.

    Another way people could help would be publicising and pressuring government to provide this data in a more usable format. has been running for a few years now, the Government 2.0 Taskforce has been and gone but nothing's really changed with how the governments of Australia publish Hansard and other parliamentary data, such as the register of members' interests.

    I'm interested in your thoughts about how this could be changed.

  4. Henare,

    We-collectively-need you.Can you call me 83569622.

  5. Henare tells me an associate is having another crack at the necessary software, and plans to contact Parliament about this shortly.It's a sad comment that the powers that be in Canberra simply shrugged the shoulders about the problem that arose regarding public access and searchability of Hansard as a result of the shift to a new system. Left to its own devices, parliament doesn't publish the pecuniary interest register, another Open Australia initiative. Or any details about payments made by the parliamentary departments to or on behalf of parliamentarians. Oh that's right, that might raise the issue of what ever happened to further work on responses to the Belcher committee report?
    And get a bit close to the 1995 recommendation from the ALRC to extend the FOI act to cover the parliamentary departments, studiously ignored since. I digress.

    On Open Australia, further news as it comes to hand.