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Monday, March 09, 2015

Putting the NSW Parliament's Interest Register under scrutiny

With an election to be held on 28 March, Nick Evershed and Todd Moore at Guardian Australia are looking for help to create a searchable, machine-readable database of the NSW Parliament Interests Register. 

Surprised this sort of information isn't already up there in lights?

I've lost the link but made a note years ago that ICAC made this recommendation in a report in 2003:
 "That the register of pecuniary interests be established as an electronic database that can be accessed via the Internet by Members of Parliament and members of the public."
Disgraced former minister Eddie Obeid got away with a micro version of the real thing for a decade probably because the register, conveniently was available for inspection in Macquarie during business hours on weekdays by those who took the trouble and few bothered.

More eyeballs might make a difference.

As Evershed and Moore explain half "the pecuniary interests register in NSW has never been viewable online by the public, and the other half is hard to find. All of the declarations are only available as scanned PDFs, sometimes handwritten, which makes it difficult to properly scrutinise the register."

They provide the pdfs and want help transcribing the register and flagging entries that are worth investigating further.

As they say this "can be used in conjunction with other datasets, such as records of donations, contracts, and travel expenses to improve political transparency in NSW."

Parliamentarians expenses and entitlements largely go under the radar in NSW, with annual total spend reported at year end in an appendix in the Assembly (pdf page 60) and Council (pdf page104) annual reports.

NSW is not alone-things are much the same in the other states.


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