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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Publication of incoming government briefs: New Zealand shows the way.

I know there are differences in the type of issues covered.

But following decisions right across government to refuse access to the incoming government briefs prepared for Abbott government ministers last year, the general thrust of which was confirmed by the Australian Information Commissioner on the basis that 'frank and candid', poor petals, required that a brief not be disclosed because public servants wouldn't in that event do their job properly next time, developments in New Zealand provide a sharp contrast.

The State Services Commission has proactively published, with some redactions the incoming government brief provided to all ministers and the brief provided to its incoming minister following the October election. We can only be reasonably confident our equivalents will be publicly available in 28 years.

(Update: There I was thinking this was a big deal when what State Services has done is commonplace In NZ not unusual.)

The government brief outlines thinking about steps to address challenges including
  • Getting greater access to complete data sets that will inform effective targeting of effort and investment.
  • Engaging in a deeper way with New Zealanders over their issues and solutions.
  • Strengthening New Zealand‟s strong reputation nationally and internationally for operating with integrity and inclusiveness.
And the minister's brief includes a reference to a subject government here doesn't talk about publicly: making a real fist of its Open Government Partnership commitments. 

Australia apparently is still 'considering' whether to proceed or not proceed with the previous government's May 2013 notice of intention to join the OGP. It is three years since we were invited, and the membership ranks have since swelled to 64 or 65. As to NZ:
We had some initial ideas about how we can make the greatest contribution to the Government’s plan for New Zealand. We would welcome an opportunity to discuss these ideas with you.

By 2017……

System Stewardship

We will have strengthened the perception of New Zealand as a high integrity country. We have met New Zealand’s Open Government Partnership commitments, put in place a Code of Conduct for Ministerial Advisers and embedded improved information security and privacy practices across the State services.
Meanwhile here Canberra is head down and flat out trying to win support in the Senate for its legislation to abolish the Office of Australian Information Commissioner and remove from the statute book the role of independent monitor, advocate and champion of open government...

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