Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Open Government: Shamed by Australia

Two weeks ago the government finally released New Zealand's second Open Government Partnership action plan. It was a pallid, unambitious document, continuing the government policy of trying to do as little as possible while not spending any money or changing anything substantive - in other words, exactly what the SSC ordered.

Australia has also just released its new action plan. It has twice as many commitments as ours, and they're substantial, rather than technical tweaks. And they're promising all the stuff that we demanded and didn't get: improved whistle-blower protection, improved transparency on beneficial ownership, greater political transparency, a whole-of-government framework for enhanced public participation, and real FOIA reform. Unlike New Zealand, these are ambitious and meaningful reforms which will make a difference. And it certainly puts us to shame to have this promised by the anti-transparency, anti-open government Australians.

The Australian plan is an example of what we could have done, if the process had been started earlier and if it had been overseen by a Minister and department actually committed to change, rather than viewing the OGP solely as an opportunity for PR and overseas junkets. And its a reminder that we can and should do much better in this area.