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Australia’s first Midterm Self-Assessment Report: Have your say by 17 September, 2017

Midterm Self-Assessment
4th September 2017

All Open Government Partnership countries are required to produce yearly Self-Assessment Reports in consultation with civil society. These reports ensure accountability and track progress towards realising Open Government commitments.

Australia’s first Midterm Self-Assessment Report will reflect on the process used to develop Australia’s first Open Government National Action Plan 2016-18 and the progress made in the subsequent eight months towards implementing our Open Government commitments. The Report will be based on the template in Chapter 7 of the OGP Government Point of Contact Manual, and address the OGP Participation and Co-Creation Standards.

The draft Midterm Self-Assessment Report is now open for a two-week public consultation period, running from Monday 4 to Sunday 17 September 2017. You can have your say on our draft Report by leaving a public comment on this webpage below within this period. We’ll then re-post comments and respond to them in the draft Report in real time.



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Dr David Pane

Australian citizens should have an enforceable right to access how governments have used personal information about themselves, unless a national security connection applies (but on no other basis). Australian tax-paying citizens should also have an enforceable right to information about what actions and decisions tax payer funded government entities make, albeit with slightly wider exemptions. Theoretically that should be somewhat the basis now, but in practice is a much abused process by governments, with many loopholes and inconsistencies exploited, and opaqueness the default position for anything but trivial information. Agencies routinely have a culture towards "Freedom of Information" as being "Freedom from Information", with abuses sanctioned by the senior leadership of the public service and government, and until that changes the recent spin of the Open Government Partnership in Australia amounts to a thin smear of lipstick on what is very much a pig. Indeed, in Australia, the Open Government work has been far more on expanding access to and use of data on individual citizens, than improving the access of citizens to data, especially their own. Until such time as the public sector in Australia stop giving tokenistic lip service to access to information rights for its citizens, the vast majority of citizens will treat such documents as these with little respect, and as an empty exercise in spin.
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Ken Coghill

