Google Australia's Alan Noble moderated a discussion panel consisting of Labor senator Kate Lundy, Greens senator Scott Ludlam, Liberal MP Paul Fletcher and Australian Electoral Commission spokesman Doug Orr.
At an event at Google's Australian headquarters in Sydney, the search giant announced the launch of a Web site allowing Australians to track the search popularity of political parties, leaders and election policies. The Election 2010 Web site also features an interactive Google map that overlays Federal electorate boundaries and shows the volatility of voting areas.
Google Australia engineering director Alan Noble said that the Internet was "by far and away the greatest enabler of democracy" available to the public. The Election Search Trends section of the Election 2010 Web site features data gathered by Google Insights for Search, allowing prospective voters to view the relative popularity of recent searches for a number of election terms. Google search statistics for Australian political leaders Julia Gillard, Tony Abbott and Bob Brown are shown on the Leaders graph, while the Labor, Liberal, Green and the National parties are represented on the Parties tab. The Policy Topics tab shows aggregated information for political topics such as immigration, education and national health. The trends graph for policies and parties extends as far back as July 2009, but trends data for leaders has only been collected since 29 June 2010.
The interactive Google map on the Election 2010 Web site's landing page, which uses the latest version of the Google Maps API for streamlined support on mobile devices, displays a map of Australia divided into colour-coded electoral districts. Users can distinguish between safe, fairly safe and marginal seats on the map, although specific information on the marginality of each seat is not available on the Election 2010 site. As the Australian Electoral Commission releases information closer to the 21 August election, the map will be updated with lists of candidates for each electorate and the locations of polling booths.
Politicians from Australia's major parties welcomed the launch of the Web site, with Labor Senator Kate Lundy saying: "We have one of the world's most open democracies. Governments that don't engage with their digital citizens do not properly represent them". Lundy, who has been a vocal proponent of the Labor Party's National Broadband Network plans, said that the explosion of the use of social media in Australia represented an opportunity for citizens to take part in decision making and collaboration on government policy. Liberal MP Paul Fletcher also applauded Google's actions. Although he spoke positively on the usefulness of the Internet for public interaction and for "constituents to keep politicians up to the mark", Fletcher also advised users to tread carefully on the Internet, saying: "Don't let the technology dazzle us."
The Election 2010 site also contains links to major parties' YouTube channels, as well as Google's new StudentVoice initiative, which is aimed at educating school students aged 15-17 about the voting process. A mock youth federal election will also be held on 9-12 August using the service, and collected voting data will be released before the actual federal election.
The Google Election 2010 Web site will continue to be updated as the federal election draws closer, with additional information on candidates and polling booths.