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Thursday, April 23, 2009

2020 vision suffers from near-sightedness

Reaction to the Government's response to the Final Report on last year's 2020 Summit seems to be somewhere between "underwhelmed" and "disappointed" as illustrated in these articles in Fairfax papers and The Australian, the Oz editorial and Mike Steketee's comments.

The response (The future of Australian governance - PDF 99KB) to the Governance chapter of the report includes a lot of the waffle Steketee refers to, not surprising, given the fact that much of the chapter lacked coherence, was repetitive, and included a lot of ideas that were trite and bordered on laughable as 2020 objectives.(See comments in June 2008).

Plans for moving on what the Report listed as the
five priority themes for governance- the constitution, rights and responsibilities (an Australian Republic); a modern federation; collaborative governance; revolutionising the ways government and communities interact; parliamentary reform; and open and accountable government-vary from doing nothing (the Republic), to improving the way COAG works and a series of other small steps, and making a start on others, for example on Freedom of Information reform and discussion of a charter of rights. Some ideas- for example a culture change on disclosure, hardly a 2020 goal (I hope)- could have started a year or more ago if the Government had chosen to act.

The following, about community interaction and participation was a positive, but the wheels have been spinning in the Australian Government Information Management Office and elsewhere in government for years on e-governance, without much traction. Now the Prime Minister's Department is to have a go, but you hardly feel any sense of urgency:
" ..the Government is committed to developing practical initiatives in e-governance that increase communities’ ability to interact with the Parliament and the policy development processes of government. The Government is committed to making extensive information about policy issues available on-line to the community. The Government will develop better ways to increase interactive consultative processes using new technologies to communicate and hear from people. Some aspects of this work will be guided by the statutory Information Commissioner position (comment: sometime in 2010), which the Government will be establishing as part of its Open Government reform agenda. As a first step, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet has sought expert advice(emphasis added) on the enhancement of information and access to Commonwealth information and policy and a whole-of-government approach to the development of an e-governance strategy. The Government is also considering (emphasis added) holding a set of forums that will bring together experts, business and community representatives and others with a strong interest in a number of topics to promote a collaborative approach to challenging issues and better inform government decision making."

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