[Linux-aus] comment for an article on Government website accessibility

Arthur Marsh arthur.marsh at internode.on.net
Tue May 26 18:06:10 EST 2009

Dahna McConnachie wrote, on 26/05/09 15:27:
> Hi all,
> I am seeking some comments from Linux users for an article I am
> putting together, triggered by the ANAO's recently released audit
> report: "Online Availability of Government Entities' Documents Tabled
> in the Australian Parliament":
> http://www.anao.gov.au/director/publications/auditreports/2008-2009.cfm
> The report found, contrary to objectives set out to support open
> standards, that of the documents examined in 2008, only about 25 per
> cent were in
> HTML and less than five per cent were in RTF. 23. In contrast, over 95
> per cent of the documents examined in 2008 were in PDF, being a
> proprietary software format.
> I want to use this report as the basis for a broader article on
> Technology and Business (http://www.technologyandbusiness.com.au/)
> about Government websites generally and where they stand in terms of
> accessibility and open standards. I noticed there were some recent
> comments about this on the forum in terms of AGIMO's suggestions etc.
> I am just keen to get some responses from some Linux users about using
> Government websites generally.
> *Do you often have interoperability issues with Government websites,
> and particularly with publications within these websites? To what
> extent? Does the Government generally have a long way to go in terms
> of ensuring that people who use open source systems and software can
> fully access all of its published content? Any other comments about
> the report specifically? Any other comments generally?
> I look forward to hearing back from some of you in the next 12 hours or so....

Besides Federal Government web sites that don't use valid [X]HTML or 
that demand javascript, I also found the absence of Hansard in search 
engines hampered my ability to access information on government web sites.

My favourite: try finding Telstra's Carrier Licence (not licence 
conditions, the licence itself). I have a paper copy of it and it reads:

Commonwealth of Australia

Telecommunications Act 1991

Licence to operate as a general telecommunications carrier

I, KIM CHRISTIAN BEAZLEY, Minister of State for Transport and 
Communications, under section 57 of the Telecommunications Act 1991:

(a) grand AOTC within the meaning of the Australian and Overseas 
Telecommunications Corporation Act 1991 a general telecommunications 
licence to do all or any of the acts the holder of a general 
telecommunications licence is permitted to do under the 
Telecommunications Act 1991;
(b) declare, under section 65 of that Act, that the licence is subject 
to the conditions specified in the Schedule.

Dated 25 November 1991
Minister of State for Transport and Communications.
[end quote]

Another example is trying to pin down details on the Integrated Public 
Number Database (IPND) based on information available from ACMA and DBCDE.

Another would be legislative instruments (Acts of parliament and 
regulations) that reference obsolete versions of other documents.

Misleading information including lack of links to the most current 
information on government web sites also hampers accessibility, as does 
lack of a clear contact for any government web page and contacts that do 
not respond in a timely and informative manner.

In short, anything that hampers easy access to government documents 
including a fully indexed full-text search of government documents 
hamper accessibility of government documents.


Arthur Marsh.

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