Google throws hat into Election 07, gives pollies, voters a voice

Will it be Howard or Kevin in 07? Watch the federal election battle unfold on Google’s new election Web site

Australian politicians from both sides of the fence have lauded Google Australia's launch of a new election Web page and tools dedicated to keeping the nation informed about all manner of politics and election issues.

The election page includes a new variation of Google maps called maplets, through which users can view electorate boundaries, see which parties hold each seat and the margin they hold them by, electorate profiles and information about each member, as well as links to videos and news relating to each electorate.

In addition, users can add a variety of election related 'gadgets' to their igoogle home page.

The first 'gadget', called 'Australian MPs on the record', offers the ability for users to search Hansard for any statements made by the current 226 Federal MPs.

Users can select an MP and an election issue, then run a search on what that MP has said about that particular issue in Parliament or on their personal Web site.

'Election Trends' is another gadget that lets users select various topics to compare search and news query volumes in order to see when particular issues are or were of topical significance.

The third gadget is a tool that delivers news and videos from a user's specific electoral seat directly onto their igoogle homepage.

Google also launched an election channel on YouTube, which will provide an opportunity for users to communicate with the very politicians that represent them.

Users can post a video question in response to any of the videos from each political party's YouTube channel, or they can submit comments and questions to the Australia Votes Channel homepage.

"What this does allow is for us to get more information out there," said Federal workplace relations minister Joe Hockey. "The more information we can put on the Net, the more easily people can access that information."

Hockey went on to say that politicians are often frustrated by how the media can interpret what they say, and that this tool will give them a chance to speak directly to their constituents and potential supporters.

He said it would allow politicians to get their message across, as well as receive messages from the voting public, without misinterpretation or repackaging by the media.

When posed the question as to whether politicians would be wary of people posting negative opinions, Labor shadow minister for Climate Change, the Environment and the Arts, Peter Garrett, said this wasn't something to be afraid of.

"If you do get situations where people want to vent, and they've got the opportunity to do that, then that is a healthy thing to do. I also think there will end up being a totally deeper discussion of what is going on as well, particularly once these forums become commonplace."

"I especially see a tremendous opportunity for people who are really interested in current affairs," Garrett added.

In a video posted on the Liberal Party 07 page, Prime Minister John Howard said "its undeniable that the Internet is a powerful medium for people to communicate and be informed.

"I am personally committed to using YouTube to making important announcements. This is because I realise that this medium is not some sort of gimmick, but can provide an uninterrupted, open and direct channel between decision makers and voters."

On Labor's 'Kevin 07' YouTube election page, opposition leader Kevin Rudd called YouTube the new tool of democracy, urging anyone interested in the coming election to "go out there, put your point of view and hear something about what we've got to say as well."

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