The Australian Government now declares that, in order to promote greater participation in Australia’s democracy, it is committed to open government based on a culture of engagement, built on better access to and use of government held information, and sustained by the innovative use of technology...And the link to Freedom of Information reform and the Information Commissioner's central role joins important dots, although I'd suggest the claim that "FOI Reforms... establish a comprehensive Information Publication Scheme that requires agencies to publish a wide range of information" doesn't quite gel with the limited nature of the statutory obligation, and with an Explanatory Memorandum that talks of the benefits of largely leaving each agency to decide what to publish because they know best.
The Australian Government’s support for openness and transparency in Government has three key principles:
- Informing: strengthening citizen’s rights of access to information, establishing a pro-disclosure culture across Australian Government agencies including through online innovation, and making government information more accessible and usable;
- Engaging: collaborating with citizens on policy and service delivery to enhance the processes of government and improve the outcomes sought; and
- Participating: making government more consultative and participative.
Unfortunately, at seconds to midnight in the government's term of office, and signed off by the Finance Minister who is not standing again, rather than the Prime Minister, it's got an air of the back rather than front door status it deserves. So too the announcement by Health Minister Roxon of a still under development My Hospital website.
The mainstream print media are yet to mention the declaration, although ITWire and Computerworld give it a run, and there is mostly praise in geek circles, with Stephen Collins at Acid Labs making a good point about some critics needing to see it in context. Andrea Di Maio of Gartner Research suggests it's a new international benchmark, "far more powerful" than the US Open Government Directive, "as it sets purpose and context around the machinery of government and puts its center of gravity on employees rather than citizens."
We should expect bipartisan support for open government during the election campaign from the leaders, although we all know that's the easy part, and Kevin Rudd's "I'll end secrecy" commitment in 2007 is still ringing in our ears.
Tanner and Defence Minister Faulkner, who knew the issues well, will leave large holes on the front bench wherever the ALP ends up after the election.