News 7th September 2018

Morrison government and the OGP

by Peter Timmins

Uncertainty continues about the impact of the changes on many issues including OGP and related matters.
The OGP was a Turnbull initiative after much prevarication by PM Abbott about continuing with it.
There is nothing on the public record that suggests PM Morrison has taken an interest in the past.
In fact, it’s hard to spot a champion for the open government cause on the front or backbench.
Trust and confidence in government and political leaders, already low before this, has taken a further battering.
With an election no later than May 2019 short term considerations are likely to shape thinking about priorities and decisions.
 Mr Morrison aspires to be ‘the peoples’ PM’.
Whether he and his ministers see good government, open government, transparency, integrity, engagement and collaboration as part of the mix remains to be seen.
 Ministerial responsibility
PM Turnbull signed the message to the OGP in November 2015 that committed Australia to the OGP. And as a condition of membership, to the Open Government Declaration.
Senator Cormann, designated in December 2016 by PM Turnbull as minister responsible for co-ordination of implementation of the national action plan, continues as Minister for Finance. He has a new responsibility, Minister  for the Public Service, but a previous responsibility, Special Minister of State, has gone to Alex Hawke MP.
What this means for OGP is unclear. We await clarification of who is the responsible minister and whether previous arrangements that had public servants in Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet working to the special minister of state continue.
 Second National Action Plan
The plan was due for submission to the OGP by the end of August. We understand cabinet had not signed off by the time of the changes or since.
We expect ministers in portfolios , some new, that have responsibility for proposed commitments will need to be briefed before a cabinet submission can proceed.
All unfortunate, particularly as Australia was late in submitting the first plan on time in 2016 when the double dissolution election contributed to delay.