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Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Consideration whether Australia should join the OGP takes years longer than a decision to go to war

Australia's fence sitting on where it stands on the Open Government Partnership continues to attract international interest.

Included in commentary by Toby McIntosh in Washington last week was the response from the Department of Finance to the news, as McIntosh puts it, "that the OGP Steering Committee recently gave Australia until the end of October to indicate its intention to be an active member, or to join Russia as an OGP drop-out":
“The Australian Government is positively inclined towards joining the Open Government Partnership but has yet to make a final decision,” the official said, adding, “The Government intends to form a view as soon as possible and will take as long as necessary.”
As McIntosh received a response and having asked twice in recent weeks without success for answers from the Minister's office, this prompted me to try again, running these questions past the Media Centre:
Has the government responded to the OGP Support Unit following reports of concern reflected in the minutes of the July meeting of the Steering Committee over Australia’s lack of action as a member?

What are the government's intentions regarding the request to “recommit' to the OGP  by the deadline imposed by the Steering Committee, the October Global Summit meeting in Mexico?

Will the government be represented and by whom at the preparatory OGP Asia Pacific Regional Meeting to be held 7–8 September 2015 at Asian Development
headquarters in Manila, Philippines?

If the intention is to proceed with OGP membership, what steps are envisaged for public consultation on a national action plan?
The Department replied today although the response reveals nothing new, and for the public record at least indicates nothing has happened since the same responses were given to questions in Senate Estimates in February.
As has been stated publicly previously, the Government is positively inclined towards finalising its membership of the Open Government Partnership but is still considering its position. Once the decision is made, it will be conveyed to the OGP.

If the decision is to join, then a national action plan, developed in accordance with the OGP’s guidance<>, will be produced.

In the interim, Australia continues to provide appropriate representatives to observe at relevant OGP meetings, as is occurring currently at the regional meeting in Manila through the attendance of an embassy official, Mr Daniel Featherston, Counsellor Economic.
'Considering' (in a fashion) started when Australia was first asked to join the OGP in August 2011 and started again sometime after the Abbott government came to office two years ago.

In response to a request in recent weeks from the US a decision on whether Australian air force jets will bomb in Syria is expected any day now.

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