Open government draft plan to be released today for two-week consultation

By Harley Dennett

Friday October 28, 2016

Later today the federal government will release a draft plan of up to 15 “ambitious commitments” to open government. The purpose of these commitments is so Australia can be assessed — via the soft power of international scrutiny — on its progress to a more transparent and democratic society.

If these commitments are approved by cabinet, Australia will seek membership to the 70-nation multilateral Open Government Partnership at the global summit in Paris in December.

Public submissions on the draft action plan will be open until 5pm, November 11. PM&C will also be co-hosting public information sessions with civil society stakeholders in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Canberra. More details will be posted on the OPG Australia blog.

These commitments have been developed after a year-long process involving civil society groups, public servants and statutory commissioners responsible for freedom of information and privacy. More than 300 proposed commitments were submitted during the earlier consultation, covering areas such as:

  • Public Participation — increased input into both policy and agenda setting, online methods, civic education and training for staff
  • Government Integrity — procurement, political donations, anti-corruption, parliamentary openness
  • Freedom of Information — review of the act, role of the commissioners, privacy, copyright review
  • Fiscal Transparency — open budget, political donations
  • Public Service Delivery — how Gov work with community and industry, how citizens find services
  • Resources Management — sustainable development, working with indigenous communities, see also OpenData and Government Data for Access to Information and Transparency
  • Open Data — standardised formats, public register and open raw data, publishing practices for data and publications including natural resource data,
  • Government Data for Access to Information and Transparency — extractive industry data and transparency initiative
  • Fostering innovation — enabling and delivering innovation within Gov given budget and procurement processes, open innovation models that deliver innovation outcomes rather than tender to deliver outputs, support small to medium size businesses to use open data and deliver services.
  • Engagement for OGP — raising awareness now, engaging the States, forums for ongoing engagement, mentoring staff

The draft commitments to be released today were prepared by an interim working group comprising an equal number of senior public servants and non-government stakeholders. The draft now enters a final two-week consultation period, before going back to cabinet.

The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet has been working on the project since late 2015 when newly sworn-in Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull gave the green light. Formal consultations began last November — The Mandarin was a participant in these consultations.

Australia was a relative latecomer to the 70-nation multilateral Open Government Partnership, both in our region and among developed nations. Australia’s federal political upsets interrupted earlier participation that was originally to have started under the Gillard government. New Zealand has implemented its first action plan, Indonesia is now on its second, and the Philippines is on its third.

National governments are only eligible to begin the membership process if they meet minimum requirements of budget transparency, public officials asset disclosure to prevent corruption, and civil liberties. This is to prevent dictatorships and corrupt governments from using the Open Government Partnership for propaganda.

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