PM plunges into cyberspace

by Chris Griffith
Published 15 October 1995 in The Sunday Mail

 

my face

 

Prime Minister Paul Keating has taken a plunge into the world of cyberspace, launching his own home page and public guestbook on the Internet.

Adapting an idea implemented for world leaders such as US president Bill Clinton and South African president Nelson Mandela, Mr Keating's Internet page will give access to his speeches and invites the Australian citizenry to "Leave Paul a message in the Prime Minister's Guestbook".

Mr Keating's Internet guestbook, marked "under rapid development", is one of many new political and government services on the Internet. They include access to the federal parliament's daily notice papers and orders of business, and a facility to enter key words and search the federal parliamentary Hansards -- using any home computer attached to the Internet.

Opposition leader John Howard too is about to "hit the 'Net".

A spokesman for Mr Howard said the Opposition would have the Internet installed within two weeks, although Mr Howard was having difficulty convincing Speaker Steve Martin to agree to finance Mr Howard's Internet home page.

The only current reference to Mr Howard is a biographical reference found by typing a cumbersome 101-letter Internet address or through an Internet connection to the National Library of Australia.

The concept of an electronic guestbook, which computer users click on to send personal electronic mail (e-mail) messages to a Head of State, has been overwhelmingly popular in the United States.

US President Bill Clinton so far has received 685,000 e-mail messages since June 1993. He does not read them personally, but he does meet weekly with White House correspondence staff to view and discuss a representative sampling of his electronic mail.

The adaptation of the Internet to Australian government and politics however suggests political parties, keen to make every post a winner, could use the Internet as another venue for winning the hearts and minds of voters.

Junk e-mail from parties sent to thousands of Australian voters on electronic mailing lists could become the norm around election time.

State governments, too, are getting into the act.

The Queensland Government's Internet site is expected to be functioning by the end of this month. The issue of whether to provide Premier Wayne Goss and ministers with public e-mail addresses is being considered.

Governments are also giving access to speeches and legislation on the Internet. Examples are New Zealand Prime Minister Jim Bolger's open letter to France's President Jacques Chirac, Mr Keating's June republican speech, the Northern Territory's euthanasia legislation, and 30 years of speeches by Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Mr Keating's home page can be found at: http://gov.info.au/pm/pmhp.html, and his guestbook at http://gov.info.au/pm/guestbk.html#Guestbook.

The Queensland Government is located at http://www.qld.gov.au.

Mr Howard's biographical reference is at http://demos.anu.edu.au:7007/cgi- bin/pastimepub/article.pl?dir=misc/biographies/reps&pin=guest&art=67.