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Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Australia gets a 'Please explain' from Open Government Partnership on missed deadline

Australia's dilly dallying over whether to proceed or not proceed with the previous government's notice of intention of May 2013 to join the Open Government Partnership by lodging a national action plan has prompted the OGP Support Unit to write urging action "soon in order to avoid a review by Criteria and Standards Subcommittee.. "

Nine other countries received an 'action please' lettter.

In Australia's case we are now five months late (actually its three years since we received an invitation to join) and acting contrary to OGP process for action plan development.

Finance Secretary Halton, responding to questions from Senator John Faulkner recently said Finance was doing a lot of work on this prior to the Government making a decision on membership. My FOI application for the latest version of the document Finance is working through awaits a meaningful response.

The plan must be developed in partnership with civil society and include 'concrete commitments... that are ambitious and go beyond a country's current practice"so those of us outside the parliamentary triangle wait for someone to put their head above the parapet and say "any thoughts" "what's the best way to proceed" "who should we be talking to about this issue?" 

After all as Secretary Halton also said her mantra is "consult, consult consult" because not all the clever people are in the Department of Finance.

The World Bank has recently drawn attention to the important role information commissioners can and should play in advancing domestic reforms through participation in the OGP.

The government bill to abolish the Office of Australian Information Commissioner is scheduled for debate in the Senate today. 

If the bill passes the Office disappears on 31 December posing something of a challenge for those presenting ourselves to the OGP community of 65 countries where the information commissioner model is accepted as a crucial element of an open and transparent government system.

Finance better latch onto wisdom there before the lights go out.

Still, commonsense may prevail in the Senate.

We live in hope....


  1. Pia Waugh from AGIMO is thinking about running an open data forum (I think on GovDex) early in the new year. Perhaps this is where the consultation will take place.

  2. Perhaps Rosie. I'm starting to wonder if we might see that old Canberra favourite - some sort of discussion paper or a 'draft' plan released on Christmas eve with responses welcome by 2 January. Just kidding.

    1. Actually I'd heard that rumour as well...

  3. Open data is only a small part of the open government mix and won't get Australia across the line. I don't like to see it being used as a decoy tactic or by Ministers to justify their 'open' credentials when the government is busy restricting access to FOI and shutting the doors on communication with the public across a range of agencies.

    It's a sad state of affairs for a government that could have used open as a differentiator.

  4. Craig, Of course you are right. This isn't simply about what information government is happy to release. It also is about what information government must release-uncomfortable or no- in the public interest.