General Comments 1. There is insufficient reflection of the co-creation process, in the introductory pages and in the reports on individual Commitments 2. The introductory text includes (p7): (OGF) is tasked with: • monitoring and driving implementation of the current Open Government National Action Plan However, one third of Commitments (i.e. 5/15) include no reference to any such relationship between the implementing agency and OGF 3. Each Commitment’s implementing agency’s Contact hyperlink is to the agency, whereas it should be to webpages or documents directly related to the respective Commitment OGP Australia Website (p 7ff) There needs to be an explanation of the origins and history of the Open Government Forum. Whilst it was appropriate that “This Midterm Self-Assessment Report was submitted to the Open Government Forum for their comment and feedback on the content of the Report … prior to its public exposure”, the one week provided, without advance notice, was insufficient for many members of the OGF, noting in particular that the civil society members are appointed in an honorary capacity and therefore must make time within their usual busy schedules. This observation is reflected in the limited input from OGF members. 4. Drafting (p11ff) This section should give greater recognition to the process whereby proposed commitments were suggested by both government and civil society members and that there was considerable debate and negotiation about which proposals to accept and the provisions of commitments that were agreed upon. Implementation of Open Government Commitments (p11) The assertion that “All but one of Australia’s Open Government commitments remains on track” is misleading in that it is a generalisation that it glosses over the extent to which some Commitments have progressed to date. 1.1: Improve whistle-blower protections in the tax and corporate sectors (p13ff) Current Status 1. should note that the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Corporations and Financial Services report was tabled on 14 September 2. should indicate the nature of further public consultation including OGF’s role in monitoring and implementation. Contact should include hyperlinks to relevant Treasury webpages &/or documents e.g. https://treasury.gov.au/consultation/review-of-tax-and-corporate-whistleblower-protections-in-australia/ 1.2: Beneficial ownership transparency (p16ff) Current Status Should indicate the nature of further public consultation (“Treasury is continuing to consult with stakeholders”) including OGF’s role in monitoring and implementation. Contact should include hyperlinks to relevant Treasury webpages &/or documents e.g. https://treasury.gov.au/consultation/increasing-transparency-of-the-beneficial-ownership-of-companies/ 1.3: Extractive industries transparency (p18ff) Contact should include hyperlinks to relevant Industry webpages &/or documents e.g. https://industry.gov.au/resource/Programs/ExtractiveIndustriesTransparencyInitiative/Pages/MSG_TOR.aspx 1.4: Combating corporate crime (p20ff) Contact should include hyperlinks to relevant AGD & Treasury webpages &/or documents 2.1: Release high-value datasets and enable data-driven innovation (p23ff) Contact should include hyperlinks to relevant PM&C webpages &/or documents 2.2: Build and maintain public trust to address concerns about data sharing and release (p26ff) Contact should include hyperlinks to relevant PM&C webpages &/or documents Steps to implementation should include hyperlinks to relevant webpages/documents e.g. publicly released “process for Government agencies to determine whether sensitive data can be made sufficiently confidential to enable open publication.” 2.3: Digitally transform the delivery of government services (p29ff) Should indicate the nature & extent of public consultation including OGF’s role in monitoring and implementation. Contact should include hyperlinks to relevant DTA webpages &/or documents 3.1: Information management and access laws for the 21st century (p32ff) Contact should include hyperlinks to relevant AGD webpages &/or documents 3.2: Understand the use of freedom of information (p34ff) Current Status should note concerns by civil society concerning the adequacy of resourcing of OIAC to executive this Commitment Contact should include hyperlinks to relevant OAIC & IPC (NSW) webpages &/or documents 3.3: Improve the discoverability and accessibility of government data: Public data (p38ff) Should indicate the nature & extent of public consultation including OGF’s role in monitoring and implementation. Contact should include hyperlinks to relevant PM&C webpages &/or documents 3.3: Improve the discoverability and accessibility of government data: Grants (p40) Should indicate the nature & extent of public consultation including OGF’s role in monitoring and implementation. Contact should include hyperlinks to relevant Finance webpages &/or documents 3.3: Improve the discoverability and accessibility of government data: Corporate and administrative reporting (p41) Should indicate the nature & extent of public consultation including OGF’s role in monitoring and implementation. Contact should include hyperlinks to relevant Finance webpages &/or documents 3.3: Improve the discoverability and accessibility of government data: Archived records (p42) Should indicate the nature & extent of public consultation including OGF’s role in monitoring and implementation. Contact should include hyperlinks to any relevant NAA webpages &/or documents (other than already included) 3.3: Improve the discoverability and accessibility of government data: Environmental information (p45ff) Should indicate the nature & extent of public consultation including OGF’s role in monitoring and implementation. Contact should include hyperlinks to any relevant DEE webpages &/or documents (other than already included) 4.1: Confidence in the electoral system and political parties (p48ff) Should indicate the nature & extent of public consultation including OGF’s role in monitoring and implementation. Contact should include hyperlinks to any relevant Finance webpages &/or documents (other than already included) 4.2: National Integrity Framework (p50ff) It is speculative to assert “This commitment will advance the OGP value of public accountability by improving the effectiveness of our legal, regulatory and institutional frameworks and by protecting the integrity and transparency of the execution of public policy and management.” That sentence should be removed unless there is solid evidence of a major extension of ACLEI’s remit. Should include a webpage with details of the Government Business Anti-Corruption Roundtable held on 31 March 2017, e.g. attendance, agenda, outcomes, next steps (e.g. future meetings) Should indicate the nature & extent of public consultation including OGF’s role in monitoring and implementation. Contact should include hyperlinks to any relevant AGD webpages &/or documents. 4.3: Open contracting (p52ff) Should reflect whether responses to the “Public consultation (which) closed on Thursday 10 August 2017” indicated that the “independent service provider (which undertook) the review of the Government’s compliance with the Open Contracting Data Standard” actually did so or rather argued against adoption of the standard. Should indicate the nature & extent of public consultation including OGF’s role in monitoring and implementation. Contact should include hyperlinks to any relevant Finance webpages &/or documents (other than already included) 5.1: Delivery of Australia’s Open Government National Action Plan (p54ff) Satisfactory 5.2: Enhance public participation in government decision making (p57ff) Should indicate details of 1. the reference group that has been established e.g. members – “experts and practitioners from academia, engagement consultancies and think tanks”, and 2. “the workshop (which) will involve the Australian Futures Project” The text reads as if a single model is to be identified and recommended rather than a “tool-box’ of methods that can be selected, adopted and adapted/developed on a case by case basis. Should indicate the nature & extent of other public consultation including OGF’s role in monitoring and implementation. Contact should include hyperlinks to any relevant Industry webpages &/or documents (other than already included).
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Ruth Chau

