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Sunday, July 26, 2015

ALP National Conference 2015: Open and Accountable Government

Extracts below from the Draft National Policy (Chapter 10 Strong Democracy and Effective Government) that went to the 2015 National Conference in Melbourne in recent days, 

The draft includes a commitment to develop and implement a national anti-corruption plan but settles for a review rather than the establishment of a Federal anti-corruption commission; introduce private sector whistleblower protection; preserve and strengthen the Office of Australian Information Commissioner; fulfil Australia’s commitment to join and participate in the Open Government Partnership; and review the operation of Freedom of Information. 

Not much on political donations beyond generalities and requiring disclosure over $1000,even less on the hot topic of privacy and nothing I can see on other subjects of interest such as open data, lobbying or parliamentarians' entitlements. 

On the last mentioned couldn't help but be amused/alarmed/appalled that former minister responsible for such things in ALP governments Gary Gray is reported to have said the system isn't broken. While warranting a tick for some reforms during his time in charge, a pity he wasn't asked about the Belcher Committee recommendations and his contribution to sidelining the important ones for years. Gray while special minister of state in 2011 thought that lobbying rules were just fine and dandy as well!

Yet to see what came out the other end of national conference deliberations.
(Update 29 July: I understand there were no changes to the extracts from Chapter 10 below but the final document is yet to appear.)

Let's hope Labor support for specified sensible steps in the right direction doesn't have the effect of reinforcing Liberal/ National party opposition while they run the show.

Labor priorities
Open and accountable government
14. Labor has strengthened citizens’ rights of access to Government material and documents.


15. Labor will continue to promote transparency and accountability by maintaining and promoting a transparent culture across Australian Government agencies and will continue to support robust mechanisms for Public Interest Disclosure, Freedom of Information and mechanisms for receiving, investigating and prosecuting complaints concerning alleged corruption in public office or administration.


16. Labor is committed to observance of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption and will ensure the development and implementation of a national anti-corruption plan.


17. Labor will ensure more effective international engagement on anti-corruption matters including by joining the Open Government Partnership.


18. Labor has established whistleblower protection in the public sector. Labor will introduce whistleblower protection across the private sector.


19. Labor recognises the importance of corruption prevention and education as integrity
building measures in addition to corruption investigation, detection and enforcement. In
Government Labor will review the existing mechanisms for receiving, investigating and
prosecuting complaints concerning alleged corruption in public office or administration to ensure we have the most efficient and effective arrangements in place. Labor will ensure that all bodies that have special powers to inquire, investigate, and make findings in relation to alleged corruption, are required to have regard to the rules of evidence and natural justice.


20. In office Labor established a Code of Conduct for Ministers and their staff. Ministers, staff and all members of Parliament should follow clear standards relating to their behaviour, contact with lobbyists, receipt of any gifts, and disclosure of any potential conflicts of interest which may affect them carrying out their public duty.


Reforming electoral law 
51. Labor will:
……….
. Introduce a new scheme to regulate political financing, including donations, other revenues, expenditures, and record-keeping

. Legislate to require public disclosure of political donations over $1000

……………………….
Freedom of Information

99. Freedom of Information (FOI) laws are essential to transparent and accountable
government.

100.Labor will promote transparency and accountability by maintaining and promoting a pro-disclosure culture across Australian Government agencies.

101.Labor will:
. Preserve and strengthen the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner;
. Fulfil Australia’s commitment to join and participate in the Open Government Partnership; and
. Review the operation of Freedom of Information and pursue further reforms if necessary.

Privacy
102. An individual’s right to privacy is a fundamental political, civil and human right must be protected. Government should provide a strong regulatory framework to protect people’s right to privacy and ensure the security of their personal information, whether held in the
public sector or the private sector

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