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					Fourteenth Online Council Officials‟ Standing Committee Meeting
Melbourne, 8 February 2002

ITEM 5:          E-DEMOCRACY


Talking Point
1.   The South Australian Government has established the „Talking Point‟ Web site
     as a forum for South Australians to discuss and debate South Australian issues.

2.   „Talking Point‟ went online in September 1999. The site can be viewed at

3.   Talking Point has been used by various Government departments to conduct
     online public consultation on a range of policy and discussion papers.

4.   Talking Point allows community members to participate in online forums.
     These have the form of an electronic „Bulletin Board‟, and are implemented
     through a commercial Bulletin Board software package.

5.   Visitors to Talking Point must become registered users in order to participate in
     online forums. However, registrants are not required to provide proof of
     identity. Many registrants choose to adopt psuedo-identities.

Legislation and Hansard Online
6.    The South Australian parliamentary Web site (
      provides searchable online access to:
           South Australian Acts and Legislation;
           House of Assembly Hansard (including Estimates Committee);
           Legislative Council Hansard
           Committee Hansard

Government Gazette
7.   The South Australian Government Gazette is accessible in searchable online
     form at

Virtual Electorate
8.   In August 2000 the Premier of South Australia released the Government‟s
     “Information Economy 2002” statement, which included a list of 21 initiatives
     that would be implemented or considered by the Government. The twenty-first
     of these comprised a proposal whereby:

             “The State Government will examine legislation that will amend the
             Electoral Act to create a special „global‟, extraterritorial electorate for
             expatriate South Australians and others not currently represented as
             „citizens‟ of the State.” Source: “Information Economy 2002: Delivering the Future”

       14th Online Council Officials‟ Standing Committee Meeting, 8 February 2002, Melbourne – Agenda Papers

      This proposal elicited a wide range of responses across the community. To
      date, it has not been progressed.


9.   The term „E-Democracy‟ seems to have many definitions, which may include
     some or all of:
          Public consultation on Government policy papers and announcements;
          Online access to elected representatives;
          Electronic voting;
          Electronic dissemination of Government policy documents and other
           information; and
          Electronic access to public records.

10.   It is suggested that should E-Democracy become a matter for discussion by
      Online Council Officials and, presumably, the Online Council itself, then a
      necessary first step would be to produce an agreed and ratified definition of the

11. Online forums, meetings and discussions can be implemented in a technical
     sense at low cost, and with little effort. There is a wide range of powerful, low
     or no-cost software capable of providing the functionality required by these
     aspects of E-Democracy.

12.   However, experience in South Australia suggests that in order to instill public
      confidence in E-Democracy initiatives such as Talking Point, Governments
      must be prepared to respond visibly to the input it has invited. In the absence of
      such a response, there is an obvious risk to the public‟s perception of the value
      that new technologies may bring to the democratic process.

13.   It should be noted that in contrast to the above, the administrative and technical
      requirements of some other aspects of E-Democracy, such as those guaranteeing
      the integrity of online voting, are not at all straightforward.

South Australia
January 2002

       14th Online Council Officials‟ Standing Committee Meeting, 8 February 2002, Melbourne – Agenda Papers

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