The Australian Open Government Partnership Network and its members have been and remain enthusiastic supporters of the OGP initiative and welcome the opportunity to comment on the draft report. The Draft Mid Term Assessment is generally accurate in setting out steps taken to develop Australia’s National Action Plan, and progress to date in implementing the 15 commitments during the eight months since the plan was finalised. Overall this first exercise in partnership between government and civil society to advance an agenda of open government reform was a modest success. Government representatives and the civil society community that engaged in the process demonstrated a willingness to work together and approached the development of a national action plan in a positive manner. However management of the process at times gave rise to problems and concerns that are not acknowledged in the draft assessment report. Some were raised in discussion of performance to date at the August meeting of the Open Government Forum and set out in Attachments A and B to the minutes of the meeting . For ease of reference, Attachment A is reproduced at the end of this submission. In our view, the following issues should be noted in the assessment: 1. Development of the national action plan took 12 months, twice as long as expected. While the two-month hiatus occasioned by the 2016 federal election was unavoidable, the absence of a mechanism for government-civil society dialogue until August 2016 limited progress towards a shared agenda and a joint government-civil society effort to finalise the plan. 2. Public awareness of Australia’s involvement in the OGP and the opportunity for public participation was low throughout and remains so.There have been few signs of enthusiasm and support for the initiative from ministers.The Prime Minister signed the notification that Australia intended to proceed with membership of the OGP in November 2015. No Media Release was issued at the time. The Prime Minister has not referred publicly to the OGP since, other than in a sentence about open data in a joint statement with NZ Prime Minister English in February 2017. There has been no statement in Parliament or reference to the OGP in speeches by the Prime Minister or the Minister for Finance, the minister responsible for coordinating implementation of the National Action Plan who attended the 2016 OGP Global Summit in Paris for one day. 3. Attempts at public engagement at times were limited and rushed with deadlines that left little time for civil society input. 4. The government’s initial unilateral choice of two OGP “Grand Challenges” created the impression that it sought to limit the scope of possible commitments to ‘improved public services ‘and ‘more effectively managing public resources’. As soon as the public was invited to comment it became clear that more importance attached to improving public integrity, and addressing issues concerning transparency, accountability and citizen participation.Commitments along these lines emerged as priorities for civil society when the Wiki was established to elicit suggestions and at at the ‘co-creation workshop’ in Canberra in April 2016. 5.However the workshop proved to be overly ambitious in its stated purpose of organising participants to co-create, draft and submit detailed commitments. Difficulties were exacerbated by the low level of engagement by agency representatives who in most instances were relatively junior officers. When a set of proposals was put forward at the end of the day, government representatives were unable to indicate next steps or guarantee feedback on the suggestions. Nothing followed until August 2016. 6. Public information about the development of the plan and implementation of commitments was always difficult to find. At most stages some information was available on the PM&C website, including from August 2016, through a Dashboard providing reasonably up to date information on implementation of commitments. However few agencies drew stakeholders attention to the OGP initiative and the scope for open government reform in areas relevant to their operation. 7. As the National Action Plan makes clear, the plan is the government's plan, informed by public consultation and inputs from the Interim Working Group. Some commitments were significantly improved during consultation and negotiation. Others throughout remained well short of what many outside government regard as 'concrete and ambitious.' Civil Society members of the IWG in signing off on a final draft unsuccessfully made representations for further improvements in a number of commitments. 