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Monday, February 04, 2013

'Complex and voluminous' is only part of the OGP puzzle

What was I thinking?

That Foreign Affairs and Trade would hold a document concerning the Open Government Partnership and the pros and cons of Australia joining?

I imagined the disclosure in November that the Attorney General, in discussions with her advisers in May last year, had suggested Australia should join would prompt a modicum of activity in other agencies with an interest including DFAT.

That these 10 points in the case for Australia joining included a number of foreign policy considerations worth at least a thought.

That someone in DFAT might have drawn to relatively new minister Bob Carr's attention the fact that an invitation to join sent to his predecessor Kevin Rudd by Secretary of State Clinton in August 2011, apparently never received an answer.

That Indonesia and the UK, the current co-chairs presumably have had a word in at least one official Australian ear?

That we would notice transparency is being talked about in the G20.

And that our Embassy in Washington would pick up that the US attaches significance to the OGP and pass this back to Canberra.
On that front, Samantha Power senior director for multilateral affairs and human rights in the White House said recently President Obama has a personal interest in the OGP initiative, having launched it in the UN General Assembly in 2011. At the time he challenged leaders to respond with ideas for how to achieve more transparency, fight corruption, harness new technologies for innovation, and empower citizens. Powers said President Obama often brings the subject up, spontaneously, with foreign leaders and described the OGP as "President Obama’s signature governance initiative."

"Governance initiative" may be a term unfamiliar to our leaders. Neither the Prime Minister nor the Leader of the Opposition mentioned anything of the kind in their major set pieces last week, despite crying "trust me" in unison. 

Setting off on a partnership with civil society of the kind envisaged by the OGP could be part of what is required as a start to restore confidence, quite apart from the international dimension of the case for joining. But it would be a long journey, requiring genuine commitment and hardly likely to get far by 14 September.

Maybe DFAT is out of the game, not attaching any significance to how our strange distancing from the OGP initiative plays with others including close friends and is leaving any action (?) to domestic oriented agencies. Consequently DFAT hardly holds a scrap of recent paper on the subject.

If that is the case movement at the station in AG's, OAIC and PM&C, to name just three that should be taking an interest, is subterranean.


  1. John McCarthy4:31 pm

    There is an acknowledged need to get issues in the foreign policy realm into the public arena. One aspect of the Asia White Paper was the stated importance of greater public involvement in australia's response to Asia . And the need goes beyond Asia.We need a published National Intelligence Estimate similar to that put out every four year in the US .People need information from their government in order to take an informed view of issues. This blog points to how far behind the game Australia is in these areas.

  2. Thanks John, who for the benefit of other readers served as Australian Ambassador to Vietnam (1981-1983); Mexico (1985-1987); Thailand (1992-1994); the United States (1995-1997); Indonesia (1997-2000) Japan (2001-2004) and High Commissioner to India (2004-2009).