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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Australia not well connected with international open government cause

Still on the subject of our national and sub-national (when it comes to entitlements etc, don't start me!) parliaments, could they be more open and accountable? Could more be done to enhance citizen participation in the legislative process?

No prizes for yes to both questions, but a reminder of our paucity of civil society interest in pushing these envelopes in the fact that no Australian organisation is listed among the sixty parliamentary monitoring organizations (PMOs) working to this end, now supporting and set to launch the Declaration on Parliamentary Openness, at the World e-Parliament Conference in Rome starting today.
(Update-good news from Dan Swislow in Washington that the wonderful Open Australia Foundation has asked to be listed,)

That conference is co-organised by the United Nations and the Inter-Parliamentary Union and "principally aimed at presiding officers and members of parliament, secretaries general, parliamentary staff and officials, experts from international organizations, civil society organizations and academics who work and deal with information and communication technologies as instruments to improve and modernize parliamentary business and citizens’ participation in public decision-making processes."

Attorney General Roxon probably won't be there to further explore the idea that the parliamentary departments shouldn't be subject to the Freedom of Information Act. But Carol Mills Secretary, Department of Parliamentary Services in Canberra is the only Australian to make it onto the speaker's list. (Addition-presumably she won't dwell on the parliament's procedure for handwritten declarations of interests and gifts.)
Maybe we'll also have someone there from DFAT and/or a parliamentarian or two. Speaker Peter Slipper can't be all that busy. But civil society? Doubtful in the extreme.

The conference will conclude on the International Day of Democracy. Will that get a nod here at home? Probably not, it's a saturday.

The UN General Assembly, in resolution A/62/7 (2007) encouraged Governments to strengthen national programmes devoted to the promotion and consolidation of democracy with 15 September each year nominated as a special day. The theme in 2012 is "democracy education -- essential for the long-term success of democracy.... It is only with educated citizens that a sustainable culture of democracy can emerge." Yes to that.

Readers will know that Australia has also avoided good company in choosing to stay out of  the Open Government Partrnership.

Some commentary here that links the PMOs and the OGP.

If this is sounding a little on the low side, my recent lament about the paucity of voice for open government, and an accompanying call to arms elicited one response.

From a reader in Washington!


  1. My name is Dan Swislow from the National Democratic Institute in the United States. I've been working with the PMO community on and the Declaration on Parliamentary Openness. The effort began at the end of April at a conference in Washington, D.C. (more information is on the website), but supporting organizations only began to "sign on" to the Declaration very recently, within the last several weeks.

    In fact, the OpenAustralia Foundation has recently requested to be added as a supporting organization for the Declaration and to be listed on the website. We are working right now to get their name added to the list.

    Since this is a relatively new initiative, we are still getting new organizations added as supporters on almost a daily basis. One reason that not all countries are represented is that the community is still promoting the Declaration -- a final version has been available for a very short time and many people just don't know about it yet. That's why this launch event on September 15 is important, and that's also why blog posts like yours are extremely helpful in getting the word out.

    I also help to moderate a pretty active email list for the global PMO community, which we would love for you to join, available here:

    All the best,

    Dan Swislow
    National Democratic Institute
    (another reader in Washington)

  2. Dan, Thanks for that. I had wondered about Open Australia, but knowing that some of the key people involved are stretched and have other priorities thought they may have moved on. Great they are connected. Yes I'll sign on to the list and wish you every success.Another gap I noticed, having done some recent research on transparency in the region, was the countries of the South Pacific which also have many challenges and a long list of priorities. Cheers.