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Australia, where the bloody hell are you??

By Rosie Williams - posted Wednesday, 9 March 2016


This diatribe has been bubbling away inside me for the past few weeks since the announcement late last year that after years of inaction, the government had finally signed onto the Open Government Partnership and begun the process to draft the National Action Plan.

You probably don't know what the Open Government Partnership is and I can hardly blame you for that. The OGP is a multilateral agreement, the kind of legally binding contract multiple countries sign up to that requires them to do certain things to be part of this 'Partnership'.

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In the case of the Open Government Partnership, you guessed it, Australia is now required to be more 'open' and accountable. In the case of this agreement, to commit to a plan which is drafted by the public which lists actions the government must take to make our government more open and responsible to you and I.

This agreement is a bit different to most. It is not a plan that is drafted behind the scenes in Senate Committees or Cabinet rooms or in offices with the help of lobbyists. This 'National Action Plan' for Open Government can only be drawn up with the input of the public and this includes a 'live drafting event' where the public and government literally draft this thing live.

Sound unusually open? So why then (unless you follow my account on Twitter) have you so far heard nothing about this awesome opportunity to participate in Australia's first Open Government National Action Plan, I wonder? Input into the 'Commitments' that the government should be bound to closes at the end of this month (March). The wiki which can take your input, comments & feedback has been open since November but so far very few of you have ventured to provide input.

I don't blame people, it took till this week for me, someone who has known about this all along and followed every update to figure out that I could simply put my idea straight onto the wiki. It did take a while for me to figure out what I should suggest, to put aside what I thought the government wanted to hear and just say what I thought would be a useful and concrete idea for improving transparency and accountability while improving policy and provision of services.

I also pointed out to that as a multilateral agreement the OGP should probably be added to the list of treaties dealt with by the Joint Standing Committee On Treaties.

Since the announcement that Malcolm Turnbull signed onto this agreement late in 2015, I've followed this process and been progressively concerned about the lack of effort on the government's part to advise Australian's that this consultation is on and also the lack of interest of the many political and policy networks Australia boasts in drafting this plan.

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So disgusted was I with the lack of diversity in the groups who actually knew this consultation was on that I took it upon myself to contact every minor party I could find an email for to advise that this was taking place sending a message similar to this blog post. I received but one reply so I assume most of my emails were considered spam. Fair enough but I wanted people of diverse views to know this consultation is on and that they have a right to participate in it. I didn't bother with the major parties, assuming that surely they must know about such an important political process.

The lack of media around this event goes against the very principles of the OGP which has at its heart the goal to boost engagement and participation in the political system. Thus far it would appear that the only sector aware this consultation is going on is the transparency sector. Absent are the general public, the social services sector, the think tanks and the political parties. Why have you not been told about this event that seeks your input from your political party?? Even GetUp does not seem to know that the NAP is a key opportunity that it can advise its members to participate in as part of their campaign to vote out politicians not committed to transparency.

To date only one submission has been received and a whole 24 people (including yours truly) have signed up to edit the OGP National Action Plan Wiki. Given the social challenges faced by our country I find myself a bit underwhelmed.

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This article was first published on OpenAus.



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About the Author

Rosie Williams is the founder of BudgetAus the first implementation of the entire federal budget in an online searchable database.

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