Lonely voice challenges top mandarins over ‘open by default’

Federal mandarins are in furious agreement with former mandarin Peter Shergold’s views that more of their advice should be exempt from public disclosure via the Freedom of Information Act.

But a question from the floor challenged that dominant view during a panel discussion on Monday, featuring Shergold, Australian public service commissioner John Lloyd, and Department of the Environment secretary Gordon de Brouwer.

Marianne Cullen, a first assistant secretary with the Department of Human Services, asked why a radical shift to “open by default” advice was not possible if openness and transparency are necessary for ensuring accountability and stimulating innovation, as current discourse suggests:

“Accepting that there would likely be a disruptive transition period, surely moving to a basis where our advice is open by default would make public servants more accountable for providing fulsome, robust, innovative and evidence-based policy advice.

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