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Friday, July 20, 2012

Australia, a cocky on the OGP tin

"Since its launch in September 2011, the Open Government Partnership (OGP) has become the most high profile international movement for greater government transparency in the world."
But Australia (and New Zealand and every country in Asia and the Pacific regions except Indonesia, Republic of Korea, Mongolia and the Philippines) isn't one of the 55 Participating States.  Some in the region won't meet the eligibility criteria, others won't want to fly this particular flag. In our case our reasons haven't been stated, publicly at least. When I raised this earlier in the year, a government spokesperson said we were still considering and consulting. What, and who, who knows?

A contact who follows these developments closely recently suggested that foreign policy considerations- not wanting to be part of a group embracing aspirations that China doesn't share-played a part in our lack of involvement. I'd be surprised. That consideration didn't hold back founding governments such as Brazil and South Africa who share interests with China, for example through BRICS. India did back out after initial enthusiasm, but China's views or sensitivities, if they exist on this question wouldn't have been a consideration. Apparently India's concern was scrutiny that would accompany government self-assessment, and possibly, reluctance politically to engage in a public consultation at home on transparency.

My guess is those considerations loom large in Canberra as well when the hard nosed question "what's in it for us" is asked. Far easier to avoid international nosey-parkers and leave to others leadership in the search for best practice, and international heavy lifting to encourage improved standards in this area.

The Centre for Law and Democracy is already drawing attention to deficiencies in the Action Plans lodged by many participants.

I'm pulling together at present some information about right to information in the South Pacific. It's not a great story in the only region where Australia and New Zealand loom large and are well placed to lead through words, resources and example. The Cook Islands is the only country with an FOI law, Tonga is on the move and there are occasional references to good intentions in a couple of other countries as well. 

But Australia and New Zealand could both benefit directly, and indirectly have influence, from mixing more with those involved in "the most high profile international movement for greater government transparency in the world."


  1. Andrew2:15 pm

    On the issue of countries in the OGP being 'judged', the Partnership has just published a 'concept note' for the Independent Reporting Mechanism. It is open for comments until mid-August.

  2. Andrew11:38 am

    Re: the relations with China point, you (and your readers) might like to stay tuned for the next installment of a blog from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. It'll be interesting to see what (if anything) John Blaxland has to say.