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Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Gov 2.0 inching forward

The Federal Government in an announcement yesterday accepted most recommendations made in the Gov 2.0 Task Force Report of last December, including to make a Declaration of Open Government, and to other initiatives generally to promote greater openness and transparency, including talking this issue up with the states.

The Department of Finance and Deregulation is to be the lead agency, with the Information Commissioner (if and when the FOI Reform legislation creating the position passes) to report on  a raft of matters within 12 months. While accepting the need for major changes in copyright policy concerning its own materials, the Government has rejected the recommendation that the Commissioner not Attorney General's Department should be responsible for policy in this area.

Much is made of how the Report's objectives will be advanced by the publication schemes required under the FOI reform bill and relevant guidelines to be issued by the Commissioner. However in case you have missed the point previously made here on many occasions, the legislation is thin on specific publication requirements, the Commissioner "may" (not shall) issue guidelines, and an agency must have regard to (not must act in accordance with) any guidelines issued. The Explanatory Memorandum states  that the lack of prescription or powers to mandate publication are because agencies are in the best position to judge what information they hold should be published. I beg to differ and would feel more confident if a broader range of information to be pro-actively published was specified or the Commissioner had stronger powers.

Notwithstanding this is generally good stuff, albeit part of a long and probably slow journey, in the right direction. While I know why he would say this Opposition Senator Ronaldson's comment , reported in The Australian that" too much of this response is just blah, bureaucracy and boffin-speak,"is well, just blah blah.

We greatly look forward, as the Government now says it's on, to public servants participating in public discussion of issues within their area of expertise- including here on open government.

Update: Stilgherrian in Crikey today under the headline Slow,slow little steps to Gov 2.0 picks up on the endorsement in principle only of the recommendation that all public sector information should be open by default, with the government having to make the case for why information should not be released, that information should be free, easy to discover, freely re-usable, and published in machine-readable formats using open standards.

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