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Saturday, December 24, 2016

Happy days!

Dear Neglected Reader,

I've been otherwise occupied for large chunks of this year in my role as interim Convener of the Australian Open Government Partnership Network.

Postings in this our tenth year suffered I'm afraid.

Loads of things I planned to bring to your attention... but alas, 140 characters was sometimes the best I could manage. (Follow @FOIguru)

The good news is that after a a bumpy, frequently interrupted less than perfect process, Australia now has a national action plan with 15 commitments that constitute a broad program of reforms. 

Some of those commitments will be of particular interest to you:

1.3 Extractive industries transparency
Australia will enhance disclosure of company payments and government revenues from the oil, gas and mining sectors. We will do this by implementing the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) Standard (including working to enhance company disclosure of payments to governments for the sale of petroleum and minerals) and by continuing to support the application of EITI principles around the world.

2.1 Release high-value datasets and enable data-driven innovation

Australia will continue to make more public data openly available and support its use to launch commercial and non-profit ventures, conduct research, make data-driven decisions, and solve complex problems. As part of this, we will work with the research, not-for-profit and private sectors to identify the characteristics of high-value public datasets, and to promote innovative use of data to drive social and economic outcomes.

2.2 Build and maintain public trust to address concerns about data sharing and release

Australia will build public trust around data sharing and release. We will do this by actively engaging with the public regarding how open data is being used to better communicate the benefits and understand public concerns, and we will improve privacy risk management capability across government.

3.1 Information management and access laws fit for the 21st Century

Australia will ensure our information access laws, policies and practices are modern and appropriate for the digital information age. As part of this, we will consider and consult on options to develop a simpler and more coherent framework for managing and accessing government information that better reflects the digital era, including the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act), the Archives Act 1983 (Archives Act) and, where relevant, the Privacy Act 1988 (with primary focus on the Archives Act and FOI Act), which is supported by efficient and effective policies and practices.

3.2 Understand the use of Freedom of Information
Australia will better measure and improve our understanding of the public’s use of rights under freedom of information laws. We will do this by working with states and territories to develop uniform metrics on public use of freedom of information access rights, and by collecting and publishing this data.

3.3 Improve the discoverability and accessibility of government data and information

Australia will make it easier for the public to find, access and use government data and information. We will do this by making greater use of central portals, digital platforms and other tools to improve discoverability and accessibility.

4.3 Open Contracting

Australia will ensure transparency in government procurement and continue to support the Open Contracting Global Principles. As part of this, we will publicly review the Australian Government’s compliance with the Open Contracting Data Standard.

The complete plan was published on 7 December.

If you support more open transparent government please give consideration to joining the like minded who have pushed the government hard on this over the last 12 months and plan to stick with it as attention moves to implementation. See the Get Involved Tab on the Network Homepage

Now time for a bit of a breather so best wishes.

Will be back in the new year, refreshed and with best intentions to do a better job on Open and Shut in 2017.

By Anne Dirkse ( (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, December 02, 2016

Freedom of Information: 250 years since Sweden laid the first cornerstone

On 2 December 1766 Sweden enacted what is regarded as the first freedom of information law.

The most recent translation into English was done by Ian Giles and Peter Graves, Scandinavian Studies, University of Edinburgh and released on 7th October 2016 in Edinburgh.

The Australian information commissioners and the New Zealand Ombudsman have issued the  statement below to mark the occasion.

From the Australian perspective as we wait for release of the government's first Open Government Partnership National Action, thought to be next week, let's hope for a commitment to necessary reforms that truly recognises the right to access government information "is a cornerstone of modern democratic society." 

Cornerstone- a foundation stone, mainstay, linchpin, centrepiece, core, heart, backbone, anchor.

Submissions on this aspect of the draft commitment released by the government for public comment on 31 October suggested the cornerstone is in need of close inspection, fundamental repair and some design work to make it fit for the 21st century.

Joint Media Statement

"The right to access government held information and our ongoing commitment to Open Government is a cornerstone of modern democratic society. 

We mark the occasion of the 250th anniversary of the first freedom of information legislation on 2 December 2016. We do this to acknowledge the important contribution that freedom of information has made to the effectiveness of democratic government across the world since 1766. Freedom of information enables citizens to access information held by governments and their agencies. Having access to Government held information is critical to citizens being able to meaningfully participate in Government decision making.

Access to information and participation in government processes contributes to the transparency of government – promoting better decision making, accountability and greater public trust. This is the key contribution freedom of information has to make to our modern democratic government."

Co-signed by:

Sven Bluemmel, Western Australian Information Commissioner

Richard Connock, Tasmania’s Ombudsman

Michael Ison, Acting Victorian Freedom of Information Commissioner

Wayne Lines, South Australia’s Ombudsman

Brenda Monaghan, Northern Territory Information Commissioner

Timothy Pilgrim, PSM, Australian Information Commissioner

Jenny Mead, Acting Queensland Information Commissioner

Elizabeth Tydd, NSW Information Commissioner and Open Data Advocate

Judge Peter Boshier, New Zealand Chief Ombudsman

Leo Donnelly, New Zealand Ombudsman