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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Attempt to abolish Office of Australian Commissioner is lead in the saddlebag as government commits to Open Government Partnership.

You can't imagine that the Abbott government initiated attempt, still ongoing after 18 months, to close out the Office of Australian Commissioner can stand for long in the Turnbull government's name as it commits to the Open Government Partnership. 

There are no bragging rights in that context for shutting down the independent advocate and watchdog for open government. Particularly when listing establishment of the office as a positive, a point picked up in today:

Australia commits to open government, sort of. More than two years after the former Labor government said it was going to join the Open Government Partnership, the Turnbull government has begun the process of finalising our membership. The OGP is a group of, so far, 69 countries that all agree to be more open, accountable and responsive to their citizens. To be a member you have to go through a two-year action plan. Australia’s plan will be drafted, with public consultation, over the next few months, ahead of a launch in July 2016. A website set up to detail Australia’s work to date curiously mentions the establishment of the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner -- which the government is trying to close -- in 2010 as one of its achievements.

Given that the only thing keeping the OAIC open right now is the fact the current government doesn’t have the numbers in the Senate to pass legislation abolishing it, and there has been no change in policy after Malcolm Turnbull became prime minister, it is confusing as to why this was included. Perhaps there is change afoot?
That change can't come soon enough and should see withdrawal of the bill and steps to put the OAIC back on stable footing. 

Without rushing ahead on content of the national action plan, a review of information access law, policy and procedures in light of experience to date and 21st century expectations and technological capabilities should be a candidate for inclusion. The advocacy, oversight and review role of the OAIC should be part of the equation.

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