Minister Cormann gave the standard summary:
"the situation is as it was when we last discussed this in May or June. The government has expressed an interest in joining the open government partnership. We are undertaking the necessary due diligence in order to come to a final decision. A final decision has not been made this point."However when recently appointed Secretary Jane Halton expanded on this it turns out a ministerial/prime ministerial decision was taken that Australia should participate in voting in the election of the OGP Steering Committee a few months back, and the department is working on a national action plan, with a rather mysterious reference "to 162 particular recommendations on 19 different topics."
"So whilst we are participating as a participating country, we are doing the domestic work that would enable us, should the government choose to participate, to do the public consultation on the National Action Plan, and then ultimately to agree and sign on."So all to the good, if as slow as a wet week given that we were invited to join over three years ago and the previous government lodged a notice of intention to join in May last year. Surprisingly that's enough to get us a vote.
And while public servants continue with what the Secretary described as "quite a lot of work" on the OGP, it's remarkable that no one I know outside the hallowed halls of power in Canberra has been asked for any input on any issue to do with membership, process, or the range of matters that might be considered relevant to a national action plan.
Those 162 recommendations on 19 topics must represent a public service view of the open government space. Did 'abolish the OAIC' get a mention I wonder?
Those of us on the outside may share or differ on the list but as the Secretary knows, the clever people don't all reside in the Department of Finance.
The Mandarin this week reported on an interview with Secretary Halton in which she talked about e-government, claimed we are no digital dawdler particularly in comparison to the British government, and revealed her interest in reaching out to the real world:
Along with impressing upon her team the need to “join the dots” between the department’s various projects to form a picture that reflects the government’s objectives, she’s been asking them to “talk to people”. “There’s no point us dreaming up an idea if it doesn’t work in the real world; it won’t be used,” she said. “So, one of the things I’ve been talking to my people a lot about is ‘consult, consult, consult’. Ultimately, government will make a decision, but I need to know and I want my people to know what the CFO down in Health thinks about a framework, or what the secretary of the Defence Department thinks about how this will work for him. We need to understand and get people’s input. I mean, there’s a lot of clever people in the public service. They don’t all reside here, so why wouldn’t we get their ideas?”There are lots outside the public service as well, looking to advance the partnership in Open Government Partnership.
The relevant extract from the transcript follows: