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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Queensland Integrity-where to from the Open Government Policy Forum?

The transcript of the Open Government Policy Forum in Brisbane on 13 August is now available. 

Of interest to all who follow such things are the Premier's opening remarks (1-6) which include references to open data and Right to Information issues and his views about the need to protect deliberative process documents.

Session 2 on Creating an Open and Accessible Government (20-34) includes comments from Professor Bill Lane and me on transparency generally and RTI, and from the floor by Michael McKinnon of the Seven Network who raised issues concerning charges, proposed a public interest test for confidentiality and legal privilege claims, responded to the Premier on deliberative process, and reminded that public servants have a duty that should not be shirked by not recording elements of the decision making process.

There are other points of interest of course. The Forum provided an opportunity for an airing of a range of issues about the integrity system. 

The importance of culture change was ever present.

Always in the background, rather than up in lights, perhaps because the Government has already accepted the majority of recommendations, was that things are moving in the direction suggested in the Callinan Report on the Crime and Misconduct Commission: the whole integrity system needs rationalisation and simplification because in post Fitzgerald Queensland, it has grown into an industry, has too many elements, is too complex with dispersed responsibilities and overlapping functions, and is confusing to both insiders and those who seek to utilise it. 

Support for the proposition was not tested at the Forum and some influential figures clearly question this. Ombudsman Phil Clarke for one responded (29) to suggestions the complaints system is broken, commenting that he is yet to see the evidence.

A question mark that hung over proceedings was the purpose of the Forum and where things go from here. Professor AJ Brown raised this directly with the Premier in the first question of the day, and it came up again in the final session with Jon Grayson, Director General of the Premier's Department.

In the earlier exchange the Premier indicated the Government 'had views' about where it wanted to head but would take on board 'recommendations from the Forum.'  However the Forum didn't operate in a way that could have produced anything of the kind, and this role hadn't been suggested beforehand. 

I was glad of the invitation to be involved to a degree in reasonably informed discussion covering a broad range of issues. But discussion was wide ranging rather than focused, and none of the issues were covered in sufficient depth to lead to any conclusions.
Prof. BROWN: Thank you, Premier. My name is AJ Brown from Griffith University. My question to you and the Attorney would be what is the process from here? There has been the parliamentary committee review of some aspects of the recent management of matters by the CMC. There has been the Callinan/Aroney review. There are conflicting interpretations, I think, about what that review started out to do versus what it may have done. There are processes underway for finessing the implementation of the recommendations of those reviews. What is the outcome of today's forum going to feed into that process and how are those questions going to be resolved relative to the ones that we are doing today? What is our process for feeding into your thinking on this?
Mr NEWMAN: In relation to the two bits of work on the CMC, being the inquiry led by the chairman over here and the Callinan/Aroney review, the government has been considering that. I suppose it is fair to say that, if nothing else happened, we would have a way forward.We have views .We would be implementing what the member for Gladstone’s committee said and what Aroney and Callinan have said. We will be seeking to fuse those things together, particularly mindful of the very important role of the member for Gladstone in coming up with a way forward for the CMC . I guess the idea was to bring people together to consider more than just that. As I outlined, for example just on the complaints system, there is an opportunity— I suppose a bigger opportunity and a more strategic way we could go—which is to not just go and undertake the implementation of some of those CMC recommendations but, as a result of your deliberations, to take what you good people say today, take that on board and have a more comprehensive set of reforms that we could bring into the parliament. I guess that is the opportunity today.We are here, we are listening and the people in this room really are the key thinkers in the space. That is our view. If you have some strong recommendations out of today, I can assure people that that is going to be something that the government is going to take extremely seriously. Did you want to comment, Jarrod?
Mr BLEIJIE: Professor, in terms of the timeline, we have a few things on the plate at the moment with respect to the implementation panel for t he CMC review, working with the PCMC committee.We would probably expect by the end of the year to have it all wrapped up.The right to information/privacy legislation discussion paper that we have out at the moment is due to finish in November .It would be the comments from today and the feedback from today, with the implementation panel on the CMC and then the RTI, and hopefully bundle it all up at the end of the year so we can say, ‘This is the integrity framework in Queensland.'
Director General Grayson said next steps, well, remain to be seen:
The next steps: let me in the spirit of this forum be open and say that there is not a prescribed path forward. This was the first step and I will certainly be talking with the Premier about the next step. But the first step was to encourage an expression of views, which then the government and indeed the parliament can decide how we go forward
So watch that space.

Queenslanders and others with direct experience in dealing with complaints bodies and with other aspects of the integrity system there might want to complete  the Open Government online survey.

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