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Friday, June 26, 2015

Update on the Open Government Partnership: Australia still considering while OGP 'growing up'

The Abbott government is still considering whether to join the Open Government Partnership according to Minister for Communications Malcolm Turnbull. It's a long, long process-in all close to four years since we were first invited.

Mr Turnbull didn't get to my question in a recent Our Say appearance:
"You have said Australia intends to reach out to the global community and will join the D5. The D5 countries- UK, NZ, Israel, Estonia, Korea- are all members of the Open Government Partnership. The D5 Charter states OGP membership as a qualifying requirement. What are Australia's plans?"
But he subsequently replied by email (17 June)
Dear Peter
Thanks for your question. At this stage the Government is still considering its position on Open Government Partnership. Once further decisions have been made regarding OGP the Finance Minister will be making announcements accordingly.

The question picked up on earlier public comment by Mr Turnbull that 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 is clear that member countries must belong to the OGP. Perhaps not accidentally the 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 all OGP members.

What's behind all the pondering within government about OGP membership and whether Mr Turnbull and others are pushing against resistance is unknown. This letter last August to the Minister for Finance made it clear the Prime Minister is a key part of the decision tree, instructing that no announcement of Australia's position should be made "until a draft national action plan is submitted for my consideration..."

Meanwhile without us, the OGP and many of the 64 other governments on board or in the process of joining make progress on transparency, open government and citizen participation as Suneeta Kaimal and Paul Maassen write
OGP is growing up. At the end of the month, a dozen countries will complete new national action plans, adding to the more than 2,000 commitments already made and many delivered. Several of these countries are embarking on their second national action plan, implementing lessons learned and deepening engagement with civil society by creating mechanisms for ongoing dialogue and shared decision making...
OGP is still just a toddler, but we know that early childhood development is critical. With the strong leadership of the forthcoming co-chairs and the continuity of our civil society steering committee members, we can help ensure OGP’s future is bright ..

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