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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Government 2.0 Issues Paper raises familiar and new questions

The Government 2.0 Taskforce Issues Paper raises many important matters concerning transparency and open government including several questions familiar to readers here:

How can we build a culture within government which favours the disclosure of public sector information? What government information should be more freely available and what might be made of it? What are the major obstacles to fostering a culture of online engagement within government and how can they be tackled?

I'm sure the chair Nicholas Gruen and member David Solomon and their colleagues don't need reminding that the Freedom of Information history and experiences of the last thirty years, and the reams that have been written about why the law has fallen short of delivering its great promise can provide plenty of insights into the first and last questions.

Then there's the 507 secrecy provisions identified in the current Australian Law Reform Commission Review including the draconian Section 70 of the Crimes Act, with up to two years gaol for unauthorised disclosure, all of which in the words of Moira Paterson have a chilling effect on disclosure; the obsession with media mananagement, spin and the 24 hour news cycle; the shared interest in the upper echelons of government in the information as power equation, and the nature of politics; the recent Moran-Shergold volleys about the essential need for confidentiality for say thirty years for advice offered to government...I could go on, but best in a submission to the Taskforce before 24 August.By the way
submissions on the ALRC Discussion Paper on Secrecy close on 7 August

In the meantime some interesting reflections on aspects of the challenge from Taskforce member Martin Stewart-Weeks.

The Taskforce provides the opportunity to bring strands of the open government discussion together. Some elements -access to government information as a qualified right in a democratic society, and the underpinning it should provide for community participation in government and government accountability - have been well traversed, although the web opens up new frontiers. Others -such as access, use and reuse of government information to advance community, social and economic purposes - is newer territory. There is plenty of common ground in the problems to be addressed and the ways to achieve better outcomes.

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