News 13th August 2018

Government working on improved information access- behind closed doors?

by Peter Timmins

The Government gives itself a series of ticks for implementation of Commitment 3.1 in Australia’s Open Government Partnership National Action Plan. 2016-2018 and asserts implementation is “On track.”

But 21 months after the Government included a commitment in the plan headed “Information management and access laws for the 21st century,” and described thus: “This commitment will ensure Australia’s information access laws, policies and practices are modern and appropriate for the digital information age…”

no decisions have been announced, no changes have occurred, and no-one outside government has a clue about the nature, scope or detail of what is or was under consideration.

The timetable of silence:

  • Twelve months (August 2017) since the Government last engaged on the topic with anyone outside government
  • Eight months (December 2017) since, according to its published report, the Attorney General’s Department “provided recommendations for the Government’s consideration setting out possible next steps to improve the operation of current information management and access frameworks…”
  •  Five months (March 2018) since “recommendations were re‑submitted to the Government following the appointment of the new Attorney‑General.”

The Open Government Partnership is based on the idea that government and civil society will collaborate in identifying and giving effect to needed open government reforms.

Performance to date on Commitment 3.1 is a reminder that the terms “open government”, “partnership” and the collaboration required to make partnership work are not well and widely understood or practiced by those on the government side of the table.