In what is claimed to be a world first (for Google), Google Australia has launched a dedicated Australian Election site.
The Google 2007 Australian Federal Election site offers links to YouTube videos from Australian political parties, a Google Maps mashup that provides House of Representatives electoral information by seat, and “election gadgets” that provide previous statements made by MP’s and Senators, Google News feeds and a Google Trend feature that tracks mentions of parties and issues. Data can also be viewed in Google Earth.
We’ve seen Google become involved in elections before; YouTube’s Presidential debates are well known. The Australian election site takes the idea one step further by offering a one stop shop of related information.
It’s not perfect, least not yet. Candidate information is lacking in Reps seats, probably due to the fact that in the Australian Election process candidates have 7 days to nominate for a seat once the election is officially called and hence there is no official list of candidate from the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC). However it wouldn’t take a lot of effort to add some candidate information with the two major parties having long since preselected candidates for the election; a good example is in the Australian Prime Minister’s seat of Bennelong, where the Australian Labor Party (ALP) has preselected a high profile candidate Maxine McKew, a former Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) journalist who is getting a lot of media in Australia. I’d note also that Google Australia’s Head of Corporate Communications & Public Affairs, and the lead on the Election site Rob Shilkin would know that this information is freely available as well, given he is was formerly involved in the Liberal Party. The use of YouTube is certainly different (and I’m not being totally polite); watching the Prime Minister deliver YouTube exclusive messages in a suit like he was making an address to the Nation doesn’t really strike a chord with me.
Disclosure: in a past life I was a Howard Government Staffer…twice, but since cured.