Turnbull wants Govt-funded email for all


Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has reportedly proposed a policy which would see every Australian allocated a limited email-like inbox to receive communications from governments, if the Coalition took power in the next election.

Computerworld today reported that Turnbull proposed the paper-saving system would see citizens use their name and date of birth to log into the system, which would be hosted on the australia.gov.au domain. The Liberal MP claimed the system could save millions — “if not billions” — over time.

Australian Governments are known to spend at least tens of millions of dollars each year communicating with citizens, through avenues such as the Australian Taxation Office, advertising services to promote initiatives such as the proposed tax on carbon emissions, drivers’ licence renewals and more. Increasingly, some of these communications are electronic — such as the online portal which allows businesses to report their financial details to the ATO on a regular basis. But many are still paper-based.

Turnbull has proposed an interesting idea here, which has merit. One unified government inbox, which could collect notifications from Federal, State and Local branches of government, would solve a lot of problems and cut costs.

However, as with university mailboxes, we suspect the first thing the Australian population would request is an option to be able to forward these messages straight on from their official government inbox to their personal email, or God forbid, Facebook accounts. It’s an interesting idea, Mr Turnbull. But Australia doesn’t need another email system. We just need to be able to register our email addresses somewhere central.

Image credit: Sigurd Decroos, royalty free


  1. I agree, Renai. If there was a way to register my email address to receive *relevant* notifications from all levels of government, I’d be one of the first in line.

    Malcolm has some interesting ideas, which is why he’s well-suited to his current position as Shadow Communications Minister, but perhaps he should be engaging in a little more ‘community consultation’ on these ideas so that he can get a clearer picture of what the people really want.

    • I like Turnbull’s ideas too; but often he’s just a little off-track ;) however, at least he’s in the right ball park, which is more than you can say for most politicians :)

  2. The idea that we could give the government one email address for communicating with us is great. The idea that we would have a separate email-like system is extremely bad, no-one would bother checking it.

  3. Security, Backups, Fail-over. oh and SECURITY
    Does Turnbull think storage is cheap when you’re responsible for the identity treasure trove of information that this would hold?
    I would like to see their maths on this, because I don’t think this would save them any money at all.

    Now if they instead made the end user responsible for where that data is stored, and introduced some tax breaks for the sort of companies that would build and maintain the data-centres. _that_ might save some money.

    I think his history with Ozemail is clouding his judgement.

  4. Name and DOB, really?

    A full email system sounds like overkill – just let us nominate an address and send everything there. Most people are going to forward it anyway. Besides, I’d be rather wary about letting the government read my email…

  5. Surely, such a plan would cost more money to design, install, and administer than just setting up a simple mailing list server, and getting everyone to lodge an email address with their tax returns each year?

    For someone espousing fiscal responsibility, this seems a waste of time, money, and effort, when it can be done far more cost effectively.

    • Didn’t Turnbull already state that this system would quite a bit of money due to paper saving and a lot other things

        • Yeah, maintaining an email system for 22 million inboxes – (and more over time as population grows over the years) – is an expensive operation.

          • Forget expensive. Without outsourcing it to Microsoft or Google, it’s impossible. I’m thinking Turnbull more meant some kind of web portal login, though.

        • Mind you, they wouldn’t be able to provide such a cost analysis until the government goes into caretaker mode, and its not even an official policy yet

          I wonder where a similar analysis was for the laptops for schools programs, which I would argue would have been an even bigger waste of resources

    • I like the idea of ppl lodging an email address with their tax return. Set up an online system to change it (with verification) and bob’s your uncle. Done.

  6. looks like turnbull is trying to relive his ozemail days.

    sounds like someone’s living in the past! Contemporize, man!

    • lol re OzEmail. It was only this week that iiNet CEO Michael Malone was talking about the fact that the OzEmail email accounts are still active (on the financial results call).

  7. @R Yes Name and date of birth, great way to stalk an ex.
    Or maybe for suppliers to send stuff to your private inbox

  8. Name and date of birth for login. Doesn’t sound like very strong authentication to me. 1 factor, something you know, and something probably lots of other people know about you. If they are going to use it for any important and significant communications with personal information I would hope there is a better level of security than that.

    If they are only going to use it for notifications about new initiatives and nothing significant to an individual person, than it amounts to a whole of government spam box. Which I think is pretty pointless.

      • I’m sorry what’s the point of your post?

        Turnbull has said many times about looking at what other countries are doing and copying that as the way things should be done. I am pointing out another country that has looked at doing the exact same thing.

        A government email address for citizens is an interesting idea but not everyone has access to a computer. So what would these people do?

  9. we should instantaneous internet voting/referendums for bad government policies, viz. NBN.

  10. IS this doable, in scale? Absolutely – Google brought 25 million google-plus accounts online in about a month.

    Is it the right approach – maybe – perhaps a central point of disemmination – would make sense. i.e. you can opt for paper or fax for anything incoming. As for UNique identifiers – that will be a challenge – there will be a lot of instances where there will be same name/same birthday etc. TFN or some variant, but suit, but then like US Social Security Numbers, they are unique, but they are considered private.

    Of course, the ability to abuse it would be massive, but not insurmountable. Of course, to all read value, full national Unifed Communications. would be needed.

    Probably more important is identity validation, coupled with identity security. Of course, on the top a real PKI (Public Key encryption) giving a) Digital Signatures, as well as point to point encryption. (We know that Conroy, is actively against said technologies, because he wants to eavesdrop on us, but he won’t last…)

    Right at the moment, I could set up a Gmail, with say, a Jewel Gilliard name, whack up a couple of 10 dollar domains, with evidence of the existence of “Jewel”, put up some facebook info, and linedin info, and bingo – false identity. What we need is a way of validating someone is who they say they are without disemminating or compromising parts of their identity (i.e. their address) that they want kept hidden. Given that we as a national will not stop the SPAM out of Korea, Russia etc, the ability to have a validated identity, but a “throwaway” address makes sense. ( I have been bouncing this idea around with some senior people at Google – I think there are ways of “doing this”.

    A place to start may be a combination of the Tax office, and the electoral commission.

  11. Mal has a serious case of brain fade here. There are many people in Australia that still dont have an ordinary letterbox and he is talking about email. How is he going to send email to all those people who are too far out to even have wireless? Then there is the problem with all those who don’t want a computer. Like all pollys, full of bright ideas but haven’t thought them through before engaging mouth. Far too much of that around at the moment.

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