Search This Blog

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Australia's Open Government Partnership plans: possible commitments

The following suggestions for commitments, if supported ,require refinement to ensure any commitment is specific, concrete and ambitious.We should learn from experience with the first plan that vague statements of intended outcomes  and plans to review and consult do not meet this OGP requirement. 

1. Anti-corruption
A national integrity commission and a suite of anti-corruption reforms not limited to those  included in the first national action plan yet to be delivered.
The Deputy CEO of the OGP Support Unit Joe Powell urges countries preparing a plan this year to include anti corruption measures.

2. Integrity
Address gaps and weaknesses in lobbying and political donations regulation. Measures to include a comprehensive scheme for registration of lobbyists, periodic reporting of lobbying activity.

Join Parliament in the open government initiative with a commitment to adopt a code of conduct for parliamentarians and an open government oversight committee.
3. Information access
Pick up from where Commitment 3.1 in the first plan leaves us.
The published information provides no information about what AGD has brought to the attention of government on this commitment.
Those consulted a year ago provided many suggestions for improving and modernising law policy and practice. Recommendations from the Hawke review and the ALRC report "Secrecy laws and open government in Australia" have not been acted upon.
Australia's FOI act  receives 81 /150 points in this respected international assessment
placing it 57 of 112 laws surveyed. Regardless of the accuracy of this rating the law is middle of the pack, not near international best practice.

Extend pro-active publication requirements- grants, gift registers, appointment diaries for example. Many requirements for disclosure in annual reports should become quarterly or continuous disclosure obligations.

Legislate for open data release including publication of agency data set holdings, publish data sets in machine-readable formats and require updating on a regular basis and confer rights to seek review of agency practice and decisions.

4. Sector specific commitments
The low level of awareness of the OGP initiative and  the limited contributions to discussion of possible commitments means few sector specific issues have been raised to date.
A renewed effort is required now to bring into the discussion of ideas for improvement social welfare and justice groups, indigenous voices and potentially interested parties from sectors such as health, aged care and environment. Issues likely to emerge include

5. Civic participation
Pick up on where commitment 5.2 leaves us.
This statement on your web page is questionable:
"As part of our first Open Government National Action Plan, we developed a new government framework that helps make sure that people are heard as government makes decisions or delivers services."
In fact all that has happened so far is the Department of Industry Innovation and Science has published a report.
Adoption of a new model is the next step but we do not appera to be there yet.
6. Address shortcomings in budget development and oversight as identified by the International Budget Partnership
For the first time in 2017 the survey includes a ranking for Australia.
While improvements across the board  are recommemded the score on Public Participation 41/100 is well below the 60/100 set as satisfactory
"Australia provides limited opportunities for the public to engage in the budget process."
See recommendations.
Two of 16 points required for eligibility to join the OGP are based on the IBP score.

7. Improve civil society capacity, reaffirm the right to democratic participation threatened by limitations on not for profits and civil society organisations by the Foreign Donations Bill
and other legislation. In practical terms encourage and empower civil society to engage and collaborate fully with government.
The Government committed to the Open Government Declaration in November 2015. The declaration states: "..We commit to making policy formulation and decision making more transparent, creating and using channels to solicit public feedback, and deepening public participation in developing, monitoring and evaluating government activities. We commit to protecting the ability of not-for-profit and civil society organizations to operate in ways consistent with our commitment to freedom of expression, association, and opinion..."

The Australian Government was party to a Joint statement on Protection and Promotion of Civil Society issued in Washington on 23 September 2013 supported by 23 other governments. after meeting with civil society and other groups in New York.
The statement

"affirms that the strength and vibrancy of nations depend on an active civil society and robust engagement between governments and civil society to advance shared goals of peace, prosperity, and the well-being of all people.  We noted our deep concern that many governments are restricting civil society and the rights of freedom of association and expression, both online and offline.  To combat this alarming trend, our governments committed to work together to respond to growing restrictions on civil society that undermine its ability to perform its crucial role....  We will lead by example to promote laws, policy decisions, and practices that foster a positive space for civil society in accordance with international law, and oppose legislation and administrative measures that impede efforts of civil society.  We will undertake joint diplomatic action whenever necessary to support civil society in countries where it is under threat, and to defend the fundamental freedoms of association and peaceful assembly. We will also work to develop new and innovative ways of providing technical, financial, and logistical support to promote and protect the right of citizens and civil society to freely associate, meaningfully engage with government, and constructively participate in processes to improve the well-being of their countries.  Throughout all of these efforts, our nations will continue to engage with representatives of civil society to help us understand and respond to the challenges they confront.  We commit to gather again at the opening of the 69th United Nations General Assembly to review our progress toward these objectives.  We will work in concert over the coming year to ensure a robust, effective international response to the proliferation of restrictions being placed on civil society. We call on representatives of civil society, the philanthropic community, the private sector, and other governments to partner with us in supporting and defending civil society.")

No comments:

Post a Comment