Australia is a successful and stable democracy, with relatively low levels of corruption and a long, proud history of open government.
In 2015, we were ranked 13th in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, and 9th in The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index.
But in a rapidly changing world – transformed by the digital revolution – it is important Australia boosts its efforts to become even more open, transparent and accountable, and improve public engagement. This is crucial as we seek to:
- build a better 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 stamp out 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.
This National Action Plan sets out the initial steps the Government will take to achieve the aim of improving and building confidence in Australian institutions and democracy, and to uphold the principles in the Open Government Declaration, including 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
As our first National Action Plan, it 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.