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Monday, June 27, 2016

The Coalition stands mostly on its record on open, transparent government.

Policy positions of the Liberal National Coalition on open transparent government

1. Open Government Partnership
No new policy.

Existing Policy
Committed to membership- "Goals of the OGP are consistent with Australia's long and proud tradition of open transparent government." OGP National Action Plan a work in progress.
Comment: No response from Prime Minister to submission by Australian Open Government Partnership Network Chair Dr David Solomon to take up to four months to broaden discussion of reform commitments and establish a formal process to bring government and non government together in the true spirit of partnership to finalise the plan, monitor implementation, report on progress.

2. Open Data, Digital Services 
New policy
Better and More Accessible Digital Services 
In summary:
"The Coalition is investing $50 million to modernise myGov.
Build on our ‘tell us once’ policy by providing Australians with greater control of their personal information. 
Deliver a digital transformation road map for government services by November 2016.
Refresh current shared services arrangements and trial cloud services for common non-sensitive desktop infrastructure and administration applications.
Establish a taskforce in the Prime Minister’s Department to reform government ICT procurement policies, identify existing procurement barriers and opportunities to streamline ICT procurement,
and opportunities to make it easier for startups and small and medium businesses to compete for government ICT contracts.
Release web services to approved third party websites to make it easier and faster for people to complete day to day transactions. 
Establish an Expert in Residence programme to make it easier for government agencies to access world class digital experts.
Work with the research, not for profit and private sectors to identify high value government datasets for release. 
Expand the use of a public dashboard to measure the performance of government services.
Expand the Data Start Programme to create opportunities for Australian startups to develop sustainable businesses through access to open government data."

Existing Policy
Public Data Policy 
Data Availability and Public Use referred to Productivity Commission for report by March 2017.
3. Public integrity/Anti-Corruption
No new policy
(Responses awaited to questions asked/commitments sought by Accountability Roundtable and Transparency International Australia.)

Existing Policy
Some commitments made in Australia's name (pdf) by Minister for Justice Keenan at the UK Anti Corruption Summit, including signing on to Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.
Comment: Otherwise appears satisfied with status quo regarding political donations, use of entitlements, lobbying, whistleblower protection, and not in favour of national integrity commission.

4. Access to Information,Transparency, Accountability
No new policy 
(Responses awaited to questions asked/commitments sought by Accountability Roundtable and Transparency International Australia.)

Existing Policy 
Abbott government labelled at war with transparency and only a few signs of major differences (join OGP, not proceed to attempt to abolish OAIC) in the eight months since. 
Difficult to find anything from ministers including Prime Minister Turnbull and Attorney General Senator Brandis strongly supportive of freedom of information.
(In 2009 Senator Brandis said:
"The coalition’s commitment to open, responsible government is well known. It was the Liberal Party which pioneered freedom of information legislation in Australia. The Freedom of Information Act.. is the act of a Liberal government—the Fraser government. It is a vital measure to ensure that government remains open, responsible and accountable for its decisions.....The true measure of the openness and transparency of a government is found in its attitudes and actions when it comes to freedom of information. Legislative amendments, when there is need for them, are fine, but governments with their control over the information in their possession can always find ways to work the legislation to slow or control disclosure. That is the practice we are seeing now under the Rudd government, whose heroic proclamations of commitment to freedom of information are falsified by the objective evidence of their practice.")

Waged unsuccessful two year battle to abolish Office of Australian Information Commissioner until decision in May 2016 not to proceed. Office continues to operate with only one of three commissioner positions established by parliament. Attorney General Brandis later told Senate Estimates (see Q&A pp42-44) the decision to abolish the office was a 'good economy measure-and we haven't changed our mind."

No policy response to calls for change and modernisation of the FOI act, or to 40 recommendations for reform in the report by Dr Allan Hawke in 2013, said to be under review in 2014. Dr Hawke's first recommendation was for a comprehensive review of the law and practice, a review of the kind he was unable to undertake.

Claim by Dr Peter Shergold in a report to the government that the "Commonwealth's FOI laws are now arguably the most pro-disclosure among comparable jurisdictions in Australia and overseas" allowed to stand despite the fact the Australian law is ranked 51 of 103 laws in an international comparative survey.

No public ministerial reaction to statements by senior public servants about the law including Australian Public Service Commissioner John Lloyd that FOI is "very pernicious," by Secretary of Treasury Fraser that important things don't get written down, contrary to official guidance that records must be maintained, and by Secretary of Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet Parkinson that added protections are needed if public servants are to offer frank and candid advice, notwithstanding the duty imposed by the Public Service Act to provide the Government "with advice that is frank, honest, timely and based on the best available evidence."

5. Privacy protection 
No new policy
2/100 points in rating by Australian Privacy Foundation

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