Uncategorised 9th April 2016

Canberra workshop the next step in developing National Action Plan

by Peter Timmins

Suggestions from outside government of commitments for inclusion in the plan closed on 31 March. Those who made a suggestion on the government Wiki have been invited to a workshop in Canberra on Monday 11 April. With no government funding or other assistance to get to Canberra participation has proved difficult for many but late in the piece, news that you can watch:

Network participants

Network Steering Committee members Kat Szuminska (Open Australia Foundation), Craig Thomler, Dr Johan Lidberg and I will be in Canberra, together with other Network members I know of including Tim Smith (Accountability Roundtable), Greg Thompson (Transparency International Australia), Jessie Cato (Publish What You Pay), and Mark Zirnsak (Synod of Victoria and Tasmania, Uniting Church in Australia). There may be others among the 38 non government registrations as of Friday.

Network members are encouraged to touch base near the registration desk about 15 minutes before the first session on Monday morning.

(As an aside-welcome to newish members of the network Professor David Weisbrot (Australian Press Council), Mike Dobbie (Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance) and the many individuals who have joined in their own right.)

The Network Steering Committee remains concerned and disappointed at the way the government has gone about developing the action plan and limitations on what will be considered for inclusion. We intend to make this clear on Monday.

Many of these concerns were flagged in a submission to PM&C from the Chair David Solomon in early February which has never received a formal reply.

The Steering Committee remains supportive of Australia’s membership and participation in the OGP but concerned and disappointed with:

  • the failure at the very highest level to publicly talk up the OGP, and the lack of engagement between the minister responsible, the Prime Minister and the partners outside government;
  • the resulting low profile of the OGP initiative and the opportunity to participate in most parts of the community;
  • the limiting effect of the unilateral government choice of two challenges-improving public services and better use of public resources- before any engagement with the community;
  • what appears to be lack of interest within government in exploring issues that go beyond these areas or involve a change in government policy, for example initiatives related to public integrity/anti-corruption;
  • the failure to provide an indication of serious intent regarding the commitment to reform on the transparency front for example by reversing the 2014 decision to seek to abolish the Office of Australian Information Commissioner, the government (and public) watchdog on transparency and open government.

The Steering Committee will urge the government to recognise the importance of promoting a national conversation about democratic practices and the public trust principle that underpins representative democracy, something that has not happened in the process associated with the first NAP; the need for clarification and agreement from here on what “partnership” and “co-creation” in the OGP context mean in practice; and the need to engage parliament as well as the states, territories and local government more fully in the transparency, open government journey.

The workshop

Exactly what will happen on Monday in terms of process is unclear.

The purpose cited in the invitation is to “co-create templates’ for commitments that are to go forward for further government consideration.

How decisions will be made on what commitments make the cut and how templates will be drafted in a group environment where we don’t know beforehand what will be discussed remains to be seen.

Apparently suggestions that can’t be brought within the two government chosen grand challenges may get an airing but are “unlikely” to be included in this two year plan-something that won’t pass quietly.

The list of suggested commitments submitted by government agencies published in the last few days


perhaps predictably includes initiatives that could be undertaken with no change to government policy. And some that are already underway within government which means they should not be included in commitments that the OGP suggests should be stretch and ambitious:

  • Centralised Annual Report discovery portal
  • Create a Digital Marketplace
  • Create, manage and preserve information digitally
  • Enable and encourage more data-driven digital report publishing
  • Future-proofing open data infrastructure
  • Grants.gov.au redevelopment
  • ICT Project dashboard
  • Redesign the open data request process
  • Scoping a public consultation platform
  • Scoping an e-Tabling system
  • Transforming high volume services

Many of the 180 or so suggestions from outside government don’t lack stretch or ambition.

The draft NAP
published by PM&C without notice this week presents a rosy picture of the Australian transparency, open government and citizen participation scene that doesn’t reflect the reality many of us experience. Similarly the description in the draft of the wide and smooth public consultation to date.

Hoping for a productive meeting

Notwithstanding these concerns we look forward to a productive day in trying to ensure a positive outcome for government and non government participants.

Meet Shreya Basu
For those of you in or near Melbourne (13 April) and Sydney (14 April) please give consideration to attending the briefing sessions on the OGP with Shreya Basu, the OGP Regional Co-ordinator for Asia and the Pacific.