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Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Show us the money...sometime, please

Tim Andrews of the Australian Taxpayers' Alliance in Fairfax National Times today:
More than a billion dollars of our taxes are spent daily, yet there is little transparency, accountability or public disclosure of how and where...Taxpayers who wish to discover how their money is being used must trawl hundreds of pages of budget documents and submit time-consuming and costly freedom-of-information requests. Even then, information is scant. Ask any journalist. And these requests, as a Herald report showed on Monday, could be rejected in future as certain parliamentary departments are rendered exempt to FOI laws. But it does not have to be this way. A transparency revolution is under way overseas, empowering citizens, opening governments to scrutiny, and transforming governance. In 2006, in the US, the senators John McCain and Barack Obama co-sponsored the US federal funding accountability act. Its premise was simple: that taxpayer expenditure be placed online in an easily searchable database, so all taxpayers can find out how their money has been spent. Since then, the City of London, the European Union and 38 US states have enacted similar online portals - many with no thresholds, so every cent of taxpayer expenditure is publicly available...The benefits are obvious: not only are taxpayers empowered, but also savings can be easily identified, waste exposed and unethical behaviour discouraged.... It is time Australia joined this revolution. .... Corruption and rorting cannot occur when the records are freely available - sunlight truly is the best disinfectant. Such portals should be a ''no-brainer'' for policymakers.
In December 2007 in "US transparency reform should be emulated here" we were saying much the same thing. Four and a half years on, it's a "no-brainer" whose time is yet to come.  This effort on stimulus spending in 2009-10 was a toe in the water not dipped since.


  1. Anonymous3:39 pm

    Or you could just go to

  2. Good on those at Prosple and OzDocsOnline who developed and took off the major prize in the Open Government Category, as well as a prize for Best Contribution to Open Data at Govhack last weekend. Some good old Aussie get up and go.Read more at

  3. Thanks Peter for those kind words! We've had a lot of positive feedback, we're hoping to complete the data set for federal government spending over the next week. We'll be sure to keep you in the loop!