Australia is a successful and stable democracy, with relatively low levels of corruption and a range of institutions and laws which promote open and accountable government.
In 2015, we were ranked 13th in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index and 9th in The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index. We are a relatively high performer on the world stage, but as other nations intensify their efforts, it is important Australia also continually improve to become more open, transparent and accountable, and improve public engagement.
Delivering more open government is in our national economic, environmental and social interest, and is crucial as we seek to:
build a better and fairer society for all Australians and be more responsive to the expectations of the community;
stimulate economic growth and innovation;
foster collaboration between government, business, academia, non-government organisations and the community; and
continue efforts to address issues of corruption, fraud and misconduct.
Governments worldwide are moving towards more open and transparent ways of working, with 70 countries – including Australia – now signed up to the Open Government Partnership.
What is the Open Government Partnership?
The Open Government Partnership is a multilateral initiative established in 2011 that aims to secure concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance.
Membership requires governments to work with civil society to ‘co-create’ a National Action Plan every two years, with independent reporting on progress. Civil society is a term used by the Partnership to broadly refer to people and organisations outside of government, including non-government organisations, business, academia, community groups and the public.
Importantly, the Open Government Partnership doesn’t prescribe standards that countries should follow – rather it aims to bring governments and citizens of each country together to define their own priorities for reform.
The Australian Government confirmed its membership of the Open Government Partnership in November 2015. Further information can be found at www.opengovpartnership.org.
This National Action Plan sets out the initial steps the Government will take in pursuit of the aim to improve and build confidence in Australian institutions and strengthen our democracy, by upholding the principles in the Open Government Declaration to:
promote transparency, fight corruption, empower citizens, and harness the power of new technologies to make government more effective and accountable;
uphold the value of openness in our engagement with citizens to improve services, manage public resources, promote innovation, and create safer communities; and
embrace principles of transparency and open government with a view toward achieving greater prosperity, well-being, and human dignity in our own country and in an increasingly interconnected world.
The Plan sets out an agenda for the next two years across a broad range of important areas:
Transparency and accountability in business
Open data and digital transformation
Access to government information
Integrity in the public sector
Public participation and engagement
This our first National Action Plan and the first step in an ongoing process towards more open government in Australia. One of the great strengths of the Open Government Partnership is that it promotes an iterative and continual process of improvement. The Plan provides a foundation to continue engaging with civil society to identify new initiatives and strengthen our efforts over time. There is also an opportunity going forward to work with state, territory and local governments to improve transparency and integrity at all levels of government.