Open Government Partnership – Australia

Background

Australian participation in the Open Government Partnership

The previous Australian Government indicated its intent to join the OGP in May 2013. In November 2015 the Australian Government launched this consultation as part of the process to finalise OGP membership.

The Australian Government has committed to the OGP Declaration of Open Government and independent reporting of Australia progress by the OGP. The Government will consult publicly to develop an Australian Government OGP National Action Plan.

The Australian Government can now explore other ways to participate in the various open government initiatives and working groups associated with the Open Government Partnership. Any such initiatives Australia gets involved in will be listed here.

Australia's Open Government Efforts to Date

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Open Reporting, Budgets and Parliamentary Processes

Australia has a long history of public sector and parliamentary open reporting. All government entities are required to produce and publicly publish their annual reports, budgets, contracts and a variety of other reporting requirements for the purposes of oversight and transparency. The recent independent Review of Whole-of-Government Internal Regulation gives a good outline of public sector reporting in the Australian Government. From a Parliamentary perspective, Australia has also had a good track record, with a high level of transparency and reporting across all Parliamentary Business including federal budgets, bills and legislation, transcripts from all Parliamentary business, tabled documents, the work of Parliamentary Committees and much more.

Australia’s original Declaration of Open Government

In 2009, the Gov 2.0 Taskforce was established to advise the Government on the structural barriers and enabling policies for greater information disclosure, digital innovation and online engagement. This included the division of responsibilities for, and overall coordination of, these issues within government. A Declaration of Open Government was launched in 2010 (Archived).

In response, the Government made the Declaration of Open Government and accepted in full the recommendations in the Ahead of the Game: Blueprint for Reform of Australian Government Administration report, both of which promoted greater participation in Australia’s democracy, policy and legislative reform, commitments to open government practices, and greater release of public sector information.

Freedom of Information & Privacy Reforms

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) was established in 2010 under the new Australian Information Commissioner Act 2010. Over the course of the next four years the Freedom of Information Act 1982 was updated making it easier to request information and seek review of FOI decisions. Parliament enacted reforms with the passage of the Freedom of Information Amendment (Reform) Act 2010 (Cth) and the Australian Information Commissioner Act 2010 (AIC Act).

The Information Publication Scheme was (IPS) which implemented directing agencies to take proactive steps to release standard government information in a consistent way reflecting the pro-disclosure goals of the FOI Act.

In 2014 the Australian Privacy Principles (APP) were added to Schedule 1 of the Privacy Act 1988. The APPs regulate the handling of personal information by Australian government and some private sector organisations.

Platforms for Data Release

Data.gov.au was established in 2010 to enable the centralisation and distribution of open data and access to government data APIs. The website was allocated resourcing to initiate whole of government direction and curation of data. In 2012, data.gov.au was allocated resources to strengthen its role as an essential element in Australia’s open government strategy. The number of datasets available on the website has grown from 500 to over 7,000, and is now working in alignment with state and territory and local governments via the Cross Jurisdictional Open Data Working Group to improve open data offerings nationwide.

Adoption of Creative Commons

In order to accommodate greater access to government information and bring consistency in licensing arrangements, the public service adapted Creative Commons Attribution 3.0. The adaption of the license enabled all government content with the exception of Commonwealth Coat of Arms and unless specifically stated elsewhere. Details in the AGD Statement of Intellectual Property Principles for Australian Government.

National Commission of Audit

The National Commission of Audit’s (2014) focus on improving the management of public resources has enabled progressive whole of government changes in a short time. The government has been proactive in addressing the recommendations within the 2014/15 budget and in immediate organisational changes to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of public resource management.

As part of the structural reforms following the Audit, we have seen amalgamations of key government functions including the creation of the Data Policy Branch within the Department of Communications. This branch is now positioned to provide overall data policy direction on whole of government initiatives including the development and implementation of the Australian Government Open Data policy.

The Audit also recommended further centralisation, sharing, and reuse of government resources with a focus on gaining from the opportunities innovation in technology can provide.

Changes in culture

Open government practices and advances have a dramatic impact on the federal and state and territory public services. The Australian Public Service is learning to value the contribution which more transparent, interactive, and open government practices can offer. It is benefiting from being a workforce which is looking for improvements based on our public needs – not just to solve problems when they arise, it is engaging with the public partnerships to actively encourage private enterprise to provide public services, and it is leveraging the skills and knowledge of the public to improve how it manages its services, manages its data, implements new processes. These changes in culture have been supported by a number of reports in recent years: