PM urged to take advantage of extra time to complete National Action Plan
Australian Network Steering Committee Chair, Dr David Solomon today wrote to the Prime Minister urging him to notify the Co-chairs of the Open Government Partnership that Australia will take extra time to complete and submit its first National Action Plan due to be submitted by 1 July.
The election campaign and the associated caretaker role of government means the plan cannot be finalised satisfactorily by that time.
Dr Solomon said an extension of four months “would allow a newly elected government to proceed to finalisation rectifying some of the shortcomings in the process to date, in particular the absence of a formal process to bring government and non government together to discuss, consider and decide on possible reform commitments and to play a role in monitoring implementation.”
The text is as follows:
Dear Prime Minister,
The Australian Open Government Partnership Network is a coalition of civil society organisations and individuals committed to working with government to develop and implement ambitious open government reforms through Australia’s membership of the Open Government Partnership.
The Network and its members were heartened by your decision in November 2015 to recommit Australia to this international initiative and since, have participated in the initial stages of development of the first National Action Plan.
The commitment required government to develop the plan in partnership with civil society and to submit the final version to the OGP Support Unit by 1 July 2016. The plan should include commitments consistent with OGP goals “to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to make government more effective and accountable.”
That process is not complete and cannot be completed by 1 July.
The Network urges you to write to the Co-chairs of the international Steering Committee advising that the election and the caretaker conventions that apply mean that the plan cannot be completed by that time and that a further period of four months is required. New Zealand has recently made a similar notification in order to allow time for enhancement of their approach to public involvement in developing their second national action plan.
An extension of time would allow a newly elected government to proceed to finalisation, rectifying some of the shortcomings in the process to date, in particular the absence of a formal process to bring government and non government together to discuss, consider and decide on possible reform commitments and to play a role in monitoring implementation.
Public awareness and engagement in the process has been limited to date.
So too involvement of ministers and senior public servants.
There is a large gulf between the narrow range of commitments put forward without any detail or explanation by government agencies and wide ranging proposals put forward by the relatively few who participated from outside government in the single one day workshop to discuss issues held in Canberra in early April.
There has been no public statement since on outcomes of the workshop.
We welcome the government’s decision not to proceed with the plan to abolish the Office of Australian Information Commissioner. However it is of concern that after this announcement the Attorney General said the government thought the plan “was a good economy measure— and we have not changed our minds” and that the government has not adequately funded the office to undertake its full range of functions. The OAIC should be retained and strengthened as a clear indication of strong commitment to open, transparent government.
We welcome also the announcement that Australia will join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, will report progress to enhance company disclosure regarding payments to government for the sale of petroleum and minerals via the Open Government Partnership or EITI working groups, and support for the Open Contracting Data Standard for public procurement.
The Communique issued following the recent UK Anti-Corruption Summit records that participants agreed OGP member countries would include their anti-corruption commitments in the OGP national action plan, as the OGP Independent Reporting Mechanism is available to monitor and report on implementation. Similarly many members have endorsed a declaration linking action to implement the Sustainable Development Goals to the OGP national action plan. Australia should follow this lead.
Prime Minister, the Network stands ready to work with government to reinvigorate discussion of reforms and to play a role in the formal process that brings government and non government together in the true spirit of partnership.
Member organisations are likely to raise issues concerning Australia’s involvement with the OGP with major parties and candidates during the election campaign seeking assurances of support from all sides of politics for this important initiative.
A copy of this email has been sent to the Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and will be published on the network website www.opengovernment.org.au
Thank you in anticipation.
Dr David Solomon AM
Chair Steering Committee, Australian Open Government Partnership Network.
Member organisations include Accountability Roundtable,Transparency International Australia, Open Knowledge Australia, OpenAustralia Foundation, Electronic Frontiers Australia, Code for Australia, Australian Press Council, Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, Publish What You Pay, Blueprint for Free Speech, Creative Commons Australia, Australian Privacy Foundation, Australian Policy Online and Internet Australia.