In late October she gave a speech to the NSW Parliament regarding the level of online engagement by NSW MLCs.
Published at her site under the title, Politics online, the speech flagged the enormous influence the online channel has on voters today, and the level of attention NSW politicians were giving the channel.
In it she asked the following question of the NSW Members of Parliament (my bold),
Political participation of all citizens is being transformed by new media; 80 per cent of Australians have access to broadband and of those, 75 per cent are regular Internet users. For them this is the most important source of information. Without change the traditional ways of gathering and communicating information, such as newsletters, television advertising, direct mail and traditional mainstream news media, will become less relevant as large portions of the population no longer get their primary information through these mediums. This will have a significant impact on the participation within our democracy. The question I ask tonight is: what are we, the elected representatives in New South Wales, doing to make ourselves part of the transformation of political participation?She also answered this question, having had an intern research NSW MLC use of the online channel,
Only 39 of the 136 members of the New South Wales Parliament have personal websites. Only 12 of the 39 websites had recently updated information; 18 others had media releases as their only current information; three were a few months old and were out of date, and five were a few years out of date. Only seven members of the Parliament are using Web 2.0 tools, such as blogs, polls and online petitions.As a comparison (also from Penny's speech),
As a comparison, 655 out of 746 members of the House of Lords have their own website. It is also worth noting that the House of Lords recently launched a combined blog from numerous Lords from various parties. The www.lordsoftheblog.net is worth a look. In the United States, all 100 senators have their own website.Many people may remember the first televised political debates in Australia - they were only around 30 years ago - and how awkwardly politicians first engaged the medium.
Compare that today with the picture perfect polished performances of our pollies (most of the time).
I believe we will see a similar curve with online usage. The 2008 US Presidential election represents the first electoral watershed - equivalent to the first televised debate.
It will be very interesting to see how future internet politicians use the internet - and how their departments and public officials will be expected to embed the medium into their day to day activities at departmental and agency levels.