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Monday, September 09, 2013

Integrity, transparency and Open Government Partnership should underpin Abbott Government 'trust' goal

The new Federal government starts in office with a leader who during the campaign identified the trust deficit as the biggest deficit problem, who pledged on election night to create a competent, trustworthy government, and  who reassures on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald today - 'We won't let you down.'

(The starting point (paywall) on trust for Mr Abbott, drawn from the most recent Newspoll, is 43 per cent consider him trustworthy, and 53 per cent as untrustworthy. At least, better scores than his opponent.)

Trust is hard to win easy to lose. Good luck to us all.

As to the detail, as mentioned in recent weeks, Mr Abbott and the Liberal Party in opposition put nothing on the public record during the campaign regarding plans for governing differently. The integrity issues didn't rate a mention.

There are many. Transparency is a big one. As The Australian in an editorial on Saturday noted:
Mr Abbott promises to restore proper process to government and we are confident he will keep his word. The public service must be de-politicised, cabinet must be restored to prominence and Mr Abbott must maintain a commitment to transparency that is easier to make in opposition than to observe in power
The Hawke report on review of the operation of the Freedom of Information Act will be somewhere in the pile on the desk of incoming Attorney General Senator Brandis.

Senator Brandis won't need to read far - just the transmission letter - to see that the review wasn't as comprehensive as those who advocated it back in 2010 hoped at the time. And that cherry picking the recommendations (many based to my mind, on skimpy or apparently no research beyond consideration of some suggestions in some submissions) isn't the answer to addressing underlying problems that stand in the way of  an Abbott Government emerging as the transparent, trustworthy government the Prime Minister Designate intends. Dr Hawke recommends a comprehensive review, identifies some issues that should be considered but are not addressed in his report, and recommends that we start with a blank sheet of paper to render the complex messy statute understandable by those intended to benefit from it- all of us.

Another issue that requires early clarification is Australian participation in the Open Government Partnership. Then Attorney General Dreyfus announced in June our intention to join.The Liberal Party in Opposition maintained silence. 

But for a government that puts the trust issue up there in lights, standing firm as part of a 60 strong international partnership dedicated to improving the way democracies work with an emphasis on open, efficient and effective government should be a no brainer.

Friends such as current co-chairs Indonesia and the UK, and the US and Korea to mention just a few of the countries involved would expect ongoing Australian commitment to the OGP. As do individuals and groups in Australia following the issue closely and who have been waiting for months since the intention to join was announced to hear how the Government intends to manage the partnership with Civil Society in developing a National Action Plan.

Senator Brandis should reaffirm the commitment by the previous government that Australia intends to join, test whatever thinking has taken place within government about 'partnership' with those outside government who might expect to be part of it, and follow through by ensuring high level Australian attendance at the OGP Annual Summit in London in late October.  

Dr Hawke in his transmission letter dated 1 July advised the Attorney that OGP involvement was proof positive that Australia was interested and understood the importance of 'open government' in the broadest sense.

1 comment:

  1. Howard Whitton5:44 pm

    Well remarked and even better said, Peter - particulalry the absence of any focus on the Integrity Issues.

    This should be one of the main themes in the Integrity in GOvernment Conference in December.