Uncategorised 3rd June 2018

Ministerial engagement vital to development of ambitious open government reforms

by Peter Timmins

The Network Steering Committee is concerned about the absence of ministerial engagement with the OGP  process, and wrote to  the minister responsible for co-ordination Senator Cormann, Minister for Finance and Special Minister of State on 16 May.

Apart from an acknowledgement we are yet to receive a response.

Dear Minister,

We write on behalf of the Australian Open Government Partnership Civil Society Network. Our membership includes members of the Open Government Forum, representatives of many civil society organisations and individuals interested in this issue.


Members of the Network Steering Committee would like to meet with you with a view to building stronger alignment between the Government’s OGP commitments and its policies.


We have not had an opportunity to meet you following publication of Australia’s first National Action Plan in December 2016 when the Prime Minister designated you as minister responsible for co-ordination of implementation of the commitments in the plan.


Modest progress has been made on some commitments since that time, but overall progress has been slow and collaboration with civil society often less than wholehearted.


Looking to the future, we are concerned the OGP initiative is at risk of focusing on compliance rather than transformative change in the way our system operates.


The second National Action Plan on which work has now commenced is the opportunity to reaffirm publicly the Turnbull government’s policy intention to address the issue of declining trust and confidence through open government reforms and improved democratic practices that make a real difference.


In the absence of a high-level whole of government commitment to this end, the plan runs the risk of being seen as an incoherent set of lower priority initiatives rather than a demonstration of serious government intent to deliver better, good government in line with community expectations.


Action to provide public reassurance with regard to privacy also must be part of this exercise as risks as well as opportunities emerge in the new open data and technological era.


As Australia nears the end of the first phase of our initial OGP reforms, and officials and civil society began a dialogue on new reform initiatives, those involved and the broader community should be made aware that government expects concrete, ambitious commitments to emerge from this process.


A public statement or report to Parliament would be timely now and in any event before the release of the draft commitment proposals for the 2nd National Action Plan scheduled for 25 June.

We look forward to meeting you in Canberra, Melbourne or at your convenience to discuss the way forward on open government reforms.

Yours sincerely

Dr Ken Coghill Chairman

Peter Timmins Interim Convener

Australian Open Government Partnership Network

The Australian Open Government Civil Society Network is a coalition of civil society organisations and individuals committed to making government work better for people through transparency, participation and accountability. The network collaborates with and challenges governments in Australia to develop and implement ambitious open government reforms through Australia’s membership of the Open Government Partnership.

The Australian Open Government Network was formed in December 2015 after the Australian government reaffirmed its commitment to join the OGP.

There are over 120 members in the network.

In addition to individual members, organisations represented include Transparency International Australia, Accountability Roundtable, Electronic Frontiers Australia, Australian Privacy Foundation, Australian Press Council, Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, Open Knowledge Foundation Australia, Synod of Victoria and Tasmania, Uniting Church in Australia and Publish What You Pay Australia.

Members of the Steering Committee 2017-2018:

Dr Ken Coghill (Chair)  (Accountability Roundtable) (Member Open Government Forum)

Dr Nicholas Gruen (Open Knowledge Foundation Australian Chapter)

James Horton  (individual member) founder and CEO of datanomics pty ltd, Member Open Government Forum.

Dr Moira Paterson (Individual member) Professor, Monash University Faculty of Law

Beth Slatyer ( Individual member) Canberra Alliance for Participatory Democracy)

Kat Szuminska (OpenAustralia Foundation) Member Open Government Forum

Greg Thompson (Transparency International Australia) Board member Transparency International Australia (since 1995), Australian Volunteers International (since 2008), Anglican Board of Mission (since 2015).

Mark Zirnsak (Justice Mission, Synod of Victoria and Tasmania, Uniting Church in Australia ,Director of the Social Justice Unit of the Synod of Victoria and Tasmania), Member Open Government Forum

Peter Timmins Interim Convener.