Uncategorised 22nd September 2018

Australia’s National Action Plan 2018-2020

by Peter Timmins

The Plan was released yesterday and is available on the PMC website-you can download a PDF copy there.
Chapters can be accessed through these links:

Minister for Finance and the Public Service Senator Cormann who signed off on the Introduction has issued a Media Release – a welcome step up from release of the first plan in December 2016 without an accompanying media statement.

The Minister has taken a little license in observing:

“The Plan was developed using an extensive co-design and consultation process between Government, members of the Open Government Forum and civil society. This collaborative process has delivered a Plan that reflects the community’s priorities and wishes on ways to open up Government across Australia.

Australia has been a member of the Open Government Partnership since 2015. This Plan consolidates our reputation as a country committed to the democratic ideals of openness and transparency.”

Civil Society members of the Forum in a separate Foreword, more realistically draw attention to the scope for improvement in processes, in particular the need for “high level government leadership, better support for the work of the civil society members in reaching out to their networks and improvement in the depth and breadth of consultation and communication with a broad cross-section of civil society… “
And to areas of open government that are important but not included in the plan including
“.. ongoing work on open contracting, building the capacity of civil society to engage, access to and management of information and new work in addressing inequality and injustice, sustainable development goals, human rights protection, a national integrity commission, a First Nations Voice to Parliament, and the Parliament’s engagement in the OGP through development of a Parliamentary Action Plan.”
The one liners above that describe commitments, at one level, present what could be an impressive reform agenda.
Some commitments are steps in the right direction on a long journey, for example seeking to engage with the states (and hopefully local government) on the Open Government Partnership journey.
As always the devil is in the detail.
There are few fundamental changes to the draft commitments that were circulated for comment in June.
Responses at that time (for example) pointed to the vague statements of intention to ‘consult’, “consider and assess options”, “explore ways to encourage..” and “review processes” and the failure to commit to specific, concrete, transformative outcomes, a weakness in the first plan identified in the independent assessment undertaken by Daniel Stewart on behalf of the OGP Independent Review Mechanism.
Good, important ideas and suggestions for reform initiatives were made during consultations but appear to have received little if any consideration. Those who put them forward received no encouragement or feedback.
On the plus side, government commitment to the plan confirms the open government cause is alive.
Important reforms are on-or near- the table.
The plan is not fixed and to be forgotten.
It can be amended, improved and enhanced during the implementation phase.
The government assures that unfinished business from the first plan will continue to finalisation with public reporting on progress.It is important those commitments are not allowed to disappear. The dashboard outlining progress on implementation of the first plan, while as of yesterday no longer prominent on the PMC website, is still here.
Voices outside government have played a major role in getting things this far.
Hopefully those with time, energy and a capacity to help guide the partnership step forward to nominate for the Open Government Forum.
Nominations close with PMC on 12 October.