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Friday, June 13, 2014

Prime Minister's travels: missed opportunities galore

What Prime Minister Abbott and President Hollande talked about in their one on one in Paris is hard to find other than what is covered in this statement issued by President Hollande.  But it seems it didn't extend to a bond we could share through common membership of the Open Government Partnership. France is an enthusiastic new joiner. The Abbott government hasn't decided to join or not join.

In Ottawa, the Prime Minister said "No two countries on earth are so similar. No two countries on earth are more like-minded." Again no mention of standing shoulder to shoulder with Canada for transparency, accountability, open government and citizen participation which would be the case if we committed to the OGP. Canada is a foundation member.

In Washington President Obama said he and Prime Minister Abbott "had the opportunity this morning to discuss a wide range of issues, many of them focused on the importance of the Asia Pacific region." Later, that the US and Australia "share foundational values about liberal democracies and human rights, and a world view that’s governed by international law and norms." (Addendum-many other shared viewpoints outlined in their joint op-ed in the LA Times.) 

But no mention of how we together might pursue these interests through the OGP, an international initiative that extends to 63 countries and led initially by the US. And how such action on Australia's part would be a welcome response to this recent call by President Yudhoyono for regional support for the OGP:
We want to see more countries from our region to join this movement, so that our voice can be sufficiently represented in the OGP. Asia-Pacific participation is important because OGP’s greatest strength lies in its facilitation of the exchange of ideas, learning, and experiences on open and good governance... I believe our region must play a critical role in promoting OGP. Asia-Pacific remains one of the most dynamic regions in the world..
So zilch from the Abbott-Yudhoyono, Abbott-Hollande, Abbott-Harper or Abbott-Obama talks along the lines of the fulsome commitment to the OGP reflected in the Obama-Harper-Nieto talks in February 2014.

Perhaps not surprising the Australian side had nothing to say about the OGP on this visit to Indonesia, France, Canada and the US, all members, given the admission by the Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Trade recently that our foreign policy experts would only take an active interest in the international dimensions of the OGP.... if we were a member.



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