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Monday, October 19, 2015

Senate estimates in a week when decisions needed on open government in practice

Senate Estimates hearings get underway in Canberra today. 

Let's hope for clarification on where Australia stands with the Open Government Partnership and the future for the Office of Australian Information Commissioner.

Estimates kick off today with the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet

PM&C now has responsibility for the Open Government Partnership. A response is still outstanding to the request from the OGP Steering Committee in July that in light of disappointment at the failure to follow through on the notice of intention to join in May 2013 Australia recommit to membership before the Global Summit in Mexico on 27 October.

As former Victorian Supreme Court justices Tim Smith, David Harper and Stephen Charles write in Fairfax Media today on the OGP issue, "Time for Turnbull to step up on open government."

The Office of Australian Information Commissioner is listed for hearing on Tuesday 20 October.

The day that Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim's appointment as acting Australian Information Commissioner for a three month period expires. As the Attorney General Brandis said at the time, the appointment was "while the Government considers options for the future of the Information Commissioner position."

But not a peep from Attorney General Brandis since about what the government plans with the Freedom of Information Amendment (New Arrangements) Bill that would abolish the Information Commissioner position. The bill remains on the Senate Bills List where it has been since October last year. 

Abolishing the office and the Information Commissioner position does not fit with the Prime Minister's ambition to lead an accountable open government.

Let's clear up these uncertainties this week and get on with it.

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