Search This Blog

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Estimates a missed opportunity to ask where years of 'considering' Open Government Partnership membership has taken us

In hours, days, of picking over the entrails of every government portfolio over the last two weeks- cruel and unusual punishment for Moi - not a single question or mention of the OGP in Senate Estimates.

In the estimates round in February Finance had carriage, the issue was still under consideration and the government was 'positively inclined' to join.

In May 2013 the previous government had lodged a notice of intention to join the 64 other members of this international initiative committed to making governments more open, accountable, and responsive to citizens.

In May, alas, the issue wasn't raised at all in the Finance Estimates.

So no follow up there on what response the government gave when the OGP Support Unit, taking the notice of intention at face value, wrote to Finance pointing out Australia had acted contrary to the OGP process in failing to meet deadlines for lodgement of a national action plan. Or queries about the current situation in light of the letter from the Prime Minister to the Minister for Finance released under FOI that instructed that no announcement of Australia's position should be made "until a draft national action plan is submitted for my consideration.The action plan must give effect to practical measures that align with the Government's overall policy objectives in this area and that take into account the work of the (Redacted: s 34(3) Cabinet) and the timeframes for Government decisions on that work." 

An issue senators might raise with Prime Minister and Cabinet perhaps? 
No, no questions in PM&C Estimates either. 

Before Finance took it up, the OGP was with Attorney General's-so no surprise, no questions there this year. And ditto Foreign Affairs and Trade who remarkably told Estimates a year ago that the international dimensions became relevant after we joined so they probably are yet to open a file.

Maybe the OGP is now with Communications, the home of the newly established Digital Transformation Office? Perhaps the establishment of the DTO as part of the Digital Agenda is the 'work' referred to in the redacted part of the PM's October letter?
After all Minister for Communications Turnbull on two recent occasions said Australia "should aim to become the world's leading digital economy....." and that  "we intend to reach out globally to collaborate with the world’s leading digital economies. These include, but are by no means limited to the D5 - Estonia, Israel, New Zealand, South Korea and the UK, as well as state and local governments in Australia."

The D5 charter requires member countries to belong to the OGP. And all nine countries ranked above Australia (10th) in the World Wide Web Foundation Open Government Index 2015-UK, US, Sweden, France, New Zealand, Netherlands, Canada, Norway and Denmark are members.

There were questions about the DTO in Communications Estimates, (pages 45-46) but relatively few given the Budget allocation of $254.7 million over four years to support the initial implementation of the Digital Transformation Agenda, including $95.4 million to establish the DTO.

Maybe there are a few dollars in there to advance our plans to "reach out globally" and join the international movers and shakers in the transparency, accountability open government space?

Senate Estimates didn't uncover it but it's a question raised for Minister Turnbull in an Our Say session later this week. Vote it up if you can. (Update-the OGP question didn't make the cut. The session is here)

No comments:

Post a Comment