Suiting Themselves: Major parties electoral databases & privacy
Australasian Study of Parliarment Group
Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences
School of International, Cultural and Community Studies / Centre for Research in Entertainment, Arts,Technology, Education and Communications
The potential benefits and pitfalls of information technology are on display in the databases used by Australia’s major political parties. 1 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 (MP), 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 of the Australian party system will likely prevent serious consideration of the 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.