8. Some lead agencies adopted a ‘business as usual ‘ approach to public engagement as they took action to implement a commitment for which they are responsible, inviting the public and stakeholders to lodge a submission in response to a published report or discussion paper, but not engaging further. The Interim Working Group issued guidance on this in May 2017, encouraging each lead agency to adopt an open, inclusive and collaborative approach to implementation of a commitment. The IWG and PM&C provided suggestions about good practice that have not been adopted by some agencies. The Department of Industry Innovation and Science the lead agency on Commitment 5.2 has published a Working draft on the first phase of its implementation of the commitment titled ‘How might the APS better use public participation to improve policy development and service delivery?’ The draft report, a work in progress, asserts that Commonwealth agencies lag local and state governments in recognising the value of engagement and public participation: “The APS is less active in respect of engagement and participation with the community due to a lack of: confidence in the potential benefits to decision making from such activities relative to the time and cost involved, a lack of awareness of the practices that are available, and capability to execute such activities in an effective way.” Experience in seeking to work with some agencies on implementation of OGP commitments bears these findings out. 9. There is no mention in any material published since release of the national action plan of the link between the OGP initiative and the Sustainable Development Goals that the Government acknowledged on page 62 of the plan: “The National Action Plan will support the achievement of the SDGs in Australia and globally, in particular Goal 16 on peaceful and inclusive societies, access to justice and effective institutions (which includes targets directly related to a range of commitments in this Plan, such as promoting the rule of law, substantially reducing corruption and bribery, and ensuring public access to information). Australia strongly advocated for this goal, which will be critical for the success of the entire 2030 Agenda. Australia will also endorse the Joint Declaration on Open Government for the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This commits us to transparency, openness, and accountability in our domestic and international implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It also commits us to look for opportunities in future National Action Plans to progress implementation of the SDGs. As a member of the Open Government Partnership, we also note our responsibility to work globally to fight corruption, empower citizens and enhance transparency and integrity. We will continue to work with other countries to help achieve these goals, including through our support for the effective implementation of the UN Convention against Corruption and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative in Australia, our region and beyond. Australia will also continue to participate actively in forums such as the G20 Anti-Corruption Working Group and OECD Development Assistance Committee networks on governance, conflict and fragility.” 10. Continuity has been a problem in advancing the open government cause. For example, the turnover of staff in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet responsible for managing the process and coordinating agency involvement has led to the loss of knowledge and learning. Between December 2015 and August 2017, six different middle/ senior managers within PM&C were assigned prime responsibility for OGP issues, reporting to a deputy secretary of the department who in September 2017 has been promoted to another department. The three-person team working on OGP in December 2016 attended the OGP Summit in Paris but were reassigned to other duties shortly after they returned. Please note: · The published historical record is not available on the websites mentioned (http://ogpau.govspace.gov.au and, from December 2016, https://ogpau.pmc.gov.au/ The first mentioned link does not work. Information about early stages in the process including the Wiki are not now available online. · Attachment E -Reflections Government officials- is blank. Peter Timmins Interim Convener Australian Open Government Partnership Network ATTACHMENT A ITEM 2 – RETROSPECTIVE: POINTS RAISED ON THE OGP EXPERIENCE OGP Engagement Model: · There was general lack of clarity around the model of engagement · Experimenting with Wiki was not coherent · It was unrealistic for IWG to convene, having never met before, and co-create the first National Action Plan (NAP). While ideas were generated and were included in the NAP, it was overall a challenging task · Narrow range of issues in the development of the first NAP led to some tension between civil society and government – needed to start with a blank page · There is a genuine desire for a ‘bottom up’ approach, however there needs to be strong leadership and ministerial guidance from the top. There is currently a reluctance at the ministerial level to champion this cause · Important to have senior representatives from government who can speak to the issues and engage effectively with civil society to ensure momentum is maintained · Commitment of civil society was impressive and helped to get the NAP moving and ‘across the line.’ · Diverse civil society expertise was beneficial as commitments were able to be delegated around the group to accelerate progress Public Awareness and Ministerial Ownership · Public awareness of the OGP was less than optimal. There was no real ministerial ownership of the initiative and it wasn’t discussed in Parliament or in the media · There has been no real engagement with business or industry. The commitments as per the first NAP affect businesses o There are also a range of issues concerning industry and how they are working hard not to be more open · Communication has centred on delivering the first NAP and not so much on general OGP communication and engagement. There is a need to maintain and sustain engagement as an enduring concept · Need to connect public speeches back to the OGP · There is a need to provide Ministers with positive feedback so they keep engaged · The way we govern is worth talking about and the NAP can be used for this. Commitment 5.2 is evidence that increased engagement leads to better policy · Civil society needs a strong commitment from Government and the OGP which will validate spending more time promoting public awareness · Good engagement and having the contextual conversation with the public boils down to identifying and articulating the purpose of the Open Government. This will: o improve policy-making o result in better products and service delivery; and o result in broader benefits for the public – having more knowledge with which to make better decisions Raising awareness with communities · There is a need to articulate why Open Government is important and link sector (eg. business or industry) interests to the commitments as a way of getting different entities involved · How do we spark the interest of people in the community on Open Government matters and overcome the barriers, noting that the issue is not important enough in general society and that government resources are being cut? o What does the community need to deliver on in terms of Open Government and why is it in the community’s interest to promote Open Government matters? o It is about the governance of both government and society · Government can play a powerful role in this space and is able to engage with civil society and the community to implement better policies · Engagement creates empowerment in the community · Developing a narrative around case studies where OGP processes have assisted to promote the work of the OGP Speaking openly: · Positive experiences so far working together with Government IWG members being able to speak openly without having their comments being attributed as a whole-of-government view · Civil society members also felt they could speak openly and candidly and this was encouraged by the Co-Chairs · Group cohesion came from agreeing on commitments which lead to a single goal Participation of diverse groups in the consultation process: · Participation and engagement of young people and people with disabilities was very poor · Challenges reaching people not involved – this was perhaps attributed to a lack of narrative about why Open Government is important · There is a need to articulate why the NAP is important and how it might contribute to public trust in government Next National Action Plan: · All (civil society, government and the public) will want to see that more is achieved in the next NAP, however it is important to be able to maintain where we want our general focus to be · For the next NAP, it would still be good to draw on the processes as per developing the first NAP, however broader engagement and consultation will be required Timelines: · Need to have a timeline of events as early as possible which includes when to engage and, what lead time is required. This will enable overall preparation. The April Workshop could have benefitted from knowing about expected timeframes
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Open Government...

(Sorry - we're working on getting this line break issue fixed!) Many thanks to you all for your comments and suggestions. Where possible, we’ve made changes to the draft Midterm Self-Assessment (MSA) Report, usually either in the National Action Plan Process section or in the Next Steps and Conclusion section. You’ll notice that – as per Ken’s suggestion - we’ve inserted links in the agency inputs to the commitment status updates. We’ve also linked to the document Peter suggested relating to the discussion that occurred at the first Open Government Forum meeting. We interpreted some of your comments as more general observations of Australia’s performance through its first OGP cycle, while some others went beyond the scope of the MSA, which is primarily an assessment of progress so far against the OGP Participation & Co-Creation Standards. In these cases, we didn’t directly modify the Report. We’ve no doubt, though, that in all cases, your comments will inform our future progress. Thanks once again for your feedback.
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