Search This Blog

Friday, September 27, 2013

Abbott Government on civil society and the right to speak out

Getting the ducks in a row - as in policy co-ordination - is a constant challenge. 

Where you stand on freedoms, civil society, engagement, and ensuring consistency across government even more so.

Government voice
The Prime Minister on ABC PM 26 September speaking about new ministers getting ahead of the game:
 TONY ABBOTT: It's very important that the Government speaks with a united voice. In opposition, before my senior colleagues did media they normally called in with my office. It was a very good arrangement in opposition. It's a very good arrangement in Government and it's one that my colleagues have always been happy to comply with.
 Campaigners to be reined in?
Protest groups that stymie major infrastructure projects will be targeted as the Coalition seeks to speed up an $11.5 billion roads program ... The moves challenge 'not-in-my-backyard' protesters." -- The Australian, September 25
"Environmental groups have hit out at a Federal Government proposal to silence organisations from campaigning in overseas markets. Tasmanian senator and Parliamentary secretary for agriculture Richard Colbeck has floated the idea of amendments to consumer law aimed at stopping campaigns against Australian products" -- Hobart Mercury, September 24.
While no one in authority has said so, might aid groups have their activist reins pulled - former Coalition Senator Trood suggests it is a 'Coalition disposition'.
Government statement on civil society and the right to speak out
Joint statement issued in Washington on 23 September on behalf of the United States, Australia, Canada and 21 other governments after meeting with civil society and other groups in New York:
We affirmed that the strength and vibrancy of nations depend on an active civil society and robust engagement between governments and civil society to advance shared goals of peace, prosperity, and the well-being of all people.  We noted our deep concern that many governments are restricting civil society and the rights of freedom of association and expression, both online and offline. 
To combat this alarming trend, our governments committed to work together to respond to growing restrictions on civil society that undermine its ability to perform its crucial role....  We will lead by example to promote laws, policy decisions, and practices that foster a positive space for civil society in accordance with international law, and oppose legislation and administrative measures that impede efforts of civil society.  We will undertake joint diplomatic action whenever necessary to support civil society in countries where it is under threat, and to defend the fundamental freedoms of association and peaceful assembly. We will also work to develop new and innovative ways of providing technical, financial, and logistical support to promote and protect the right of citizens and civil society to freely associate, meaningfully engage with government, and constructively participate in processes to improve the well-being of their countries.  Throughout all of these efforts, our nations will continue to engage with representatives of civil society to help us understand and respond to the challenges they confront. 
We commit to gather again at the opening of the 69th United Nations General Assembly to review our progress toward these objectives.  We will work in concert over the coming year to ensure a robust, effective international response to the proliferation of restrictions being placed on civil society. We call on representatives of civil society, the philanthropic community, the private sector, and other governments to partner with us in supporting and defending civil society.
 Australia on joining the Open Government Partnership
The OGP was referred to in the Joint Statement and in the meeting in New York as part of the commitment to protect and promote civil society. Australia had announced in May its intention to join. On joining it will adopt the Open Government Declaration which includes these commitments:
"We commit to making policy formulation and decision making more transparent, creating and using channels to solicit public feedback, and deepening public participation in developing, monitoring and evaluating government activities. We commit to protecting the ability of not-for-profit and civil society organizations to operate in ways consistent with our commitment to freedom of expression, association, and opinion. We commit to creating mechanisms to enable greater collaboration between governments and civil society organizations and businesses."
Interesting times.

No comments:

Post a Comment