The Industry department has launched an email subscription service following concerns about a lack of transparency and access to consultations.
Labor raised concerns earlier this year that the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources did not have an option for members of the public to subscribe to receive updates, such as media releases from ministers or the opening of new consultations on pieces of legislation.
The Opposition said this raised questions about transparency and whether it was preventing people from taking part in consultations run by the department. The issue was raised at a senate estimates hearing in March.
In an answer to a question on notice from Labor Senator Louise Pratt, the industry department confirmed that it has now launched an email subscription service for media releases, and is working on one for consultations.
The email subscription service for media releases from portfolio ministers and the department was launched on 25 March, and the department is now “working” on a version for consultations.
The news has been welcomed by shadow industry minister Brendan O’Connor.
“This is a small step in the right direction to reign in the government’s preference to selectively email releases and information to friendly news outlets, rather than the public,” Mr O’Connor told InnovationAus.
Virtually all departments at one time had the ability to subscribe to notifications, but there are no uniform rules for this across government departments.
The Digital Transformation Agency runs a Media Release Service which it said has 7500 subscribers. The service collates all known media releases from government organisations and ministerial websites and sends them to subscribers.
The DTA is currently looking to reform the service and improve its functioning to ensure it is “technically viable and fit-for-purpose”. The agency said it was considering an alternative approach to delivering the service earlier this year.
It has now posted code and data for this service publicly on GitHub.
“The DTA is continuing to develop and improve the Media Release Service,” a DTA spokesperson told InnovationAus.
The service is currently in the form of an RSS feed, but the GitHub page shows that the DTA is looking at launching its own subscription service for media releases, with an early prototype now on display.
This would allow anyone to subscribe to media releases from whichever topics or portfolios they would like to stay informed on.